Your creative butterflies flutter around you in all their dazzling glory, but any moment they may disappear. After the outpouring of ideas in Step 2: The Art of Brainstorming, it is time to start selecting the best and brightest and pop them in your butterfly jar for closer inspection. We will look at a digital and analogue toolkit to capture your idea’s essence and allow it to be shared between the team and communicated to others.
“Catch your dreams before they slip away” The Rolling Stones
1] Capture the mood
Visual cues for a project are like a shortcut to our thinking centres. A moodboard is a visual collection that contains influences, ideas, and other emotional content and triggers that define your idea. It can either be physical such as magazine cutouts, printouts, screenshots, etc. on a wall or whiteboard, or it can be virtual using tools such as a communal Pinterest board or a social bookmarking tool such as Pearltrees. If you find yourself left with a wall full of post it notes in a meeting room and then realise you have to take them down, take a look at this PostIt app to give you more options that just capturing with your camera and transcribing.
2] Step By Step
A methodology that found its way in software development originally, Agile is equally as useful for creative projects and project management. By using a moveable visual board it is easy to break your idea down into manageable chunks that can be appraised both individually and as part of the whole, as well as have a visual reference of how a project is progressing at a glance. If you need to collaborate online or don’t have the space for a huge whiteboard full of post-it notes, then Trello is a free, simple and very useful tool. Set up a board, add members and name the columns to suit your project, then add cards and move them around appropriately to quickly show a map of your progress.
3] Present It
It is said that the best way to make sure you’ve understood an idea fully is to try and explain it to someone else. Set your ideas out in a short presentation style document, even if it is only just used for reference. Make sure you get away from boring Office style presentations, hunt the web, grab fonts, add some interesting photos to illustrate your idea and use a platform such as Prezzi to make sure people aren’t nodding off by slide number three.
4] Come Together
Once upon a time, not so long ago, everyone had their own copy of a file on their hard drive and versioning was a nightmare. Nowadays, there are a plethora of online collaborative tools. Google Docs is a free and easy way for a number of people to work on the same document from anywhere, Dropbox is a good way to share larger files. For a fuller collaborative project tracking feature set, Basecamp is proving popular, although it is paid per organisation. Asana is a cheaper alternative, and Slack gives you the chance to try it for free with some limitations
5] Map Your Collective Mind
Mind mapping software can help you boil your idea down to its essence, while giving you a visual on the connection between the idea’s parts. It puts the idea at the centre then radiates out to the constituent parts, showing the connections, rather than having an isolated list such as with typical note taking. Just like many of the other tasks, online tools mean this can be done collectively and in real time. Take a look at Coggle to try it out.
6] Bare The Bones
Challenge yourselves to summarise your idea in ten words and make every one of those words count. This can head up your collaborative documents, brainstorming boards, and mind maps – it is like turning the telescope around and making sure everyone is still seeing the same thing. Alternatively describe your idea or product in a single tweet, i.e. 144 characters or less to help focus on the most important elements and help weed out the ones that cause confusion.
7] Remember Analogue
Ideas develop and good ideas should develop rapidly. It is a known fact that we are only able to store between 5 and 9 thoughts in our short term memory. You can see how it works: your idea is teetering on the edge of oblivion then someone asks you if you fancy a cup of tea and it disappears in a puff of smoke. With so many digital distractions it helps to keep a notebook handy to scribble ideas down as they arrive as it is portable, quick and easy to access anywhere, and most of all it doesn’t need power! Also, by releasing those ideas in the wild it will make room for the next brilliant ones, and once your thought is captured it can easily be transferred to your digital tool of choice at your leisure, and you have also introduced a 2 step vetting process which will separate the wheat from the chaff.
So to wrap up, ideas are fleeting, ephemeral beings. Just finding them isn’t enough, you have to capture them then constantly care for and nurture them in order for them to develop, so that one day you release them back into the wild.
**This is part 3 of a 7 article series. Missed step 1? Read A Jargon Free Anatomy of a Creative Brief.