While working for Lockheed Martin some years ago they had a program called Creative Central. While the program itself was lacking because it didn’t have greater corporate support it did something for me personally. Every day I had a car ride that with traffic could amount to an hour or more and during that ride I spent time talking to my friend and co-worker about ideas. I started to submit ideas to the Creative Central program and in response they sent me gift cards, Lego’s and certificates of appreciation. I started to really think on a daily basis of new and old things that we could do as a company or even at work to make things better or to make changes that helped our team in some way.
I decided to come up with at least eight ideas a month and so I did. Every month I had at least eight ideas some were really bad and some were good. Of course some ideas weren’t mine although I thought they were when I researched them I found that I must have heard it somewhere. The reason this is important is because the ideas good or bad lead to changes for me in my own life. Some of the ideas lead to dramatic changes where I worked. One example was virtualizing the system infrastructure where I worked with my team. The reason why that is a big deal is because where we worked no one had done it before, VMware was in vendor infancy and most people in managerial roles didn’t know or understand what virtualization was. Of course today this is a different story and even in our case we became successful through convincing management that we could save lots and lots of money. The point to this is that it started with one of the eight ideas. It was the fact that I applied the idea in the context of my work and that I had a team that was willing to support my ideas good and bad.
Time has passed and I moved through several roles in my organization. I went from being an implementor to a manager and from a manager to a concept guy. While moving physically to a new location and moving logically through my roles in my organization something happened to the eight ideas. They went away.
It is time to bring them back. I have thought about this for a while and started to reapply it to myself recently and then I had the idea (one of my eight) to share this with you. If you have at least eight ideas and this is your quota I can only imagine what kind of positive effect this will have. It is almost like the concept of pay it forward with ideas. It is a matter of numbers, the more ideas the more likely one or more of those ideas will be great and create something great. It is simple and effective, here is how it works for me.
I keep a notepad with me, more recently my ipod touch almost everywhere I go. In my office at work and at home I have whiteboards. If I see something or hear something that sparks a thought I just jot it down. Ideas to me are similar to grass seeds, I have a lot of them but some of them amount to nothing. Some of the ideas once written down will haunt me. If it is living with me after I have written it and it is haunting me I will talk about it and play with the idea until I start to write for it and against it. One of the things I will do is google it. More times than not I will find my idea is already out there and someone else is thinking about the same thing. That doesn’t discourage me because my idea is in context of my application. It is almost saying the same thing as someone inventing the wheel and you putting that wheel on a vehicle. It is all about the context. After I google it and find it or not I then decide how this idea can be practically applied by me. One example of this a few years ago was the digital picture frame. Embedded micro technology was already around and I am very sure that the idea of a digital picture frame was out there. I took old laptops that people were throwing away and put a thin version of windows xp (bartspe) on them and put them in a shadow box. I took some scripts from some open source programming sites and used some open source freeware to update and display images using wired and wireless technology. I didn’t sell the DPF, I gave it to family as gifts and the neat part was that I could update all the images remotely. I could also remote into the DPF if there was a problem and resolve it. The point is that ideas big and small can be applied to you for you by you and result in something good.
The great part about this is that you can start today. You don’t need anything. You can help yourself and your family at work and at home and all you are doing is putting a requirement or quota on yourself for eight ideas a month.