In this article, Peter Cameron-Burnett looks at why having an ideas pipeline is essential for sanity and success, especially for highly creative and entrepreneurial people – and what a good ideas pipeline looks like.
Why an Ideas Pipeline is essential …
I’ve worked with a lot of clever people over the last 25 years. Folks with a ton of creativity and energy.
And with very few exceptions they all fall into the same trap:
They try to execute all their good ideas at once.
You know at least one person like this in your life.
(And if you don’t, it might be you! 😉 )
The reason they do this is that because they don’t have anywhere to park these ideas.
Imagine an airport that had no holding pattern in the sky above, and the air traffic controller was trying to land all of the aircraft at once on a single runway.
It creates confusion, and huge amounts burnout in teams. They dread getting the email or WhatsApp at 5am almost every morning announcing another genius idea that needs to be added to an already chaotic working day.
(It accounts for a lot of staff turnover on some organisations. Good people are lost because they can’t tolerate living in the blast of someone’s uncontrolled creative firehose.)
Does that mean that all good ideas need to wait?
Not at all. If you have a genuinely great idea that needs to take priority over the others, then it should be given clearance.
(Much like if a plane which is running out of fuel arrives over an airport, it will be allowed to jump the queue and land first.)
But you need to be really careful how many projects you have on the go at once.
And the reason why is something called context switching.
There has been a lot of research done recently into how much time it takes to switch from one task to another.
Here’s some eye-opening stats from our friends over at Trello:
- We spend an average of just 1 minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted.
- It takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted.
- Heavily multitasking can temporarily lower your IQ by up to 15 points.
(Trello are the awesome folks whose system is the platform we use for AgileOS.)
Think of it this way.
Most of us are used to the simile of “doing lots of things at once” being like “spinning plates on poles”.
(It’s a well-worn cliche – I’ve lost count of the management books which have images like this on their covers!)
But what context switching tells us is that the plates are actually a long way apart from each other, because it takes so long to swap back and forward between them.
Imagine spinning plates that are 50 yards apart. It won’t take many plates before you are spending more time running than spinning.
So just in the same way, if you have lots of projects on the go, you could be wasting over half your day just trying to re-adjust your focus.
So what’s the answer?
The answer is to have a pipeline – the equivalent of a holding pattern for projects and ideas that are circling patiently over the runway of your productive capability.
Here’s what good looks like here:
- It needs to be visible for everyone: by letting everyone see what we’re doing in what order, confusion is eliminated, and morale goes up because people feel like someone is in control.
- It needs to be somewhere you can dump ideas quickly to: ideas usually happen in odd places, in the shower, as you are dropping off to sleep – so you need a way of getting ideas down using what is close to you (which for most folks these days is their smartphone.)
- It needs to allow you to quickly re-order your ideas: not only should you be able to quickly add and rank the ideas you have, you should also be easily able to back-burner current projects if the Brainwave of the Century hits you whilst you are in Starbucks.
(That’s actually the requirements we used when we created the Pipeline bit of AgileOS – we wanted it to take literally a couple of seconds of work to do each task, and have a clearly visible result!)
So here’s what to do now …
- Put in place a tool or system to capture and manage ideas: you are massively welcome to use AgileOS, of course – it’s free and built for this.
- List all of your ideas and projects out: then you know what you are dealing with. (This is like making sure all the planes in the sky are showing up on your radar.)
- Decide on your bandwidth: depending on how many people you have, you need to decide how many projects you can handle at once (How big is your airport? How many runways do you have?)
- Rank your projects based on priorities together: a great way to do this is to find the projects that have the biggest impact for the smallest amount of effort, and bump them to the top of the queue..
- Have a regular meeting to make sure your priorities are still relevant: its good to keep an eye on this and check that you aren’t blowing your bandwidth, and that you are still landing things in the right order!
And if you do all of that, then your great ideas will be gifts from above, not meteors!
Get AgileOS, and create your own Ideas Pipeline in minutes …
AgileOS is a free system designed to help you manage your personal and professional life, removing stress and boosting energy and creativity by helping you get a lot of mental processes out of your head onto a system you can trust. You can sign up for free at http://agileos.tools
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