Seven Key Steps for Finding, Evaluating, and Implementing Good Ideas

by John Soares on September 19, 2011

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” — Linus Pauling.

As writers, we all want good ideas about what freelance projects to pursue and what else to write — nonfiction books, e-books, a novel. And we also want good ideas about what to do in the other important areas of our lives.

I’ve spent much time thinking about and studying idea generation and implementation, so here are my…

Seven Key Steps to Find, Evaluate, and Implement Good Ideas

1. Find the best ways for you to generate lots of good ideas.

2. Make sure you capture and keep all of your ideas.

3. Evaluate your ideas for feasibility and your desire to implement them and pick the most suitable idea.

4. Take well-planned and consistent action to implement the idea.

5. Evaluate your results as you proceed and make changes in your approach as needed.

6. Either commit to taking all the steps needed to bring the idea to fruition, or make a conscious decision that you don’t have the resources or desire to continue, and then choose to terminate your action plan.

7. Live with no regrets.

Your Take

How do you evaluate and implement your ideas? What do you think of this list? What would you add or change?

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    { 19 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Harleena Singh September 19, 2011 at 7:07 AM

    Twitter: @harleenas

    Interesting post John!

    Yes, it does get tough at times to get hold of good ideas, and even if you do, implementing and getting them to roll becomes tough. Sometimes, the idea is there but we don’t know how to go about it, and at other times we know how to go about it, but it is not such a great idea, which makes things fizzle out.

    Glad you put up these steps :)
    Harleena Singh recently posted…How Freelance Writers can Use Google+

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    2 John Soares September 19, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Finding good ideas and then acting on them to completion is crucial for success. Too many people either don’t take the time to develop good ideas, or they fail in implementation.
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    3 Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog September 19, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Twitter: @rzive

    #7 is definitely the best (and most challenging) step!

    I try to be thoughtful and strategic about idea generation and implementation, but sometimes, you just get a hunch and run with it. No feasibility or strategy…just wild abandon. I wait for the chips to fall and evaluate then.
    Ruth – The Freelance Writing Blog recently posted…No Expertise? No Problem! 5 Reasons Why You Can Still Be Successful at Freelance Writing

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    4 John Soares September 19, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    #7 is the hardest, and it’s one I still struggle with.

    There’s much to be said for getting an idea and than quickly implementing it. The main problem is getting an idea that takes a lot of effort to implement, and then getting halfway into the implementation and finding out it’s either not a good idea or the necessary time, energy, and interest are lacking to see the idea to completion.
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    5 Carol Wiley September 19, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Twitter: @carolwiley

    When I increase the page’s font size to a size easily readable for me, your share bar covers part of the left text. You might want to consider moving the share bar a bit to the left so that doesn’t happen.
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    6 John Soares September 20, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    Thanks Carol. I just changed it.
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    7 Mikalee Byerman September 19, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    Twitter: @mikaleebyerman

    For the LONGEST time, I would have these life-changingly (yes, I made that word up) brilliant ideas — then forget them within minutes. Call it “Mommy brain” or “Overworked writer brain” or whatever you will, but almost as fast as they came … they went.

    …until I created an email in my “drafts” folder and jotted them down as bullets as soon as they entered my thoughts. This has been a life-saving technique as I generate new blog ideas, come up with creative turns of phrase, have questions to address in future posts etc.

    So yes: #2 = CRITICAL! ;)

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    8 John Soares September 20, 2011 at 6:29 AM

    Mikalee, I’m glad you found a good way to save all those ideas. I use a voice recorder and Word documents.
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    9 Gene Burnett September 19, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    Good post John. I also find it helpful to sort my ideas into categories that roughly correlate to hot, warm and cold. I just counted and I currently have over 50 song ideas at various stages of completion. Some are what I’d call “hot”, in other words, I have a good feeling about them and their prospects to become actual songs. Others are what I’d call “warm”, meaning they show potential but don’t excite me too much right now. The “cold” ones are ideas I’m just not that jazzed about right now or that I’ve worked and worked and just can’t get past some obstacle or problem with them. Sometimes I’ll sort them into separate piles (these are pieces of 4 X 6 scrap paper that are clipped together), and sometimes I’ll just have one big pile with the hotter ones on top and the colder ones at the bottom. One thing I rarely do is throw an idea out all together. If I can’t do anything with an idea for a year or so, I take the best lines in it and add them to a “good lines” pile. The important thing to me is to keep checking these ideas and if necessary re-prioritizing them. Things can change pretty suddenly and an ice cold idea can get red hot depending on what’s going on in my life and in the world. Granted these are not major projects requiring substantial investments of time, energy or money, so I can afford to keep a lot of them alive at once. For bigger ideas, I mull things over and if it feels right, I go at them full force. I do something similar with blog post ideas. I keep lots of folders in my computer on different subjects. When I’m feeling “bloggy”, I just find a subject I feel like writing about and see what notes or facebook posts I’ve got in that particular folder.

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    10 John Soares September 20, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    Sounds like an excellent method for you Gene. Different people do different creative things in their lives, and your process sounds like it works very well for you and would also work well for other songwriters — and poets.
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    11 Anne Wayman September 20, 2011 at 6:17 AM

    Twitter: @annewayman

    John, once I learned to capture ideas it then becomes a matter of looking at, in my case, the list every now and again. Often I find I’ve acted on one or another – in word I do a single strike-through – I know I’ve done it, but since I can read it I can still use it in another way.

    I’ve also learned to let go of ideas – even good ones. They may hang on my list for months, but eventually on some that just won’t get done by me I either erase them completely or if I can’t bring myself to do that I’ll write ‘not now’ beside them… which somehow seems to clear the deck for more.
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    12 John Soares September 20, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    Anne, I also have to let go of good ideas. I have many projects that interest me and that I think have a decent promise of success, but there’s only so many hours in the day, plus I have other priorities in my life, like hiking, tai chi, and hanging with my sweetie, my friends, and my family.
    John Soares recently posted…How to Capture, Save, and Review Your Freelance Writing Ideas

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    13 Eric Soares September 20, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Great suggestions, John. My biggest weakness is #2, writing them down. If I can, I write them down in my computer in the appropriate file. I now have a portable digital recorder like you do, but haven’t used it yet for that purpose.

    My real problem is that I have so many ideas! Unless I’m grabbed by an idea and act immediately, I often mull them for days, weeks–which is a good thing. Many of my great ideas don’t reach fruition, but so what? Many do.
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    14 John Soares September 20, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    I think it’s a blessing to have so many ideas; I’m in the same boat. I have various ideas in different stages of development, many just a set of notes in a Word document.

    Eventually an idea feels right in my gut, and then I move forward to completion.
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    15 Tom McGuire September 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    John,

    Thanks for the great suggestions! I have to come up with innovative ideas all the time in my job as Program Director at UC Berkeley Extension – and the vetting process is especially important. Good tips!
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    16 John Soares September 20, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Tom, I’m glad this post helped. I imagine you get a lot of proposed courses for UCB extension and that you must winnow them down to the ones most likely to get the most students.
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    17 Azam@Kay Jewlers September 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    John I agree with almost all of the points you have pondered upon, however, I think the creation of an idea is the most important step. The rest of the things get rolling when you have an idea powerful enough to drive you.
    What I often do is that I jog down ideas as they come in (of course many would go out as quickly as they come) and then some of them keep my mind occupied even when I do other things. When this, sort of, implicit thinking reaches to a certain point I feel like sitting down and pen all the thoughts. That’s how the process goes with me but obviously it can be different for different people.
    Your post is highly appreciated …
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    18 Dave September 23, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Twitter: @doolin

    These 7 steps are worthy of a long article each. Like, chapter length in a book.

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    19 Jane | Problogging Success September 29, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    Twitter: @problogsuccess

    Effective advice, John. To me the most challenging part is to put those ideas to form. I get them, capture them nicely but when it comes to giving those ideas a shape, I don’t do it so straight to doing it lol.
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