But how do YOU manage YOUR innovation pipeline? OK, for simplicity sake, you can just call it your “to-do” list.
I have so many different projects and ideas that I am working on at any given time that it is often hard to keep track of everything. I find most traditional time management processes and software a bit limiting. Some are just too rigid. Others don’t depict projects and tasks in a way that my mind can process them properly. And some tools are just not to my liking.
I have been asking around to see what other people use. The responses have been interesting. Most people still use paper and pencil, creating linear lists. Some use web-based list-driven applications. But I dislike these because I want quick access even when I am off-line. There are quite a few to-do list management applications out there. But again, most are list driven, with the fancier ones using hierarchical trees. And some are so complicated only an engineer with a PhD could figure them out.
I am admittedly a bit disorganized. Creative-types tend to be that way (for a variety of reasons that I won’t bother going into here). Every time I play Personality Poker, I am always attracted to the “2 of diamonds” – the “scattered” card. Fortunately I work with some great people who are “clubs” (the organizers).
And although I am “Goal-Free,” this does not mean I am structure-free. I still need structure. It just needs to be flexible enough so it can adapt as I “meander with purpose.”
Here’s how I manage MY innovation pipeline: I use mind mapping software. If you click on the graphic above, you’ll see a scaled down, simplified, and sanitized version of the one I use. You will notice a few things:
- Because I run a business, I tie nearly everything back to the four core processes of any business – Develop Products and Services, Fulfill Demand Generate Demand, and Plan & Manage the Enterprise. If you run a business, you have these same processes.
- Innovation happens everywhere, not just within Develop Products and Services. I constantly scan all of the process to make sure I am doing a proper balance of work within each, and that I am innovating throughout my business.
- I do have a catch-all bucket for “miscellaneous opportunities” that don’t yet fit neatly into a process. Within that bucket I have a “could do” list which is VERY long and is a bunch of ideas I have that are not ready for prime time for a variety of reasons. I even have a list of things I should “stop doing.”
- Any trees with a (+) indicates there is more detail in one or more sub-trees. This allows me to organize my thoughts in any way I want, to whatever level of detail I want. In the branches I also link to Word documents, websites, and other materials. This enables me to keep all of my resources for a projects in one place.
- Tasks that I need to work on now all have start and/or end dates. The software automatically synchronizes these with my task list in Outlook. This is nice because it keeps my “to-do” small and focused.
The process is far from perfect, but it works for me. The software allows me to easily move projects and tasks around. Mind Mapping is perfect for creative thinking and helps me generate and capture new ideas quickly.
What do you use to manage your innovation pipeline or to-do list? What is the process? What is the technology? What has worked? And what has not worked? All suggestions are welcome…and appreciated.
P.S. I just bought “Getting Things Done.” I am told that this is the bible of time management. I’m curious to see how this fits with my philosophies.
P.P.S. I just received an email from someone who had a great suggestion: add a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the inspirational part.