When was the last time you came up with an idea? Or, when you sat down for some dedicated thinking time? The majority of us have been assigned responsibilities that go well beyond the 9-5, and it can be very difficult to take the time to just think.
If we’re entrenched in work, overwhelmed, anxious, or sleep-deprived; it can be hard enough to function, let alone engage with our creative side to generate new ideas. However, new ideas are very important for our work as they can drive innovation in better collections care and meeting our community’s needs. If we can find a way to prioritize and protect our thinking time, everyone will benefit. This post will help you get started by outlining how you can create space as well as a few thinking prompts to kick start your brain.
Create the Space for an Ideas Date
So, first things first: You need to carve out time in your schedule to give yourself the temporal space to think. In order to be the most effective with your time, you will also need to protect against distractions by finding a physical space where you can focus. Here’s what I recommend:
- Choose a date and time in your calendar that’s 1-2 weeks out and schedule yourself at least 2-hours of thinking time. Selecting a date that’s ahead of you will allow your brain the space to begin background processing in preparation for this activity.
- Block out the calendar as “busy” so that no one can book you. I recommend a time that’s first thing in the morning or during the last part of the day so that you don’t have to worry about needing to be somewhere at a certain time.
- Protect that space on your calendar and do not give up that time, no matter what “pressing” meeting comes up.
- If possible, choose a location that isn’t at home or at work. You need to be “off-campus” and uninterruptible.
- Choose a place that offers an environment you think best in. It could be a coffee shop, a park bench, a library, a neighboring museum, etc.
- In the lead up to your Ideas Date, take notes as you think of things. You can use these notes to help transition your brain into idea generation mode.
Ready, Set, Have an Idea!
No pressure, but it’s time to start having ideas. If this is hard for your brain, or if you need help getting started in the right direction, I have a few questions for you to consider. When it comes to digital projects, digitization, collections online, etc., please answer the following:
- What would make your life (job) easier?
- What have people (colleagues or patrons) repeatedly asked for?
- What was done poorly in the past or could use some serious updating?
- What item has been on your to-do list for so long that you fear it may never be done?
Start With No Filter
As you begin to brainstorm ideas for museum digital projects, I encourage you to write them all down in whatever fashion works best for you. I urge you to go through this part of the process with as little filter as possible.
Okay, You Can Filter a Little
Once you’ve reached a point in your brainstorming where you feel confident you’ve exhausted the ideas in your head, review the list and perform a little filtering. For example, you’ll likely find:
- Project ideas that overlap and could probably be combined.
- Projects that can’t be successfully performed until another project occurs first.
- Projects that are likely out of scope or beyond current capacity.
Once you’ve filtered your list, you’re ready to begin the evaluation and selection process!
Thinking with the purpose of generating ideas is a practice and one that will improve with time. Brains are highly suggestive, so use that to your advantage by alerting it to an upcoming Ideas Date. Brains are also pretty adept at picking up on routines and running background processes in preparation—this will make idea generation faster and more efficient. This exercise can be applied to any topic in which you need to generate ideas and I recommend performing at least once a year.
Additional Reading Available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “How to Identify and Select Your Next Museum Digital Project” on March 30, 2022. Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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