Your Idea Drawer

Did you ever have the best idea, that if executed properly had the potential to supercharge your business, only to forget or misplace it before you had the chance to execute it? Perhaps the technology didn’t exist, or the organization wasn’t in a place to properly pursue it, or the market wasn’t ready to handle the disruption; regardless the reason the idea wasn’t executed, and then was subsequently lost. It happened constantly until I was introduced to the idea drawer, and the story of its inception. 

The idea drawer stems from the Disney Brothers – Roy and Walt represented the classic “Idea Man and Operations Man” relationship. Walt was a constant funnel of creativity and vision into the organization, which rapidly overwhelmed Roy and the operations and delivery end of Disney. One day Roy went into Walt’s office, reorganized his file system to create a literal empty drawer in his desk, and labeled it “Ideas.” When Walt was next in, Roy went with him into his office and pointed out the drawer. 

Walt was immediately curious. “What’s this drawer for,” he inquired? “Walt, you’re full of great ideas,” Roy had responded, “So full, in fact, we can’t keep up with you. You have an idea on Monday that is great, but then you have another one on Tuesday, and two more on Wednesday. A lot of these ideas we can’t even pursue yet, but we need to capture them. So, I made you this drawer. When you have an idea, I want you to write down as much as you can about it and stick it here. From time to time, the team and I will come down and mine this drawer for ideas to implement.”

About a week later, Walt had an idea in relation to a ride at DisneyLand. Roy heard the idea and mentioned that there were technological barriers currently to being able to implement the idea. Instead of letting it die, Roy reminded Walt of the idea drawer and that the idea should be captured. Later on, the ride was able to be implemented due to the technology barrier being removed and the idea having been captured. 

This idea drawer concept resonated when I first heard it during my Paterson StratOp™ training. There were many times myself, or a member of my team at Doberman had an idea, concept, or concern that we just didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with at present. I decided to implement a digital “Idea Drawer” for capturing these ideas, as well as a method of periodic review so we didn’t forget to visit the drawer from time to time. 

When we put something in the idea drawer, we always make sure to capture the following list for every idea.

  • What’s the idea – A summation of the idea / concept. Think 1-3 sentences.
  • What area of the business does it primarily impact?
  • Who in the business would be responsible for implementing the idea?
  • Who in the business would be responsible for maintaining / using the idea once implemented?
  • Any technology items we think that we might need to research / see if they can be used for the idea.
  • What are the positives around the idea – simple bullet list.
  • What are the negatives around the idea – simple bullet list.
  • What questions are raised by the idea that we feel we need to answer before implantation.
  • Any identified costs (either defined or undefined) that we can think of.
  • How does this idea help us achieve our company vision? Is that impact small, medium, or large? Why should we implement this idea? When should we implement this idea?

When we go away for our quarterly offsite planning meeting, we have an idea drawer review session. Our idea drawer ties into our strategic planning methodology that we use – we place every idea drawer item on a list that is reviewed quarterly. We then use a collaborative team rating system based off of the team’s thoughts of opportunity, risk, and achievement / impact on our vision for the idea drawer alongside a “stack ranking” system for the ideas to focus our efforts on what will be implemented “next”. 

If you’re struggling with how to plan for what’s next in your organization Richardson & Richardson can help. Check out our case studies for stories of organizations that we’ve assisted with similar issues and download our white papers for deep dives on tools you can use in your organization. If you’re wondering where to start, book a complimentary session with one of the Richardsons today to come up with a plan on how to move forward.

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