Ideas arrive like kids to a disco. When adult outfits and fake IDs fail them, they just rush the door, dislodge the bouncer, and come piling in. The notion seems to be that if they all arrive at once no one can be held accountable or got rid of. Party!
So those of us who make our living in the idea biz are required to be quick about it. Many of us resort to those 3×4 foot pads of "easel" paper for capture. These are reverently arrayed around the room as if to say, [assume silky voice] "look, we treasure everyone’s contribution." And then of course we stick yellow post-its on the paper, sometimes then voting with those little colored dots. Very soon, walls disappear. The windows are covered. The sun is blotted out, extinguishing any hope of, er, illumination.
Brain storms work because we almost never consult these sheets of paper, yellow tabs, or colored dots. The good ideas are few enough that they can keep them in mind and loosely there. Paper fixes what should be kept fluid. Paper gets in the way of the pattern recognition that leaps back and forth between the unconscious and the conscious mins of the individual and then round and round within the group, as each and all of us press on with selecting, editing, combining, and generating ideas…until illumination does arrive. A new idea always seems to shine or at least vibrate, or at least carry on like Soul Train dancer. It is never papery. It does not come with dots on. Stick em! There’s no stick em on em!
If you are sick of the paper-based brain storm, too, I recommend bright sticks. Mine arrived yesterday, and Pam came home to discover the windows glowing with florescence. This is a better way of idea capture. It is faster, more beautiful, and bigger picture. The thing is you do have to have windows. But most people have windows. I mean, unless you’ve been living in a bomb shelter since 1957, and if that’s the case, idea generation is probably not your most pressing need.
My inspiration was an episode of House, and I think an episode of CSI: New York where glass panels, and not windows, serve as the medium. Certainly, it would be great to have "glassboards" but it looks as if this kind of thing would be expensive and space consuming (see Arount’s white board below). Mind you, if you were building an office space, glass would, in places, be as easy to install as dry wall. It is possible to build or buy light boxes, and we have all seen restaurants use these to announce the specials of the day. The writing glows. I got my bright sticks from Amazon. They get them from Office Depot.
Arount’s white board here.
The Lifehack whiteboard here.
The Arstechnica openforum discussion (some overlap with Arount, very slow to load!) here.
J Wynia here for an exchange of email on the question.