You don’t need to find any more good ideas. You need to recognize the good ideas you already have

In 1440 Johannes Gutenberg was inspired to create a movable type, which could be placed in the printing press of the day. His idea gave birth to mass media and sowed the seeds of an intellectual revolution. In 1914, Henry Ford discovered that automobiles could be produced more efficiently on the assembly line. Soon many more people could buy cars.

we all know great ideas can change the world — and a personal life — that’s why so many people are in search of game-changing ideas. An entire industry has sprung up to support them, offering courses to fuel your creativity, offer advice for better brainstorming, or a place to hunt for inspiration.

But what if this hunt for great ideas is actually a futile effort? What if most of the time the problem isn’t that you need to find a new idea, but instead that you need to recognize good ideas you’ve already come up with?

How many good ideas are you currently wasting?

that was a fascinating controversy four thousand weeks author Oliver Berkman in your imperfect newspaper recently. Berkman, a much-acclaimed paradoxical theorist on topics around personal productivity and success, argues that we should focus less on hunting for new ideas outside of ourselves and more on capturing the good ideas we already have but not exploiting. should fail.

It’s a lesson Berkman learned in his previous role as a writer for a weekly magazine column. “The web is full of advice on generating ideas, but most of it leaves me cold, because it assumes you start with zero ideas, then need to bring some good ones into existence,” he says. writes, but “It doesn’t work like that, at least for me. It’s instead a matter of recognizing that you already have an idea that’s actually a good idea.”

“It would suddenly dawn on me that a conversation I had at a pub the other week, a quote I’d been thinking about for days, or some productivity trick I’d been using for so long became second nature to me. It would make a great pillar. It was staring me in the face. I hadn’t forgotten about it, I failed to see that it was a good idea,” she continues.

In this view human beings are naturally creative beings. Our minds are always buzzing with possibilities, what-to-know and unexpected conflicts. The limiting factor is not that we don’t have ideas. It is that we fail to appreciate and act upon them. Or as Spanx founder Sarah Blakely puts it in her Entrepreneurship Masterclass, “Everybody in their life has a million-dollar idea. Whether you take action or not makes a difference.”

Rather than focusing your energy on exploring a-ha moments, Berkman urges readers to be diligent in capturing the ideas you already have. “Keep an ever-expanding list of random thoughts, adding to it indiscriminately, never turning back because an idea seemed mediocre, stupid, or derivative. (take something to write wherever you go!),” he recommends.

Will many of these jottings go to waste? Undoubted. But if you go back to this list whenever you need inspiration, Berkman insists that you search for diamonds.

“When I need an idea, I’ll read the list, and of course, most entries will still seem mediocre, stupid, or derivative. But for mysterious reasons, one or two entries—entries sitting there Could be lifeless for months or years – would suddenly feel ripe, full of life, ready to use. I still don’t know why this happens. But it does happen,” he recalls.

an easy win

Berkman’s idea appeals to me for a few interrelated reasons. First, it is actionable. Searching for ideas somewhere out there can be vague and overwhelming. If you don’t know what or where you’re looking for, it’s easy to sit still waiting for inspiration. It’s rarely fun or an efficient use of time. On the other hand, buying a notebook or making better use of the Notes function on your phone is the kind of little practical action that calms anxiety.

Second, Berkman’s suggestion sends the message that creativity is not a special, rare gift given to only a few of us. Like Blakely insisting that everyone has a million-dollar idea, Berkman’s call to hold onto the ideas you already have reminds us that, in the words of fellow writer Elizabeth Gilbert, if you’re alive. So you are creative.

We can’t all come up with a movable type or an assembly line, but you probably have a lot more cool ideas than you realize. Capturing and acting on more of them is an easy win.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.