Back in the 18th and 19th centuries many people kept journals that were called “commonplace books.” They wrote out observations, inspirational quotes, poems they liked, aphorisms, sketches, ideas worth preserving. They mined those collections to keep the insights fresh and the connections between them live. A memory aid, commonplace books allowed a dialogue over time for thoughts to germinate.
In-house counsel would do well to keep their own professional commonplace book. With cut and paste so easy, additions would take but a moment. With low-cost search software so powerful, retrieval and recombination would be effortless. In fact, when Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation (Riverhead 2010) at 84, honors those early databases, he praises a program for the Mac called DEVONthink (at 114) that uses artificial intelligence capabilities to locate and link items (See my post of May 27, 2008: my years of dictating nuggets of learning about consulting.). Beset with fallible memories, we can each write down what we want to learn and make use of.