I’m an idea scavenger.
I have a very broad — if not always that detailed — memory. In our improv group, I’m the one who can remember what after the show scenes we did, even if I don’t always remember what happened in them. At work, I tend to say things like “That reminds me of article I read a while back; let me see if I can find again,” a lot. And in email discussions about certain features, I tend to recall who worked on particular areas of code a year or so ago, even when they sometimes don’t. It’s that last bit that I discovered only recently. I didn’t think of myself as having a good memory, because I usually forget a lot of details. I’ve come to realize, however, that I shouldn’t assume that other people have the same powers of recall for these kinds of things.
Because I do have this ability, I tend to expose myself to a broad array of material. I know I won’t remember all of it for later, but I will remember enough of it that I can track it down when I need it. This is one reason I skim every non-fiction book I buy as soon as I get it, even if I don’t read it in depth right away. Before it goes on the shelf, I pick enough meat off its bones to figure out what I’ll want to turn to it for later. It also means that I build a rich stew of ideas in my head, which interact and synthesize in interesting ways.
Something that I struggle with is that I tend to start a lot of sentences about things like this with “I read in one of Mike Cohn’s books that…” or “Keith Johnstone has talked about how…” I don’t do this to name-drop or to appeal to authority, which is how I worry it sometimes comes across. I do it to cite my sources and give people a handle on the idea, something to latch onto in case the idea seems familiar. I guess I’m just hoping that I’m talking to another scavenger who has come across the same morsels I have.