Bill Gates and why you should take notes

As the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is renowned as one of the most innovative and technologically forward-thinking people the world has known. But despite being renowned for his computer genius, he is not above the humble pen and paper. 

We shared the stage at Bill and Melinda Gates’ Grand Challenges event in London recently. Before a fascinating discussion on innovation, Bill made a closing speech to the gathered scientists. As he took to the podium, he pulled some pieces of paper out of his pocket.

I was delighted to see Bill’s notes were scribbled on some crumbled paper he had been carrying in his jacket pocket. It was folded down the middle, and he had to keep pushing the crease down so he could read his excellent speech about the history of grand challenges and how they inspire leaps of innovation.

There are many occasions when I find myself in meetings and am the only one with a pen taking down notes. I go through dozens of notebooks every year and write down everything that occurs to me each day. Some of the ideas contained inside end up turning into reality, and some don’t - but they are all noteworthy. 

Perhaps my memory is just much worse than everyone else’s, but I would struggle to remember a great deal of information if I didn’t record it. An idea not written down is an idea lost. When inspiration calls, you’ve got to capture it.

Virgin very much has a notebook culture, with people always jotting ideas down, trying new things and not settling for the same old way.

Now, I’m no Luddite and I love new technology. My iPad and phone are daily companions. Meanwhile, my daughter Holly uses a digital notepad she can write on that is a wonderful combination of two worlds. It doesn’t matter how you record your notes – as long as you do.


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