Coming up with a lot of ideas might seem like the easiest thing on earth…but what do you do when you’re out of ideas, your brain is stuck and nothing you or your colleagues suggested can become a real solution?
Well, first you should start running away from the old and boring brainstorming sessions you’ve been using for decades and start experimenting with some fresh ideation techniques. To help you with this process, we’ve gathered in this article some of the best methods and guidelines that will help you facilitate successful Ideation sessions and encourage active participation from your team.
Do you want to find out how you can get the best innovative ideas from your team members? Then grab your coffee and start reading!
So, what is Ideation, what it implies and how it can help you and your company discover those brilliant million-dollar ideas?
In case you haven’t heard this term before (which I honestly doubt), ideation is defined as:
the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas.
Basically, ideation is the stage where brilliant ideas are shared and solutions are born.
As innovators and experimenters, we use ideation techniques all the time. Usually as part of the Design Thinking process. Because we’ve already covered this subject, I won’t waste your time with definitions and boring facts about this process. If you want a more in-depth view, you can read all about Design Thinking in our older article by clicking here.
As the part of the Design Thinking Process, Ideation can be defined as:
The mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.
What is interesting about this process is that in this case, quantity is the quality. The aim of ideation is to get as many ideas as possible, no matter how wacky and stupid they might seem. So, when reaching this step you should keep your focus on variation, creativity and quantity.
Now that we’ve talked about what ideation is, let’s talk about how it can benefit you and your team:
- it will make you ask the right questions
- It will help you overcome the boundaries of obvious solutions
- It will bring out the creativity of your team
- It will generate a huge amount of ideas
- It will uncover unexpected areas of innovation
- It will increase the innovation potential of your ideas
Best Ideation Techniques:
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of ideation methods. Some of them are all new and innovative, few of them are updated brainstorming techniques and some others are the very old approaches that you’ve probably used a million times (or at least heard of). We’ve chosen some of our favourite ones – some of which we’ve tested and used in the last few years – and here you’ll get a brief overview of what they are and how to use them the right way.
But, before we dive into the techniques, there are some things you should always keep in mind in order to ace your ideation session(s):
- Always start with a question, a plan or a goal
- Make sure you keep focused on the topic
- Aim for a high quantity
- Put off any kind of judgement
- Encourage weird and crazy ideas
- Allow conversations and joint ideas (in group sessions)
- Allow and encourage building on another one’s idea
- Don’t forget to set a time limit and stick to it
1. Challenge Assumptions
Let’s face it, we all think we’re making the best decisions, that our assumptions are always right and that nothing could be better. But, when it comes to building a great solution you have to take a risk and challenge your initial assumptions. The results of this experiment might surprise you and in the end, you might end up realizing that your assumptions were not the best ones to start with but hey, look at the bright side, at least you discovered this early enough and now you can start building on a new assumption.
Even though there is a risk you might find out that your assumptions are not the most relevant and should be revised or improved, challenging them is not only about that. Using this method can be a powerful way to break old habits, empower creativity and provoke new thinking patterns. The easiest way of challenging your assumptions is by reversing them and finding ways of making the reversal real. It might sound stupid at first but think about this:
You are a flower delivery company that doesn’t charge for the delivery services. How can you make this profitable?
SCAMPER is a tool that uses already existing products, features or ideas and asks questions in order to improve them. These questions are meant to help you and your team come up with new innovative ways for improving your product or service or developing new ones.
It stands for:
- Put to another use.
To get a better idea of what kind of questions you should ask, here are some of the ones you can use for the first part (Substitute)
- What materials or resources can you substitute or swap to improve the product
- What other product or service could you use?
- Can your product be used somewhere else, or as a substitute for something else?
If you want to learn more about this approach, what questions to ask and how to properly run a SCAMPER session, you can check this very useful infographic.
3.Gamestorming – The Product Box Game
Games are for kids, you might say. But not have a little fun while working? Playing can unleash the inner child in you and bring all the creativeness at the surface. The Product Box Game is one of some of the most effective ideation techniques that leads to great innovative ideas.
Here are the “rules” to this game:
- divided your employees into small teams (3-4 people)
- each team gets a plain box ( if easier it can be wrapped in white paper)
- give information about what the teams have to transmit.
- give the teams art supplies and instruct them to decorate the box in order to sell a product/ service (that your company currently sells or wants to launch)
- one team member will have to deliver a marketing pitch selling the box.
- the winner is decided by vote.
This method will not only give you valuable ideas but it will also give you valuable insights on how your employees perceive your product/ service and where you should make improvements.
Do you need a new visual idea? Then collaborative sketching might be the best solution for you. Sketching with a group of people is a great way to can combine visual ideas into a concept that’s totally new. How to do a collaborative sketching session? Just follow these steps:
- Form small groups (3-4 people)
- Make a member of the group sketch the first image, one that is related to your concept
- Circulate the image from one person of the group to the other and ask each of them to contribute to the sketch with another related element.
- Repeat this step until everyone added something to the sketch.
- Evaluate every drawing and try to come up with a final product/service.
5. Problem framing
Best way to solve a problem? Look at it from a different angle!
While this might seem like a no-brainer, a lot of us just skip this step in the rush for a fast solution. So, when facing a problem take a deep breath, take a step back and try to look at the problem with new eyes. The problem framing method is one of the most powerful ideation methods out there. So, you should definitely give it a try.
How to start with it? The first step is stating the problem and making a list of 20- 30 questions about the problem. You don’t need to panic about how you are going to come up with all those questions – just start with the most basic ones.
For example, let’s say that your biggest problem is that you want to launch a new product but you don’t have enough money to do that. Therefore, your first question could be “Where can I get more money to for my new project?” or “ Are there any resources we could repurpose?”
Then, expand the scope of your questions a little further, looking at a different angle of the challenge you’re facing.
The second and third round of questioning is probing even deeper. These questions can lead to a complete overhaul of the company or its services/products. So don’t be shy and dig as deep as possible.
Don’t forget! These questions meant to give you a lot of innovative ideas, so you should gather as many answers as you can for each individual one.
Now, these are the techniques we used the most when in need of new ideas for experiments. If none of them convinced you, here are some more examples:
- Co-Creation Workshops
- Creative Pause
Ideation Methods to Select the final ideas:
Ok, now that you have gathered all those ideas, how do you choose the winning ones? First of all, you should start with filtering all the ideas and narrowing them down. When picking a winner, make sure it is an original but still relevant idea.
There are some methods that can help you select the best idea, and the ones we usually use are:
Idea Affinity Map
Now Wow How Matrix
The Lean Startup Idea Validation Board