When conducting Ideation sessions, have you come across situations where some people will be more forward to speak while others would not be? What about if someone makes a snarky comment on someone’s idea? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but to conduct a successful Ideation process, we should stick to some guidelines and specific processes.
Ideation is the third stage in the Design Thinking Process. It is one of the most important stages that you follow as a designer. This is the stage where you come up with ideas and solutions for the design problem that you have been given. You generate many ideas and solutions with the user of Sketching and Prototyping. I’m sure even you would agree when I say that Ideation is the most exciting stage in a Design Thinking project.
Through an Ideation process, you will be able to step out of your box to explore the various situations and ideas that you haven’t considered before. Furthermore, the various techniques of ideations will help to focus on your user’s needs and the important functionalities that you must consider. But aside from these benefits, the most important beneficial fact would be that it builds team spirit and strength between all your team members.
To conduct a successful Ideation process, you should use several techniques to get the most innovative ideas out of an individual. There are various techniques which you can use to get brilliant ideas. Each of this technique has its own perks,
- Brainstorming (includes Braindumping, Brainwriting, Brainwalking)
- Worst possible idea
- Challenge assumptions
Source: Introduction to the Essential Ideation Techniques which are the Heart of Design Thinking by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
Let’s look into each of these techniques separately to understand them more,
This is the most common technique that is used within the Ideation process. During a Brainstorm session, you always leverage the other team member’s ideas and build upon them. For this session to be conducted, you must build an environment where a person will be comfortable speaking without any criticism. To conduct a successful Brainstorm session, it is best to switch between group and individual Brainstorm sessions.
Brainstorming which is a group session has 3 siblings known as
- Braindumping (Individual sessions)
- Brainwriting (Mix of individual and group sessions)
- Brainwalking (Mix of individual and group sessions)
Not every person will be comfortable participating in these sessions. Introverts would be more tempted to sit in the back of the room and reflect on these ideas on their own whereas Extroverts would be more dominant and controlling of the session. To avoid such situations, the sibling techniques of Brainstorming can be put into use,
This method is very similar to Brainstorm but it is conducted individually. This session is conducted where members of the design team would write their ideas on post-it notes and later share them within the team itself.
This method too is like a Brainstorm session but in this session, the individual will write their idea on a piece of paper and pass it onto another participant who will elaborate on the first person’s idea. This process is continued within the entire team and afterward, all the papers will be collected for an instant discussion to see which idea would be the best.
Brainwalk is like Brainwriting but instead of passing around the paper, the participants would walk around the room to find ‘ideation stations’ where they could discuss and elaborate on the other individuals’ ideas.
Each of these techniques under Brainstorming has its own perks. Therefore, it is best to conduct braindumping, brainwriting, and brainwalking before and after a brainstorming group session. This brainstorming group session is mostly like a discussion among you and your peers therefore it is best to have it right in the middle of the entire session.
Source: Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Brainstorming, Braindumping, Brainwriting, and Brainwalking by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
This lateral thinking technique refers to a set of actions that can be carried out to help with the innovation process. There are 7 inspirational elements in this technique,
- Modify/ Magnify/ Minify
- Put to another use
- Put to another use
You can use SCAMPER on an existing product or service to improve it. What you can do is to ask questions with regards to the 7 elements to help generate new ideas within each of these areas. By going through these elements, you can ask 7 different types of questions that will help innovate and improve the existing product or service.
Source: SCAMPER: Improving Products and Services by Mind Tools, Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: SCAMPER by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
3. Worst Possible Idea
This technique is known to be highly effective to get the person’s creativity out into the open. This is an efficient technique to create a comfortable environment for any participant who would be doubtful to speak up.
This technique is conducted by coming up with the worst possible idea or solution for the design problem that you currently have. By coming up with the worst possible idea you will reduce the pressure among participants to come up with a great idea.
As you can realize, by coming up with wrong and impossible ideas, no one would judge you. Well, how can anyone judge you when the idea is wrong anyway! Due to this, it takes the pressure and anxiety off a person and improves their self-confidence to speak up.
This technique is not exactly an icebreaker-style technique but it does help with it up to some extent.
For example, if you are given to come up with the worst possible idea for a new idea for a design of a sneaker. Worst possible ideas can be,
- Sneakers that play music when you walk
- A sneaker that will light up when you walk.
- A sneaker that has mirrors for you to bend to see your face from it.
Well, you see what weird ideas these are right? Try to come up with a set of worst possible ideas to get your creative juices flowing!
Source: Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Worst Possible Idea by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
4. Challenge Assumptions
This is like a reboot session for the design problem that you have. To carry out this technique, take a step back from your problem and ask direct questions about all the assumptions that you have about the problem. This will be very effective when you are stuck or when you’ve run out of solutions.
Challenge assumptions are useful to think twice about the characteristics and functionalities of a product or service that you are looking out for a solution for. The questions you ask can be quite silly but they will really make you and your team think about it from a whole different perspective and come up with an even greater solution!
These questions can be obvious questions like;
Do doors always have to have handles?
Do phones really need to have a cable?
Do cars need to have a steering wheel?
As you can see, these questions will really look silly at first, but when you think about it in a new aspect like so, you can come with great new ideas which would be even better.
“You have to ask a few dumb questions before you reach
the insightful ones” — Don Norman
This technique can be done with the use of 3 simple steps,
- List assumptions
- Challenge assumptions
- Find ways of making the challenge a reality
Assumptions are something that would seem like an impossible thing to do or something a person would believe to do a certain thing. After you make a list of all these assumptions, you can challenge them by asking “How could this be not true?” or “What if we could do this halfway?”. After you make a list of such questions, you must think about how to make it a reality. By asking these silly questions, you will be able to come up with more innovative ideas with out-of-box thinking.
Source: What are Challenge Assumptions? by Lucid Chart Team
In reality, Analogies are used to explain complex realities to young children by their parents. Things may be different in the design world; the concept is pretty much the same. You use analogies to,
- Build empathy with users
- Define information
- Generate new and innovative ideas
- Gain a fresh look
As we are talking about effective Ideation techniques, let’s focus only on ‘Generating new and innovative ideas with the user of analogies’ area.
The concept of Analogies is used to explore unrelated concepts to gain new insights into your design problems. These insights may help you to reshape a known concept into a whole different one within a different context. Purposely looking into analogies gets the design team thinking on a different level which will help to find new inspiration and new ideas on a specific concept. Analogies can help the team to seek inspiration on problem-solving as well as redesign the design problem to come up with uncommon design solutions.
Using analogies will give you a fresh aspect to look at your design problems. There are 6 simple steps to come up with analogies,
- Extract attributes of your problem scenario
- Look for similar objects and their behaviors
- Look towards an industry completely different from yours
- Look for specific people that you could interview
- Use Brainstorming methods
- Create an analogous inspiration board
First, check if you can make connections within the scenarios of the problem where these attributes exist. Afterward, check for similar objects that provide an innovative use of resources. To create better analogies by learning through a completely different industry. You can conduct interviews or observations to get more information needed to create your analogy and then to come up with the analogies you can conduct brainstorming sessions with your team members. After you have a definite set of analogies you can create an analogous board with photos, quotes, and scenarios to help with inspiration and insights for better design solutions.
Source: Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Analogies by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
These different ideation techniques can be used to conduct successful ideation sessions. There are much more techniques than these but these 5 are found to be the most effective out of everything. But for different projects, you might found out different ideation techniques more suitable.
References and some useful resources for you!
Introduction to the Essential Ideation Techniques which are the Heart of Design Thinking by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
What is Ideation — and How to Prepare for Ideation Sessions by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
How to Run an Effective Brainstorming Session by Lisa Jo Rudy
Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Brainstorming, Braindumping, Brainwriting, and Brainwalking by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
SCAMPER: Improving Products and Services by Mind Tools
Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Worst Possible Idea by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
What are Challenge Assumptions? by Lucid Chart Team
Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Analogies by Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang
5 Techniques to Conduct a Successful Ideation Process was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.