experience designer // public historian


Ideation. Let's blow your mind!

If you would be asked to think of uses for a paperclip?

How many would you think of?

10? 15?

Now, let me tell you. School kids aged under 10, can easily come up with 100. 
To them there is no box they should think out of. We never said a paperclip should maintain its original height or couldn't be made out of rubber.

This is where we want to be with the Ideation process. We all still have our inner-child. We just have to go practice our divergent and not lineair thinking. (What we have learned at school & university for the past somewhat years.)

Divergent thinking is an essential capacity for creativity. Creativity meaning 'the process if having original ideas that have value.' Divergent is also a phase in creativity; you just let your mind run wild and think about all the possibilities to interpret a question.
As you will see in the Double Diamond model below, you will have two phases during the product design where your mind needs to find be open.


So to start the ideation process: switch your mindset. Grab your post-its, find a war room filled with markers and let's go!

Step 1. Re-formulate the brief.
Ask yourself the 'How might we' question to all the obstacles in the brief. Slowly you will formulate very practical questions. “The key question” should be an open, clear and engaging one that seeks a solution to a compelling problem or need. A good tool:

Customer Journey Map: Create three personas. One that likely would use your product, one that is neutral and one very negative. Let them come to life: what is their name, age, hobby, like, dislikes and characteristics. And most important: what motivates them and what are their expectations of your product or service. Now visualise them using your product or service. What happens? Where are the touchpoints? Most importantly: where are the pain points? Room for improvement?

Step 2. Plan a party
There are many tools to be used to come up with creative ideas. For instance, planning a party. Think as your brief as a big party where the budget is limitless and you can do whatever you think of possible. Tools:

Yes, and… Build on the ideas of others by saying yes! and adding onto their ideas. Listen actively for opportunities to build and elaborate.

More is more In the first stage, it’s all about quantity. Focus on getting down as many ideas as possible rather than striving to come up with really “good” ideas. Get it all out.

Postpone judgment Suspend your inner critic and resist the urge to evaluate the ideas as they flow out. Anything goes and the time for judgement is later.

Team is everything Make full use of all brains by ensuring that every team member is included. Create space for everyone to contribute their ideas.

Nothing should limit you to sketch out the craziest ideas. The part where it all makes sense is not yet. 

Step 3. Generate even more ideas.
There are several ideation methods to support this step. Make sure there is some sense of time pressure.

Idea Rotation: in silence writing down -in a set time (e.g 2 minutes)- all the ideas you can think off for a 'how might we..' Than rotate the ideas and add more post-its so everyone has two minutes in silence to think of every 'how might we..'

Negative Brainstorming: Flip the key question to its negative form and ideate around that. See what happens when you invert the question.

Need, Service, Tech, Mash up: Make four tables and in the first, all write down as many post it's in a time span on what your target group could need. Next service: think of services. From post to lunch lady to cameraman. Lastly is technology: scanners, telephones, fingerprint. Get all the technology in there! The last exercise will be mashing these three up: take at random one need, service and tech and try to make something of it. Get creative! 

Step 4. Make some sense
Get into the convergent phase: try to narrow it all down a little. Cluster all your ideas. Either on topics, groups, try to find some overlap in them and cluster it on this topic. Otherwise, make a matrix. 

 Pick the ideas in the green!

Pick the ideas in the green!

This will give you plenty of ideas, some new openings and most important: an open mind. 
Please leave your ideas, comments, feedback or jokes below! I'll be happy to hear from you!

ps. To spark creativity - decorate your room! Inspire and change rooms. Make it dynamic.

stephanie de rooij