Ideation isn’t satisfied with ideas alone.
Ideation is the act of forming ideas. Its main purpose is to move ideas from conception to implementation. It seeks to create clarity and a pathway for actualization. It also cares enough to invest time and resources necessary to implement well. Ideation may embrace lean, but it doesn’t compromise mission.
Ideation can be both exciting and scary. It can stay surface and non-threatening or it can challenge us to question whether it’s even worth it. Ideation can provide life-shaping insights that change our future trajectory or sober us with reality that kills the “brilliant” idea we once thought we had.
Are you ready for this?
I want to believe you are since you’re still reading this!
While there is no perfect way to ideate, the following is a helpful process that we’ve used and refined over the years while working with numerous brands in multiple industries that were committed to moving their ideas to execution. Please feel free to take some or all of the process/principles to create momentum around your ideas.
- Frame the Challenge – Taking time to articulate, document, and frame what the challenge you’re seeking to solve for is foundational but often overlooked. Jumping to a solution before understanding the context of the problem is premature. Ask yourself questions like “What is the real problem we’re trying to solve?” or “What is the real job to be done?”
- See the Unseen – All of us are driven by presuppositions and assumptions about our ideas. It is important to take time to identify some of these before working towards solutions. One of the ways to uncover biases may be to bring in others who think well, but don’t work in our space day to day. Allow them to ask “basic” clarifying questions about your mission and business model. You may also want to proactively go to events outside of your industry to see how others solve problems.
- Diverge Away – The main goal of this element in our process is to generate lots of diverging ideas. Yes, go ahead and write down all of the crazy thoughts you and your team have on potential solutions. Make it a rule at this point to never say “no” to any idea. Keep the time limited and go at it!
- Converge – Once you and your team have a ton of ideas, it’s time to converge through design thinking. The main objectives are to (1) identify common threads of thinking, (2) build upon each other’s ideas with clarify questions and/or by connecting existing ideas, and (3) vote as a team for one or two ideas that are desirable, feasible, and viable (i.e., Does it make business sense?).
- Prototype – One of the most practical ways to test out a solution is to prototype it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate endeavor. Whether the prototype is digital, physical, or done through role playing (e.g., customer experience), the main goal is to uncover new insights that often only come once a prototype is in place. A good prototype, whether done internally or with existing customers, will force idea refinement and iteration.
- Iterate Forward – Creating a culture committed to experimentation and iteration will continue to foster and accelerate innovation. It will take a few cycles to get a process going so stay patient and keep iterating forward
As you work through this or any other ideation process, I’d recommend that you find someone who can help facilitate this work and keep you on track to implementation. Investing time and resources in ideation can increase and accelerate innovation while keeping you focused on the mission of your business or organization.