Eureka! Four Ideation Techniques To Get Your Team Thinking

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Picture this: you're sitting in a conference room that's slightly colder than you prefer, taking a few notes, staring at a whiteboard and listening to some ideas being passed around. Time goes by, a few concepts are shortlisted, and the session is dismissed. But what if there was a better way to brainstorm, or generate creative, actionable ideas? When the original brainstorming technique was introduced in 1953, it was based on four key principles: generating a large quantity of ideas, avoiding criticism, encouraging wild and crazy ideas, and building on each other's ideas. However, advances over the past few decades have led innovation and creativity experts to call for a more structured approach to idea generation, development and implementation, all while keeping these basic principles in mind. Hence the rise of structured ideation, or using specific exercises, frameworks and models to generate ideas and drive business growth. Structured ideation can be used to solve a variety of business challenges; from developing a marketing strategy to redesigning a product or service. Here are a few team-based ideation activities that can make your brainstorms more inclusive, engaging and effective:


1. Mission Impossible

Purpose Generate ideas using seemingly impossible questions

"How do we build a house in a day?" Apply this technique by framing your creative or business challenge in a way that seems impossible, and seek out a variety of ideas from your team members. As the exercise progresses, encourage participants to think about new features or benefits that might emerge from this constraint. Evaluate the core elements in conflict, and the potential solutions that can come out of using time, space, technology or the environment as key factors.

2. Brainwriting

Purpose Build on each other's ideas in an inclusive manner

Also known as the silent brainstorm, this technique has been lauded by practitioners and critics alike. At the start of this exercise, provide all participants with index cards or Post-it notes, and ask them to individually generate three ideas related to the topic at hand. After this phase, participants can pass their card to the person on their right; the next person finds a way to expand on these ideas, or add incremental improvements. The objective is to end up with 3x more ideas than if the session had begun with collaborative thinking.

3. Speedboat

Purpose Identify challenges in your product or service through visualization

Visualization has been proven to enhance learning ability, and stimulate process-oriented creative thought. This technique starts with a large speedboat drawn on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper, which is named based on the challenge at hand. Team members work on identifying roadblocks or variables that would "slow down" this boat, and specify the kilometers or miles by which this specific problem would hinder progress. After all the obstacles or "anchors" have been identified, participants can work on resolving these issues and finding innovative solutions.

4. Dot Voting

Purpose Choose and rank ideas based on business impact

This technique exemplifies democracy in action! By providing team members with five round stickers as votes, they can actively select ideas and concepts that resonate with them. As a precedent to this exercise, participants can also be given a framework to evaluate and rank ideas based on feasibility or impact. The session ends with a clear display of ideas that are ranked as most effective or valuable.

Related: Five Places To Search For Fresh Inspiration