What is ideation and when to use it?
Finding creative solutions to real-world problems with cross-functional teams.
What is ideation?
“Ideation” defines the generation of new ideas and concepts to solve specific problems, either problem that your customers, consumers, or clients are facing (thus creating business concepts for new products and services that your organization can provide them with), or problems that your organization is experiencing (thus resulting into improvements in the internal structure or processes).
The Nielsen Norman Group defines ideation as “the process of generating a broad set of ideas on a given topic, with no attempt to judge or evaluate them.”
What is an ideation workshop?
An ideation workshop is a quick, intensive, highly structured innovation cycle in which cross-functional teams explore solutions that address clearly defined problems (from a user or business perspective) by using various ideation techniques to come up with a diverse range of solutions. The exercises will be executed both individually and as a multidisciplinary group. The objective is to create a safe space or judgment-free zone for the generation of ideas.
Why you should run an ideation workshop?
- Creating many solutions in a short amount of time
- Co-creation of concepts leveraging internal know-how and external validated processes and methods. It is a structured process instead of “wild” techniques such as brainstorming.
- You get from vague ideas or opportunities to defined concepts in less than 2 days. Creating tangible ideas for prototyping and validation.
- Focus, prioritization, and alignment of cross-functional teams (+Voting avoids long discussions). Quick alignment of cross-disciplinary teams.
- If applied correctly ideation keeps you focused on your user's problems and challenges and addresses the desirability of the solution.
- It’s a judgment-free creation of solution approaches. It is a safe space for the novel, perhaps unconventional. As a consequence, it normally is fun and exciting.
What are the outcomes of an ideation workshop?
- A strong(er) understanding of the problem.
- Prioritized concepts, aligned with the team, and voted for democratically as a team.
- An idea backlog for future prioritization/realization.
- Visual artifacts (depending on the length of the workshop).
When to use an ideation workshop?
- After you properly defined the specific opportunity, customer, or business problem (in the best case in form of a How Might We (HMW) statement).
- In the process of developing new services/products/experiences.
- Finding new angles to solve complex problems.
What should happen prior to the workshop?
Innovation doesn’t start with ideation.
Ideation unveils its full potential as an innovation process only once you have a problem that is worth solving.
Ideation workshops are used once you conducted sufficient research, user interviews, identified a clear opportunity, and a clear problem statement (A problem statement identifies a current problem a user is encountering and the goal the user would like to accomplish).
Skipping the prior research may lead to solutions no customer actually needs and that have nothing to do with your user’s motivations or pain points.
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High-Level process of an ideation workshop
The overarching scheme of an ideation workshop is 2 phases.
- The first phase is all about diverging and generating ideas.
- The second phase is where we narrow things down and select the best ideas to take further.
In order to be able to develop surprising, different ideas, it is important to be able to leave common paths (and thought patterns). This is where divergent helps. Divergent thinking means thinking in many different directions for idea formation and considering alternative approaches. In this way, manifold ideas are generated, some of which may be very far away from the original briefing.
Divergent thinking allows us to bypass logical and rational thought patterns and behaviors. It uses techniques to disrupt linear thinking.
In order not to lose sight of the actual goal or the original problem in the possible multitude of different ideas, convergent thinking is important. Convergent thinking can be seen as a conventional way of problem-solving: logical, planned, rational and, in a way, objective. Convergent thinking thus lends itself to the evaluation of ideas that have been generated. It enables the objective examination of ideas and the assessment of feasibility and implementation. It’s about prioritization and weighing impact & effort.
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What to do after the ideation workshop?
Once you’ve completed the ideation phase, you will move on to prototyping and user testing. It’s important to highlight that the process is not always linear; the prototyping and testing may prove your ideas as not desired which takes you back to another ideation round.
You want to take action or you need help?
Do you want to carry out an ideation workshop with your team? Do you want to develop concrete concepts and get from vague ideas and opportunities to tangible solution approaches?
👉🏼 Get more information about my Ideation Workshop Service to kickstart your innovation journey or build upon spotted opportunities.
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Helping companies with effective strategies and execution for a systematic, user- and growth-centered innovation.
My name is Fabian Roschig and I am a consultant for innovation strategies and innovation management.
My mission is to drive innovation at all levels, based on the individual strengths of each organization, to enable and accelerate sustainable commercial growth. Together we make this happen by setting clear goals, focusing on the right balance between strategy and execution, and using validated, systematic methods and tools that guarantee continuous, measurable results.
For more than 12 years, I have had the privilege to successfully plan, implement or optimize new strategies, products, and services, innovation programs, structures, agile teams as well as processes for a variety of clients and employers such as The Coca-Cola Company, Condor, kicker, Dr. Oetker or TUI. In doing so, I work closely with executive boards, middle management, cross-functional teams, and external service providers.