A three-step ideation process and two brainstorming techniques can help your organization get “unstuck” in the innovation process.
Many organizations use a traditional brainstorming approach to identify innovative opportunities for their product, service, or business. Teams undertaking these ambitious efforts can quickly get stuck in the brainstorming process, resulting in a narrow range of ideas or solutions.
|For more design inspiration, attend the Process Innovation conference track at MD&M Minneapolis, October 28–30, 2013.|
Bringing a structured approach to the creative process may sound counterintuitive, but using a framework for ideation and specific brainstorming strategies can quickly stimulate creativity and open up the innovation process.
This three-step ideation process and two brainstorming techniques can help your organization get “unstuck” in the innovation process.
When a company embarks on an innovation development effort, resources are committed to that effort for weeks, months, or even years. With that in mind, it’s extremely important to identify the best opportunities for development. Ideation is often a key component to identify new ideas.
Effective ideation is more than just brainstorming. It’s similar to painting a room: When you paint a room, 20% of the effort is painting and 80% of the effort is preparation and cleanup. With ideation, 20% of the effort is generating ideas and 80% of the effort is preparation and cleanup!
The three-step ideation process is described below, followed by two brainstorming methods. To get the most out of your ideation effort, conduct each step as a separate activity. With this ideation structure and brainstorming techniques, there’s no more getting stuck!
Step 1: Preparation
Goal: Maximize effectiveness of the ideation effort.
o Define the problem statement.
o Identify the fundamental need (people want a ¼-in. hole, not a ¼-in. drill!).
o Include essential constraints.
Step 2: Idea Generation
Goal: Generate a wide variety of innovative options.
Step 3: Idea Selection
Goal: Identify the best ideas for further development.
There are many ways to stimulate innovative ideas in a brainstorming session. Described here are two idea-generation techniques that consistently produce great results: buried treasure and breaking the rules.
This technique is called “buried treasure” because it helps a team identify hidden areas for innovation that they might not consider with traditional brainstorming. The buried treasure technique is a two-step process:
Step 1: Search far and wide to identify a broad variety of areas to “dig.”
Step 2: Identify the most promising areas and dig deep.
Here’s a brief example: Imagine your goal is to increase profits from your product. It would be easy for a team to immediately “dig deep” to find ways to improve the product so more people will buy it or to look for ways to cut costs. By first searching far and wide for a variety of areas to dig, a team might identify a much broader range of options to increase profits, such as new places to sell the product, new ways to advertise, new ways to improve customer satisfaction, and so on.
By clarifying the objective and using a systematic ideation method, a greater breadth and depth of ideas can be generated compared with traditional brainstorming.
Breaking the Rules
The breaking the rules technique uses a deliberate exploration of the conventions typical for a particular product or service to identify new innovation opportunities. This exercise often inspires new perspectives and clever ideas. The Breaking the Rules technique is also a two-step process:
Step 1: Identify the rules of a product or service.
First, write down the primary benefit. Second, think about the product or service from all different perspectives and list all the “rules” you can identify:
Step 2: Break the rules!
The breaking the rules technique is best explained with some examples.
Example 1: Coffee maker
Primary Benefit: Brews coffee
Break the Rules
Idea: Pod coffee maker
Benefits: Quick, convenient, coffee doesn’t get stale
Example 2: Restaurant
Primary Benefit: Get food
Break the Rules
Idea: Sushi restaurant with food train
Benefits: No waiting, it’s fun
By deconstructing the common assumptions about a product or service and intentionally disrupting conventions, you can bring a new twist to the primary benefit to better differentiate your product.
Teams face a significant challenge when searching for new innovation opportunities. A traditional brainstorming approach can be haphazard, off-the-mark, and the group can quickly get stuck—unintentionally resulting in a narrow range of ideas or solutions.
By bringing a structured approach and specific techniques to the creative process, you can unlock the full innovative power of your organization.
Don Baumgarten is a project manager with Stratos.
[image courtesy of NONGPIMMY/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]