Innovation is a hot topic for every business because it often greatly impacts the long-term success of your business. In previous blogs, we’ve discussed important elements of innovation such as how to create successful innovation teams within your organization and how to decide which of your ideas to implement. However, the first step of innovation can often be the most difficult: ideation. Ideation is the process of generating and developing new ideas. There are innovation management tools that can help you organize your ideas and put them into action, but good old-fashioned brainstorming sessions are still the best way to get both creativity and ideas flowing. When you imagine brainstorming, you are probably thinking of people sitting in a room together writing whatever ideas come to mind on a white board. Although that is one way to brainstorm, there are many other ways that can provide better results. Here are the 15 best techniques to spark idea generation.
Storyboarding is a visual process that helps you understand a problem as a narrative and make connections. Have your team write out their ideas as individual notes, and then attempt to organize them. These ideas do not have to be full thoughts. Arranging the ideas by themes or as a progression can help the team make new connections or weed out things that do not work.
Mind mapping is another visual process that organizes your ideas and finds relationships between them. To do this, identify and write down the main problem at the center of your paper, board, document, etc. Expand on the problem by writing down terms that describe what you need around the issue. Add a third layer of words around your needs that describe solutions to each challenge. You can continue adding layers until manageable groups appear.
#3 Word Banking
Word banking is similar to word association. Choose a few themes or topics, and then come up with big groups of words that describe them. Once you have exhausted your word bank, form connections between the words. Identifying the most important characteristics can help you find better fitting ideas.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a series of questions based on taking an idea and asking questions about it that would Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, or Reverse something about the idea. This helps to explore an idea from different angles and either expand on it or produce new ideas.
#5 “What If”
Stating a problem and then asking “what if” questions about it can help an innovation team get creative and shift their thinking. Sometimes looking at a problem differently can produce new ideas. For instance, you can ask how would the problem be solved in the past or how would you solve the problem if it was much smaller.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, might be familiar to some as the initial analysis of your proposed company when starting a business. This analysis can also be used when brainstorming. Asking questions about an existing concept or a new idea following S.W.O.T. leads to a better understanding of the problem or company needs.
#7 Gap Filling
Gap filling is useful for finding solutions to achieve goals. Define where you are, and define where you would like to be. Then, brainstorm ways to fill the gap in-between. This might be a multi-step process, but that is also part of finding what the solution will entail.
#8 Five Whys
The five whys is a process of questioning “why” and drilling deeper into your problem. Define your problem, and ask “why does this happen?” After exploring some answers, pinpoint one and ask again “why does this happen?” Repeating this process five times will better define the details of the situation.
#9 Brain Writing
Brain writing is a good way to make sure everyone in a group can openly share their ideas. Everyone writes down a few rough ideas to solve a defined problem and passes their paper to someone else. That person adds their own ideas to the page, expanding on the previous ideas. Once everyone contributes to each sheet, the ideas can be discussed as a group.
#10 Reverse Brainstorming
Reverse brainstorming works to create problems rather than to find solutions. Have your team come up with problems that could occur within your company. This exercise helps you to pinpoint what not to do or where weaknesses lie in your business or current ideas. Seeing what could go wrong can help you create a checklist for preventive actions.
#11 What Will Not Work
Brainstorming what will not work is slightly different than reverse brainstorming. Instead of coming up with problems, think of ideas that will not work to solve your current problem. Sometimes an idea that seems impossible is actually a great solution when approached with a different perspective, or thinking of what will not work might inspire a great idea.
#12 Rapid Ideation
Rapid ideation is a process where everyone writes down as many ideas as they can in a short time frame. Analyzing the results can highlight responses that appear over and over. Although some might be obvious solutions, connections between these responses can lead to helpful insights.
#13 Questioning Assumptions
Everyone has assumptions, whether they are about what is possible, what people want, or what will not work. Sometimes to find new ideas it is important to discuss what assumptions are being made. Make a list of assumptions about your project, and then discuss them as a group. You might find some assumptions are false or new perspectives might form.
Rolestorming is an interactive way to look at a problem through a different lens. Ask your team to imagine themselves as someone connected to your goal, such as a customer or upper management. Ask questions about what could be improved or why the problem is happening from this new point-of-view.
#15 Use Social Media
Social media is meant to be a conversation between users. The best feedback comes from your consumers, so it can be helpful to test and share ideas on social media to see where the public interest lies. People might leave helpful comments about their wants and needs as well.
Ideation does not have to be a stressful step in the innovation process. Getting ideas flowing should be an exciting task for your team and a positive way for them to impact their work environment. Continuously collecting ideas and keeping them in motion is key for successful innovation. For more information about idea management software, click here.