Ideation brainstorm.

A 1-day workshop that will turn you upside down, to explore challenges from different perspectives.

About

What is an ideation brainstorm?

Ideation is the process of forming ideas and concepts. In the corporate environment, “ideation” defines the generation of new ideas and concepts to solve specific problems, either problems that your customers 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).

An ideation brainstorm is one of the most effective ways to explore new opportunities. Mastering creativity techniques is essential to get the most out of every brainstorm session.

Every business challenge will need a tailored program. The program overview below can give you a general idea what an ideation brainstorm could look like, but your ideation facilitator will able to explain which brainstorm techniques are best suited for your workshop.

“Over the past 20 years in my professional life I’ve set up and joined many brainstorm sessions … but yours was definitely top 1 in quality. Strong!”
Jan Borré, Telenet

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Results

What to expect from our ideation brainstorm?

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1-2 Concepts per participant

We don’t like simple “post-it” ideas: they’ll inevitably get lost, or won’t be possible to remember the full concept behind each post-it. That’s why we always make sure to boil down the best insights from hundreds of post-its into few well-defined concepts (usually 1-2 concept cards per participant).

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a clear scope for ideation

Upfront you will have a detailed scoping session with your facilitator, to define the boundaries for exploration. E.g. Are you looking for new product ideas, ideas for new revenue, or you just want to level up the experience of your service?

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expertise in idea generation techniques

By going through ideation exercises, your team will learn techniques to come up with more business ideas and to leave the comfort zone of their usual way of thinking. 

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a full ideation toolkit at your disposal

You’ll get all the tools we used during the workshop, so that, for future business challenges, your teams can keep using the tools they already had experience with.

Program overview

Ideation workshop: agenda, tips, examples and tools.

What follows is a detailed agenda of our 1-day ideation brainstorm. It’s designed for 12-30 participants in a corporate environment, with the goal to come up with a large number of innovative ideas and inspire participants with disruptive cases, future tech, and trends and opposite thinking.

By the end of the day, we’ll have 1 or 2 concept cards from each participant.

WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE?

Quick answer: Anyone can and should participate in an ideation session from time to time.

Long answer: Innovation projects work best when there is a multi-disciplinary team driving the venture, the same goes for ideation sessions. Try to get a good mix of technical and commercial profiles from different business units in the room.

Pro-tip: Involve your clients – this can be particularly powerful in a B2B context. 

HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOULD PARTICIPATE?

Quick answer: Between 6 and 25.

Long answer: We have run ideation workshops with groups as small as 2 people and with groups of over 100 people. Generally, you divide a group into smaller groups of 3 to 5 people. The more people in the room, the more ideas you’ll get (and the more complicated the workshop becomes).

Pro-tip: Ensure that you have a sufficient number of experienced facilitators at hand. Our rule of thumb is 1 facilitator per 15 participants.

WHICH MATERIALS DO I NEED?

A dedicated space, participants, post-its, and markers.

A good ideation session starts with pulling people out of their comfort zone and getting the energy level right. We don’t start with a 30 min presentation on why we are doing this. Instead:

  • We introduce ourselves and the context (2 min)

Pro-tip: we ask everyone to put away laptops and phones and we tell them they are welcome to send an email or take a call outside if they have to.

  • We ask everyone to draw their neighbour and to give him/her the drawing and introduce themselves.
  • We put a ridiculous HMW statement on the board (eg. How might we improve the life of monkeys in the zoo) and distribute brainstorm cards for a 10 min quick brainstorm exercise

 

Constraints and mental blockages have no place in an Ideation session. To overcome these inhibitions we designed the opposite thinking tool.

This tool is as easy to use, as powerful. Opposite thinking asks you to familiarize with the opposite side of things, to stretch the horizon of possibilities. The goal: to boost your brainstorming session, by solving assumptions and coming up with additional, more creative ideas.

For instance,  when designing a chair, you can list the assumptions of a chair (it needs to have legs) and think its opposite (no legs?!) to trigger additional ideas: what if chairs were hanging from the ceiling?

We developed the tech & trends matrix to:

  • Introduce your team to new technologies and trends that can trigger innovative ideas. Explaining each technology and trend by using inspiring startups and corporate innovation examples makes these high-level concepts extremely actionable;
  • Explore how specific trends and technologies can impact the challenges at hand.

80% of new ideas come from analogy thinking. Pablo Picasso knew this when he said: “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

Analogy thinking isn’t about simply copying existing products or business models: it is about identifying those factors that make a business, product or service successful and translating them to your context.

Concretely, this is how we usually run this exercise:

  1. First, we give each team one of our analyzed business models (you can find them in the guide “50 business models to copy” – we have looked all over the world and identified 50+ business models, from famous multinationals to obscure startups, which you can use as inspiration for this exercise).
  2. Secondly, we give every team a template of the analogy thinking tool
  3. Then, we ask every team to identify what makes the business on their analogy card successful, write it on post-its and fill in the left-hand side of the template.
  4. Finally, we ask the teams to look at the success factors they identified and to apply them to their specific business challenge.
  5. The, we hand out a new case and a new template and we repeat the exercise 3 times (15 min per round).

Pro-tip: don’t just copy a success factor but use it as a trigger to come up with new ideas.

The first phase of an ideation session is all about diverging and generating as many ideas as possible. In the second phase, it’s time to narrow things down and select the best ideas to take further.

This is a crucial part of an ideation exercise and it is also the hardest part. Guiding the participants through this process requires patience: people tend to snap back into the “corporate-mode” and insist that everyone should review all ideas. Of course, this is not feasible, given the number of ideas at hands at this point.

To respond to the need for validation, we use specific selection criteria, and we explain them to the participants. A possible framework is the ‘desirability-viability-feasibility’ framework.

Then, we ask everyone to walk around the room (all posters with ideas should be hanging on the walls), read through the ideas and indicate with dot-votes the ones they like.

Pro-tip: Encourage discussions but avoid that people spend 10 minutes discussing 1 idea.

Then, we hand out the idea shopping cart: participants can fill it by selecting and copying (not taking them off the wall) 6 ideas:

  • An original idea
  • An idea to be developed in 5-10 years
  • An idea which you should implement now
  • An idea addressing a new market
  • An idea about a new offering
  • An idea you just really like

Pro-Tip: We change these 6 criteria based upon your specific goals.

Pro-tip: Energy levels at the end of the day might be low. We usually use energizers or we take everyone outside for a walk.

At this stage, we tell the participants what they should focus on in their pitches, how much time they have, and we give them some pitching tips.

Pro-tip: It’s fundamental to be strict on your time-keeping. Also, ensure that each pitch ends in an applause, people are getting out of there comfort zone here! 

At Board of Innovation we have 2 key rules for each session we do: always end on a high and always end on time! We make sure that pitching ends 15 min before the published end-time so that we have time to ask for feedback – to get better every time – and to do a recap of the day.

LET’S GET IN TOUCH!

Ideation brainstorm.

Do you want more info about this program? Please fill in this form below to have a quick chat with one of our experts.

Tips & Tricks

4 golden rules of ideation.

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RULE #1 / THERE ARE NO BAD IDEAS

Key to a good ideation session is that everyone in the room feels comfortable contributing their ideas. How to get there? By asking everyone to kill judgment completely: no negative thinking, no “yes, but”, no nah-faces. If someone hesitates in jotting down an idea, tell them “at this stage, there are no bad ideas”.

This is easier said than done: when developing new products/services/business units, it’s very easy to be tempted by critical thinking. Indeed, often times, initial ideas just sound absurd – and “this can’t work” is the first thing you may have in mind. However, great business concepts are an unusual combination of (not-so) crazy ideas that become meaningful when combined together.

Consider each idea as a piece of a puzzle: however insignificant it could look at first, it may be a piece of a bigger picture later on.

 

RULE #2 / CAPTURE EVERYTHING

In the heat of the action, brilliant ideas might get lost (“it is such a good idea, tomorrow we’ll remember it for sure”. You won’t). There is only one way to solve this: capture every idea on a post-it.

Too many ideation sessions happen during regular team meetings, without the participants being fully aware that they’re ideating. Ideas are shot verbally and jotted down in the meeting minutes (in the luckiest scenario). Instead, a key element of the best ideation sessions is that each idea is tracked and can be used as a building block in the following sessions. 

A couple of extra tips: 1) one post-it, one idea. Simple. Don’t try to fit an entire business model in 7×7 cm of paper. 2) Use markers, not pens (it will help you to find the most concise way to describe your idea. Your teammates will love your conciseness). 3) Be visual: if possible, instead of using verbal language, draw a sketch of your idea.

 

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RULE #3 / GO FOR HYBRID BRAINSTORMING

Group brainstorming is always better than individual brainstorming, right? Well, not really: research shows that combining individual
brainstorming
 with group exercises leads to more and better ideas.

Best solution: “hybrid brainstorming”. Individual ideation first, then group ideation. Starting an ideation session with group brainstorming would make the loudest voices in the room set a determined direction (thus narrowing down the breadth of ideas), and frustrate the most creative minds in the room – instead, begin with an individual component. Once everyone has set her/his own approach to solving the problem, move to the group session. Leave enough time to discuss and build upon each other’s ideas.

 

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RULE #4 / QUANTITY OVER QUALITY

The old adage “Quality over Quantity” doesn’t hold during ideation exercises. There is nothing like thinking about the quality or feasibility of ideas to stop the creative juice from flowing. 

Read our idea hunting guide to get more inspiration, or try our idea generator to trigger more innovative ideas related to your specific industry. Later on, use analogy thinking and opposite thinking to broaden the spectrum of possibilities (or find here a list of 10 ideation tools to try).

Selection is important but it shouldn’t be done during creative exercises. Go for quantity and worry about the quality later.

 

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Board of Innovation makes Fortune500 corporations innovate like startups, mixing proven methods from design thinking and lean startup.