A 1-day workshop that will turn your thinking upside down, to explore challenges from different perspectives.
What is an ideation brainstorm?
Ideation is the process of forming ideas and concepts. In the corporate environment, “ideation” means generating new ideas to solve specific problems. These can be problems that your customers are facing (thus leading to new products and services that your organization can provide), or problems that your organization is experiencing (thus resulting in improvements in your internal structure or processes).
An ideation brainstorm is one of the most effective ways to explore new opportunities. Mastering creativity techniques is essential to getting the most out of every brainstorm session.
Every business challenge will need a tailored program. The program overview below will give you a general idea of what an ideation brainstorm could look like, but your ideation facilitator will explain which brainstorm techniques are best suited to 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
What to expect from our ideation brainstorm.
1-2 Concepts per participant
We don’t like scribbling simple “post-it” ideas. They’ll inevitably get lost, or you won’t be able to remember the full concept behind each note. That’s why we always make sure to boil down the best insights from hundreds of notes into few well-defined concepts (usually 1-2 concept cards per participant).
a clear scope for ideation
You will have a detailed scoping session up-front with your facilitator, to define the boundaries for exploration. For instance, are you looking for new product ideas, new revenue, or a way to level up the experience of your service?
expertise in idea generation techniques
By going through ideation exercises, your team will learn techniques to come up with more business ideas and leave the comfort zone of their usual thinking.
a full ideation toolkit at your disposal
You’ll get all the tools we used during the workshop, so that your teams can keep using the tools they have experience with for future business challenges.
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 of coming up with a large number of innovative ideas and inspiring participants with disruptive cases, future tech, 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 a multi-disciplinary team drives 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 each 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 enough experienced facilitators on hand. Our rule of thumb is 1 facilitator per 15 participants.
WHICH MATERIALS DO I NEED?
A dedicated space, participants, sticky notes, 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 their laptops and phones. They are welcome to send an email or take a call outside if they have to.
- We ask everyone to draw their neighbor and give him or her the drawing and introduce themselves.
- We put a ridiculous HMW statement on the board (e.g., 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 it is 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 of the opposite (no legs?) to trigger additional ideas: what if chairs were hanging from the ceiling?
We developed the tech and trends matrix to:
- Introduce your team to new technologies and trends that can trigger innovative ideas. Explaining each technology and trend with inspiring startups and examples of corporate innovation 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 copying existing products or business models, it’s about identifying the factors that make a business, product, or service successful in one context and then translating those factors to your context.
Concretely, here is how we usually run this exercise:
- 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 over 50 business models, from famous multinationals to obscure startups, that you can use as inspiration for this exercise.
- Secon, we give every team a template for the analogy thinking tool.
- Then, we ask every team to identify what makes the business on their analogy card successful, write it on sticky notes, and fill in the left-hand side of the template.
- Then, we ask the teams to look at the success factors they identified and apply them to their specific business challenge.
- Last, we hand out a new case and a new template. We repeat the exercise 3 times (15 minutes per round).
Pro tip: Don’t just copy a success factor. Instead, 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 participants through this process takes 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 hand.
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 the ones they like with dot-votes.
Pro tip: Encourage discussions but avoid spending 10 minutes discussing a single 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 that 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 on your specific goals.
Pro tip: Energy levels at the end of the day might be low. Here we usually use energizers or take everyone outside for a walk.
At this stage, we tell the participants what they should focus on in their pitches and how much time they have. Then we give them some pitching tips.
Pro tip: It’s essential to be strict in your time-keeping. Make sure you end each pitch with applause. People are getting out of there comfort zones here!
At Board of Innovation we have 2 key rules for each session: 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.
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Tips & Tricks
4 golden rules of ideation.
RULE #1: THERE ARE NO BAD IDEAS
The key to a good ideation session is that everyone in the room feels comfortable contributing their ideas. How do you 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, or business units, it’s very easy to be tempted by critical thinking. Indeed, initial ideas often just sound absurd – “this can’t work” may be your first reaction. However, great business concepts are an unusual combination of (not-so) crazy ideas that become meaningful when combined.
Consider each idea as a piece of a puzzle. However insignificant it may look at first, it could be part of a bigger picture later on.
RULE #2: CAPTURE EVERYTHING
In the heat of the action, brilliant ideas can get lost. (It’s tempting to think, “This is such a good idea, I’ll definitely remember it tomorrow.” You won’t.) There is only one way to solve this: capture every idea on a sticky note.
Too many ideation sessions take place during regular team meetings, without the participants knowing that they’re ideating. Ideas get thrown out verbally and jotted down in the meeting minutes (in the luckiest scenario). A key element of the best ideation sessions is that each idea is tracked and can be used as a building block in future sessions.
A couple of extra tips: 1) one sticky note, one idea. Simple. Don’t try to fit an entire business model in 7×7cm square of paper. 2) Use markers, not pens. (This will encourage you to find the shortest way to describe your idea. Your teammates will love your conciseness.) 3) Be visual: if possible, instead of using language, draw a sketch of your idea.
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.
The best solution is “hybrid brainstorming.” Individual ideation comes first, then group ideation. Starting an ideation session with group brainstorming would let the loudest voices in the room set the direction for the whole session (thus narrowing the breadth of ideas), and frustrate the most creative minds in the room. Instead, start with an individual component. Once everyone has set their own approach to solving the problem, move to the group session. Leave enough time to discuss and build on each other’s ideas.
RULE #4: QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
The old adage “quality over quantity” doesn’t apply 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 industry. Later on, use analogy thinking and opposite thinking to broaden the spectrum of possibilities (or use a list of 10 ideation tools to try).
Selection is important but creative exercises are not the time for it. Go for quantity and worry about the quality later.
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