Our favorite ideation tools

A good ideation session is hard work! It is a structured process of guiding the right people through a number of carefully designed exercises to come up with innovative ideas.

But first: what is Ideation?

Ideation is not just a matter of getting the right people in the room, adding some post-its and beers to the mix, and waiting for 3 hours until the next disruptive venture is somehow brought into being.
A good ideation session is hard work! It is a structured process of guiding the right people through a number of carefully designed exercises to come up with innovative ideas.

There are a lot of tools available on the web that you can use to help you bring structure to your ideation session. So much so, that it has become hard to filter out the good tools from the bad. To relieve you from that stress, we have listed our top 10 ideation tools. That way you can have an amazing ideation session straight away.

Round Robin

Round robin is based on a principle called group authorship. As an idea is passed from person to person, it can grow and change in unexpected ways to uncover some amazing and original concepts. Start with defining and writing down a clear How Might We (HMW) statement. Instruct each person to write down an unconventional solution on a post-it and have them pass it to the person sitting on his/her left. Ask them to write a reason why the proposal will fail and have them pass the post-it note to the left again. Instruct them to write down a way to resolve the critique. Iterate this 4-step process with different challenges.

Pro tip: Encourage the participants to suggest wild ideas. Invite them to make a presentation or start a discussion of new ideas. Limit the time for each phase (2-3 min)

Opposite thinking

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 become familiar 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 its opposite (no legs?!) to trigger additional ideas: what if chairs were hanging from the ceiling?

Mash-up method

The Mash-up method is a fast and fun ideation technique created by IDEO that brings odd or unexpected things together to spark fresh ideas. So how does it work? The first step is to define a How Might We statement. After defining your challenge, pick two broad and unrelated categories. At least one of those 2 categories should tie into your challenge. The next step is to create a list for each category filled with elements of these two experiences. Try to list as many items as possible in two minutes. Time to mash-up. Combine items from both lists to generate new ideas. Try mashing up items that seem the most different and see if you can communicate the value of your inventions in ways that are relevant to your challenge.

Analogy thinking

80% of new ideas come from analogy thinking. Pablo Picasso knew this when he said: “good artists copy, great artists steal”. This ideation technique isn’t about simply copying existing products or business models. Analogy thinking will help you to identify the factors that make a business, product or service successful, and translate them to your business context.

Rip & rap

Rip & rap is very similar to the collages you might have made in elementary school. Only now you’ll make a mood board around a defined HMW statement. You can use Pinterest or, if you’re a more old school type, you can cut out images from magazines, etc. Divide the participants into teams of 3 people. Each team has 30 min to form a collage. When the time is up, ask the teams to present their mood board to their colleagues. Ask participants to take notes on ideas they come up with based on other peoples’ collages or other peoples’ responses to their collage.

Brainstorm cards

These “how might we” statements set the team in a direction that is solution-oriented (how), optimistic (might) and collaborative (we). This is a collection of 52 cards to help you brainstorm and come up with new ideas. You can download and share these for free.

How to use the Brainstorm cards? Start with a challenge or problem. Use the cards to be inspired individually first. Come up with ideas for 20 minutes. Share ideas with the team and build further on the best ones.

Collaborative sketching

Collaborative sketching is a technique that makes sure everyone gets the opportunity to present their thoughts and ideas so that they can be considered by the whole group. It’s designed in a way to keep the most extroverted and loudest people from unintentionally dominating the sessions.

Tech & trend matrix

Ideation starts by looking around you and getting inspired. 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 startup and corporate innovation examples makes these high-level concepts extremely actionable. It will also help you to explore how specific trends and technologies can impact the challenges at hand.

Storyboarding

Storyboards don’t have to be Banksy-level drawings, they just need to convey a meaningful sequence of events. Even a sequence of primitive drawings can help you visualize how people will experience your new idea in action. Start with a plain text and arrows. Add emotions to each step of your story. Only now you should translate each step into a storyboard frame. Make sure your storyboard leaves your audience with no doubt about the outcome of the story.

Pro tip: Use the storyboard to explain to others. Get inspiration from the way comic books are drawn. Use a variety of angles (panoramic, close-up, etc).

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