It has been debunked that creative genius appears in a singular blast of inspiration. Contrary to the belief of many, true creative genius takes time to foster and that there are actually many patterns that can be followed to produce beautiful and functional solutions. To foster creative genius, individuals spend days, months, or even years trying to perfect their product or craft. During this time, they ideate. Ideation is the process in which you concentrate on creating as many ideas as possible in order to come closer to a feasible solution. Although it is meant to be a quick process, ideation can take up long stretches of time depending on the complexity of the problem you are trying to solve for. Be prepared to stretch your mental capacity, have patience, and it is almost guaranteed that you will be able to come up with some great ideas!
In this blog post, we are going to go over a few of the popular ideation methods I like to work with and show you how I used these methods to come up with some potential solutions for user needs.
Like any sort of creative endeavor, there isn’t a wrong way to come up with ideas. Some people get bursts of many ideas but don’t know how to organize or act upon them, while others have trouble even getting one idea to form. By ideation methodology, people are able to not only create ideas but arrange them hierarchically by how they fit their purpose/prompt and resources. After a good ideation session, it is highly recommended that you prototype your potential solutions. This makes the ideas seem more tangible and can lead you to identify issues early on in the process.
“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”
– Simon Sinek
Here are some of my favorite ideation methods:
Mindmapping is a technique where participants build a web of relationships in order to find gaps, generate content ideas, and ideate solutions. To start mindmapping, first identify a problem statement, a key statement, or other desired topic in a central area. From there, jot down ideas, terms, correlating concepts, and possible solutions around the central idea. When completed, connect the solutions/ideas by lines to depict the relationships to the central idea or related ones. This creates a visual depiction of the problem to be solved and the space/information surrounding it.
As with anything visually driven, sketching things out serves as a way to partially form ideas. While not entirely beautiful, these sketches should be simple with just enough detail to convey meaning. With this method of recording and “prototyping” solutions quickly, you have something to deliver to the team that is just enough to help you communicate your thoughts while not being overly attached to what you have developed.
Pessimist vs Optimist:
This unique method plays upon the mock conversation of a pessimist and an optimist. The conversation is initiated with a general topic and from there a question beginning with “how about…?” The pessimist will then make a comment that then the optimist will respond to. By building ideas from each party’s response a general idea can be whittled down into one that is more focused.
Similar to the sketchstorm, rightbraining is a form of ideation that is driven by quantity over quality. To begin, think of a general topic and begin doodling images that relate to said topic. Unlike sketchstorms, do not complete the whole image. These partially drawn images can spark additional creativity. For example, combining two incomplete ideas to make a “whole” new idea.
Storyboarding is the long-form way of developing a visual story relating to the issue or solution you wish to explore. Unlike other forms of this method of ideation can display changes over time and the dynamics of different elements within the situation. This method is extremely useful especially when trying to involve or solve for problems that require large amounts of empathetic insight. Storyboards can help represent information, personas, and possible solutions all within one draft. While very useful, this method takes up a fair amount of time to develop.
The Worst Possible Idea:
Sometimes you may think to yourself that one of your brainstorming ideas was one of the worst things that you ever vocalized to a group of people. While the shame of contributing something so dumb was embarrassing, this methodology is all about the obscure and the inaccurate. The worst possible idea method flips the switch and calls for everyone to contribute the things you know won’t work. This relieves the tension in the room and whittles down the options that might not be feasible for this project – but, it can also open up the floor for creative ideas that could work.
“If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.”
– Steve Jobs
While these are just a few of the literal hundreds of ideation methods, this selection gives you a good idea of what these exercises look like. A good ideation method makes you ask “why?”, “how?”, and “why not?” Nothing is too outlandish – you just need to make a good argument for it. For my project this week, I utilized mindmapping, rightbraining, and pessimist vs. optimist discussions to assist me in finding solutions that were feasible to implement based on the user needs that had to be met.
Ideation Techniques Project
Last week, I broke down three popular instant messenger apps to identify key user needs that weren’t being met based on reviews from the App Store. For this week’s project, I attempted to solve for the user needs that weren’t being addressed in the point of view statements. Each application had one POV statement that I strove to solve for using three different ideation techniques: mindmapping, rightbraining, and pessimist vs. optimist discussions.
After completing the project, what I found was that in-person discussion and mindmapping worked extremely well together. The back and forth from the pessimist/optimist discussion allowed me to narrow down on the biggest issues, how to solve those, and then ladder everything up to see where to move and how to do it. Mindmapping allowed me to take those thoughts and organize them based on relationship. Having this “cloud” was critical because with further examination and additional knowledge about the business, additional items could be added to enhance how the team could approach the project and what needs to be taken into consideration.
One aspect that I learned that I feel is super important to share is that depending on the type of problem you are trying to solve for, some ideation techniques might not be as helpful as others. With my exercise, I found that rightbraining didn’t yield solutions that were as practical because they were trying to create something completely new rather than solve for the somewhat simple issues users had. Rightbraining, sketchstorms, and other prototype-like ideation methods would work best for problems that have a lot of potential solutions or require a broader view. Because my user needs were fairly straightforward, the solutions depended more on the company priorities and the politics behind it all rather than the actual functions – which was quite interesting.
If there is anything to take from this blog post, it is that you will never find the BEST solution on the first try. Ideation methodology is a great tool to use after you’ve identified the problem to be solved. Dedicate time for everyone to contribute ideas and keep track of them. As previously mentioned, be patient and don’t be surprised when things might take longer than you thought. Creative genius isn’t something that is inherent – it is learned, built upon, and practiced by the most successful and inventive minds of today.
Have a project you’re stuck on? Tell us about it in the comments so we can assist in suggesting an ideation method that will work best for you.