When trying to think up an idea we’re searching for that Aha! moment, longing to switch on our internal light bulbs and come up with a creative and unique solution to a problem.
The journey to an epic idea is different depending on how you work. This is perhaps why there is an amass of methods and techniques out there designed to help you along the way. The problem is, with so many ideation techniques to choose from – how do you know which one is right for you?
Fortunately for you, this post is here to break down six of the most popular ideation techniques. Keep reading to fuel your internal light bulb so that you can start thinking up the best solutions.
Ideation is a creative process where people develop new, interesting ideas. To generate these ideas, ideation techniques are used. The aim of these techniques is to get your creative juices flowing, to use your imagination, and to take time to develop unique ideas. In technical terms, the final idea that results from the completion of the ideation process is considered the solution to a problem.
The 6 Most Popular Ideation Techniques
To be clear. I don’t mean popular as in the prom-queen/ jacket-wearing jock and warped version of high school popularity. Popular, in this instance, means that these seven techniques are used over and over again. Why? Because they work, they are efficient, effective, and it is this that causes their popularity.
Let’s take a look at the six techniques in-depth…
Number 1: Brainstorming
Brainstorming involves a group of people, a group big enough to generate diverse ideas, but not so big that people’s ideas begin to get jumbled. In brainstorming, you and your group get together and bounce off each others’ ideas. The aim is to come up with a solution for the problem in question.
If your new to ideation, starting off with the brainstorming technique is a good place to start. It provides space for every team member to be heard and put their ideas forward whilst allowing the group to bounce off one another.
In brainstorming sessions, it’s essential to have an efficient method of recording your ideas. This ensures that no idea gets forgotten and creates a database for you to return to when finalizing the solution/idea.
There are various tools out there that can help you record yoru meetings. Whether it be sticking to good ol’ pen and paper. Or, a more sustainable option, is to use your Smartphone to either write notes or record an audio of the brainstorming session.
Number 2: Brainwriting
A variant of brainstorming is brainwriting. Instead of verbally communicating with your group in a brainstorming session, in brainwriting, all ideas are communicated via written notes.
In this technique, one person will write down their initial idea, this can be done digitally if working remotely, or on a piece of paper. Then, this idea is passed to another group member and they will work to improve that initial idea. Then, it goes to the next person, and so on, and so forth.
The process of passing the written idea around the froup happens until either the note gets back to the original writer, or until the allotted time is finished (this is usually 10-15 minutes depending on group size).
Brainwriting is great if you have a team that has a mixture of personalities. It lets everyone contribute to the idea without having to verbally come forward in front of the group. By writing ideas both introverts and extroverts get to share their opinion in a balanced and fair way.
Number 3: Storyboarding
Do you prefer to visualize your idea as images rather than voice them or write them down? Then this ideation technique is for you.
Storyboarding involves illustrating a sequence. Within the business context this sequence shows the end user navigating through a series of stages or steps. The storyboard lays out each of these steps. It tells a story.
Your storyboard should illustrate how you intent to reach the goal and solve the problem/ project. Or, in the SaaS context, the storyboard could depict the user’s journey and the issues they are encountering. You would use visual stimulus to come up with ways to solve which ever problem is blocking the user’s path.
Number 4: Challenge assumptions
The challenge assumptions asks teams to get to the core of an issue by breaking it up part by part. In this technique you challenge any assumptions that could be stopping you from achieving a solution to the problem.
If this technique seems a bit confusing, check out this conversation between Tom Breeze and Elizabeth Halford. In the video they go over what challenge assumptions are and detail the process involved when going about teh technique.
The best thing about the challenge assumptions technique? It doubles up as a problem-solving method.
Number 5: The 5 Whys
5 Whys is an iterative problem-solving process that aims to get to the root cause of an issue or problem by asking ‘why?’ 5 times.
First, you state the issue/problem you’re facing, and ask ‘why?’ – why did the issue or problem occur? Then, you ask ‘why?’ four more times, with each question of ‘why?’ in response to the last answer you gave.” – Thom James Carter, How Asking ‘Why?’ 5 Times Can Potentially Save Your Business (Free 5 Whys Template)
I work as part of the content team at Process Street and we’re big fans of the 5 Whys technique, so much so that we’ve written about it multiple times on our blog. We’ve also created a 5 Whys checklist template which takes you through the technique.
The 5 ways technique allows problems to be solved quickly, making it a wonderful ideation technique. Why? Because once the root cause to a problem is found, you need can begin to think of ways to stop the issue from ever occurring again.
Ideation technique #6: Worst possible idea
You know when an idea escapes your mouth and you wish you could swallow it right back up again? No? … must just be me then.
Fortunately for myself and anyone else who has a tendency to voice really bad ideas this whole technique encourages bad ideas. In fact, it encourages the worst ideas. The badder the idea, the better.
The worst possible idea technique involves group members putting forward ideas that simply won’t work. By putting bad ideas forward, it helps to alleviate team members anxiety of saying or doing the wrong thing. It also encourages them to put forward good ideas at a later stage, ideas that have a higher probability of actually working.
There you have. By now you should feel ready to start thinking up great ideas and even hosting your own ideation sessions. Remember that when it comes to creativity, its best to work and stick with what works for you. Find the ideation technique that works for you and let your creative juices flow.