When it comes to being creative, everyone can think of great ideas and though not all ideas may lead to the next Google or Amazon, there are ideas, that can complement a product or process within your organisation (think of what Google Search Engine did to their AdSense service). Very few organisations have mastered this art of ideation that helps companies improve their operations, bring better products to market and serves as ammunition for problem-solving within businesses.
The Ideation Process
Ideation is a creative process used for developing new concepts for implementation in the future, development of new business models, innovation management etc. Most companies go about ideation by having brainstorming sessions (even though brainstorming doesn’t quite work, more on this later). Ideation processes, if properly facilitated, can lead you and your team to breakout solutions you may never have discovered otherwise.
What do I mean by if properly facilitated?
Like I stated earlier, brainstorming doesn’t work though it is a means of ideation. Here’s the thing, brainstorming involves a team gathering together in a room to think of ideas. In these sessions, most times, no one is assigned to follow through with the next steps and execution. Once everyone leaves the room, the ideas are left behind in the room, with no follow-up or action steps afterwards, ideas are lost, and all the time and effort invested become wasted.
Brainstorming, however, can yield better results if you follow these steps:
1. Have a facilitator
Have someone lead the session. Someone with experience and maturity who can guide everyone through the process. This person (not necessarily the boss, a superior or ‘oga’) should be able to help the team come to a consensus of what the final vote is. Keep in mind that organizational hierarchy does not lend to successes of ideation sessions, meaning the best idea(s) win, not the one the boss selects (this is probably another factor that affects the success of brainstorming sessions).
2. Don’t limit the number of Ideas
Let the ideas come in droves, you want quantity at sessions like this not quality, at least not yet. Quality comes at a later point and involves key stakeholders selecting and voting for the most promising ideas.
3. Delegate the winning idea
It is also good to have someone who is tasked with ensuring that the winning ideas are well documented to further work on in subsequent phase(s). At DODO, the project manager does this, this ensures no great idea is lost and the next steps in developing them are realized.
4. Have a Timeline.
You’ll find that implementing your ideas as quickly as possible will help you and your team develop a great solution that captures all the necessary details that enrich the offering. As details developed during brainstorming sessions can sometimes be lost if left to dwell for long periods you’ll also find that people may forget some important details which may make it hard to develop the solution as initially intended.
I want you to think back to your last brainstorming session and think of all the ideas that you and your team came up with. How many of those ideas have been implemented today? How much impact did they have on your organization? Now you see my point!
Ideation sessions shouldn’t just be a time when everyone gathers to shout out their ideas, it should be a strategically set period, where key people come together to creatively share ways to solve a pending challenge within a stipulated period of time.
This is why you have companies bringing in Design Strategists1 or Sprint facilitators2 alternatively they outsource this service to Design Agencies who are experts in facilitating ideation sessions that yield excellent results.
At my company, we run lots of ideation sessions, and not once have we left a session without bringing a great idea to life with key action steps that have driven growth and productivity for our organization, or a great idea for a client. I sometimes facilitate these sessions, and I can tell you for a fact that if well run, ideation sessions are invaluable, no matter the company, no matter the industry. And your company shouldn’t be deprived of it.
If you run effective sessions like these within your organization, then that’s great! However, if you are running ideation sessions that are still somewhat unproductive, where everyone gathers in a room, shouts out clever phrases and no ideas are derived or implemented, then there’s a need to rework how you come up with ideas within your organization.
To read more about ideation, check out this article on the Six Thinking Hats, a process that helps with successful brainstorming.
1A Design Strategist is a disciplined systems thinker, who can combine creative and analytical skills that result in effective innovation strategies.
2A Sprint Facilitator is responsible for keeping the team on track while also capturing every detail as the session proceeds during a Design Sprint3.
3A Design Sprint (or sprint for short) is a process used to identify challenges, develop rapid ideas, prototype and test with real customers to receive their feedback within a 5-day period.