You’d think that having ideas would be the most natural thing in the world. So why give it a cool name and create ideation workshops?
As legitimate as this question may seem, there is more to idea generation than meets the cynical eye, and ideation sessions have proven to be extremely useful and rewarding. Partly, this is because, contrary to belief, idea generation is not at its best when done intuitively. A certain amount of contrite can help you overcome creative blocks, dust off crippling assumptions and get you out of the proverbial box.
Workshop with Lunar Way
Last week, we facilitated yet another successful ideation session, this time with the awesome marketing team from Lunar Way. We had the CMO, content marketers, growth hackers, social media experts and others put their minds together to come up with fresh ways to make Lunar Way the best finance app in Denmark – and the world. We started with a quick “worst possible idea” warmup on how to increase organic reach, which we followed up with a session on fears and hopes. When looking for patterns in their answers, the team agreed that they were more aligned than they had previously imagined. Suddenly there was a common base from which they could discuss strategies and new ideas, and it was built on issues that were close to the heart.
In the first ideation session after warm-up, we worked on challenging assumptions. Most of us – especially startupers – are well-versed in the benefits of being data-driven and working agilely with testing and prototyping, rather than building strategies based on assumptions. At the end of the day, though, we do not always practice what we preach, and many decisions are made based on assumptions that are based on…a hunch? Writing down assumptions and reversing them – trying to turn their opposites into reality, is a great way to get past roadblocks and see new opportunities.
We also did a run of the Crazy 8, where the team had to sketch eight solutions in eight minutes on, “How to make two people fall in love through your product/service”. It might seem a stretch for a finance app, but at the end of the day, emotions are the strongest way in which we relate to the world around us, and tapping into the emotional potential of our product helps us come up with new, powerful ways to communicate it to the world.
Ultimately this is what ideation is all about; unlocking hidden potential in your team members and your product or service. It is not more suitable for certain departments or industries than others and you do not need prior experience.
Here are five benefits of ideation, which shows how powerful it could be for your teams:
It puts your inner critics on ice. Many of us have a strong inner critic. Being picky about quality is a good thing, but when the critic steps in too early, i.e. during the creative phase of work, when ideas are being generated, it can be very counterproductive. During the first step of ideation, the focus is therefore on quantity, not quality. Having strong criteria can sensor good ideas and stop people from building on each others’ ideas.
It gives your team a well-needed break from the daily grind. The everyday routines of life are well-known creativity killers. Leaving it all behind for a day of idea generation at a remote location brings innovation and energy back to your team and helps them think in new ways. Neuroscience shows that our brain peaks in creativity when it is relaxed, distracted and high on dopamine. Relocating your team to a cool, new environment – preferably filled with dark chocolate bars – creates the perfect conditions for creativity.
It creates new team dynamics. Teams consist of all kinds of personalities; introverts, extroverts, perfectionists, daredevils and others. Often it is the same two people who make their voices heard during meetings, but often the best ideas are hiding inside the introverts. A good ideation facilitator will make sure all ideas are heard and ideation techniques that build on spontaneity will help pierce through group dynamics with dominant members. The less we have time for reflection, the less our desire to project a certain image of ourselves or our timidity, will come into play.
It will help you think in new ways. Ideation techniques are designed to help you push boundaries and think out of the box. Analogous thinking, coming up with the worst possible solution for something, challenging long-standing assumptions and reverse thinking are all strategies that help you think in new, innovative ways. If we keep doing the same things as our competitors, we will end up being victims to those who innovate first. The only way to develop a USP and gaining a competitive edge is to venture into new areas and think in new ways.
It is emotional. Ideation techniques are often designed to tap into our emotional, pre-reflexive mindset. The reason for this is that most creative roadblocks are found later; when we think about what we should say in a meeting, what it will mean for our career, who is listening, if the idea is viable, etc. The first stage of ideation should aim at collecting our unfiltered ideas.
It helps you select the best ideas. After the initial, pre-reflexive stage of ideation comes the idea selection. There are plenty of efficient methods to choose from for this but the bottom line is that the team will set up a range of criteria by which the ideas generated will be measured and chosen. These criteria could be feasibility, usability and desirability. It could also be questions about how unique the value proposition is.
A facilitated ideation session not only does it have the potential…to take your product or service to a new level and give you a competitive edge, but it also has less explicit advantages, such as uncovering implicit knowledge in your team, improving the team spirit, empowering all members of the team and recovering enthusiasm. Everyone likes to be seen and heard, but unfortunately, the “ideation” part of the job is often reserved for marketers and others with more creative roles. Giving space for ideation to team members with other types of function can help you uncover unexpected ideas and bring more joy to the workplace.