Idea & Concept Development
Ideation and Concept Development is a process for groups to work creatively and collaboratively to generate creative ideas. It’s a general approach that can be adapted and customized to suit many different scenarios. It includes basic principles for idea generation and several steps for groups to work with. It also includes steps for idea selection and development.
Organize participants into teams of about 4 – 6. Introduce the purpose of the ideation activity, which will depend on your particular context. It could be simply a session to experiment with and practice ideation methods, or it could be a more outcome-oriented workshop, in which the desired outcome is tangible new ideas. In any case: begin with an introduction, setting the context.
While the below is described as a single intensive session, the steps of this workshop can easily be extended and run over the course of a full day or more. If the aim is to quickly introduce participants to ideation and concept development, then run it as one session. If the aim is to actually develop a new concept with a team, spend more time on each step.
Introduce Ideation Principles: Begin with a short presentation of principles for effective ideation. These are simple guidelines to support creativity, divergent thinking and quantity of ideas in the initial stage of ideation.
Yes, and… Build on the ideas of others by saying yes! and adding onto their ideas. Listen actively for opportunities to build and elaborate.
More is more In the first stage, it’s all about quantity. Focus on getting down as many ideas as possible rather than striving to come up with really “good” ideas. Get it all out.
Postpone judgment Suspend your inner critic and resist the urge to evaluate the ideas as they flow out. Anything goes and the time for judgement is later.
Team is everything Make full use of all brains by ensuring that every team member is included. Create space for everyone to contribute their ideas.
The key question: Next, introduce the question that teams will ideate around. In some settings, teams may come up with their own questions. In other settings there may be a main question that all teams work on. “The key question” should be an open, clear and engaging one that seeks a solution to a compelling problem or need.
Ideation Tools: With the question or questions clear, have teams begin ideating around the question. Introduce one or several ideation methods to support this step.
Association: Using random words or random images, ideate in teams using association. Pull a random word or image and generate ideas for two minutes around it. Then pull a new one and go again.
Negative Brainstorming: Flip the key question to its negative form and ideate around that. For example, how could Hyper Island create the world’s worst Toolbox? After brainstorming the negative ideas, explore what happens when they are inverted.
How would Google do it? Explore the focus question as if you were an actor like Google, Nike, a Kickstarter project, the United Nations, a local government, Ikea, etc.
User Perspective: Explore the focus question from the perspective of specific users. What would it look like for a 15 year old boy? For your grandmother? Etc.
Mash-up: Use the “Mash-up approach” by brainstorming a cluster of technologies and a cluster of things related to your focus question. Then, mix-and-match different elements and see what emerges.
Ideate! Give teams a set amount of time to ideate using one or more of the tools introduced. There should be sufficient time to allow some flow to develop, but short enough that groups feel some pressure.
Cluster & Narrow: After the ideation phase, have teams cluster and organize their ideas. This involves grouping common themes and similar ideas. They should remove duplicates and give each cluster a title.
Selection: Once teams have clustered and organized their ideas, have them select one or several ideas to move forward with. Provide a set of selection criteria or have teams generate their own criteria. For example: ideas should be selected based on the three criteria of relevance, feasibility and newsworthiness. With criteria set, one rapid method for selection is to use Dotmocracy, in which each participant has a certain number of dots to assign to the ideas on the table. The ideas with the most dots then have the most collective endorsement from the group.
Develop it! The final step is to further develop the most promising idea identified in the above step. Here, participants develop the ideas further, exploring the details of the concept, functionality, feasibility, business model, etc. This can be done within the same session, or could be done in a longer session of its own.