Ideation Techniques

Ideation is the creative process of generating new ideas, which can be accomplished through a variety of ideation techniques, such as brainstorming and prototyping. If done right, ideation is what helps founders and executives determine the right problem to solve and how to solve it.

Lauren Landry, Northeastern University

Five Whys Analysis

This technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries, back in the 1930s. And Toyota still uses it to solve problems today. The technique is quite simple: when a problem occurs, you try to get to the root of the problem by asking “why?” five times. When a countermeasure or solution becomes apparent, follow it up to prevent the problem from recurring. You might get to the solution after the first “why”, or it may need more than five “whys” to get to the cause of the issue. This technique is most effective when the answers come from people who have hands-on experience of the process or problem in question.

How to do this? Gather the people who are familiar with the problem or what you are trying to fix. Define the problem and write a brief with a clear problem statement. Ask the first “why?” (sounds simple, but it requiers some serious thought to answer it). Ask “why?” at least four more times, to get to the root of the problem. Agree on a counter-measure to prevent a recurring problem. Here is a example from that´s quite suitable for a designer agency:

Brainwriting/Method 6-3-5

This method is used in groups of 6 people, and ideas are generrated and developed together. Each participant gives 3 proposals, which are extended by the others within 5 iterations. By using this method it is possible to develop as many ideas as possible for the given problem. All of the different approaches to the problem and the integration of the whole group makes it possible to discover new creative ways to solve a problem.

Phrase the problem you are dealing with in a concise sentence. Each participant receives a sheet of paper with an empty table consisting of 3 columns with 6 rows each. On the first row each particiant writes down 3 ideas to solve the problem. After 5 minutes, the sheets are passed clockwise to the next person. Now everyone need to try to develop the existing ideas and write down 3 new ideas. This is repeated until all rows are filled. The group analyses, evaluates and discusses the results together.



A technique I usually prefer! Mindmaps can be used to explore the relationships between ideas. They also help to identify and organize ideas and approaches. They can also serve as a summary and visualization of information. Start with the central term or thought. Write it in the middle of a sheet of paper and frame it. Write down the first words that come to mind. Identify significant keywords, images and symbols. These are the main nodes. The other terms and elements are the other nodes. Connect them when there is a connection or relationship between them. When necessary, vary the connections by thicker or dashed lines and/or colours.

One of my own mind maps from a previous course.


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