If innovation is the modern life-blood of industry, then running a great ideation session is perhaps the holy grail. It’s something we do an awful lot, both internally and through facilitation for others. Here are five things we have learnt along the way.
It takes practice to develop openness and creative thinking within an organisation. And as they say, practice makes perfect.
An ideation is only as good as the people involved. Diversity is key, so invite the weird and the wonderful, the makers and the thinkers, stakeholders and bystanders. It’s this eclectic mix of multi-disciplinary thinkers converged around a central subject is really powerful.
Having said the special source of a good session is the people, the linchpin is the person who will host the day. Whoever you select, whether they are internally or externally appointed, it’s their job to motivate, cajole and ultimately make sure everyone gives their all. However, a good ideation host not only needs to orchestrate, but they need to contribute their own enthusiasm and energy – so don’t under estimate the importance of your host.
There is plenty written on the subject of the perfect ideation warm up
exercise - but in fact, a great session starts well before then.
Pre-tasks should be well orchestrated, creative and empathic – thinking about how you ask attendees to present the outputs in a fun and imaginative way will help to get rid of any session nerves. Giving people some form of up-front immersive experiences that will allow them to gain subject empathy is a great way of allowing attendees to get into the swing. If you can’t get everyone out into the field then using user research videos is great stimulus – asking people to ideate solutions and build insights as a group on the fly and then build those insights in to value propositions is a great way of building on the traditional persona building techniques.
5. Place, pace and play
Don’t under estimate these three points. Find a space that is inspiring, or if not, fill it full of inspirational stuff (and people) – if all else fails, at least make sure you have a window – enough room for people to work flexibly, have spaces that can be quickly cleared for acting out scenarios and presenting ideas is invaluable too.
Make sure that your host reads the body rhythms of the attendees. Ideation is hard work and you need to be aware that people will need to be lifted up and allowed to relax if you want to get the best from them throughout the day. Set a high pace for idea generation and
then intersperse it with longer sessions when the focus moves to development of richer propositions.
This is a really important factor to consider if you want people to perform well and generate truly innovative ideas. Having said ideation is hard work, its also worth stating that it shouldn’t feel that way whilst you are doing it! While you need to set outcomes and ideation rules – don’t labour this, the more you can get people to relax and let-go the more they will produce. Its not just about getting people to populate Post-its with thumbnails either. Have a great array of wonderful bits and pieces so that people that are makers rather than drawers can get their ideas across, have props so that people can act out their propositions or get a better handle on a process or interaction. At the end of the day its not about artworks its about quality of thinking that counts.
The thing we want to leave with you with is that practice makes perfect – so make group ideation a mainstay of your business and practice and refine your technique until you find a way that works for your organisation.