Within the design thinking process ideation is the stage where you generate ideas. You generate as many ideas as you possibly can, before reducing the ideas down to the most realistic solutions where you then begin prototyping. Ideation tasks us with combining both our conscious and unconscious minds, pairing the rational side of the brain with the imaginative. Above all else, ideation is the fun step in the design process, it’s where the creative juices start flowing.
There are numerous techniques that designers use to generate ideas in the ideation stage, but most of them originate around the central idea of brainstorming. Brainstorming by yourself, or with others, aloud, or in your head. There are so many ways to do it. It is important to keep an open mind, to generate ideas without judgement, and push yourself for quantity over quality. The process of eliminating the bad ideas and refining the good ones will come later on in the process.
During the ideation sessions we use something we call the “How Might We” statements, these are optimistic, solution-oriented starting point. The statements need to be broad enough for solutions but narrow enough to know where we can start. There are many different ideation methods, and the one being discussed now is called the mash-up. A mash-up brings odd or unexpected things together to create fresh ideas.
Below is an explanation for all of the steps in the two-page worksheet template that IDEO has published.
Step 1: Frame – Identify the “how might we” statement.
Step 2: Narrow – Choose two broad, unrelated categories within which to brainstorm products, services or experiences. The topics should be unrelated to one another but at least one of them should tie in to your “How Might We” statement.
Step 3: Generate – Do one category at a time, come up with as many elements of these experiences as possible. If you give yourself a time limit (two minutes), it usually helps with coming up with ideas. You can do this alone or with others, and you tackle one category at a time.
Step 4: Mash-Up – Combine items from both of the lists to develop new ideas. Putting items together that seem the most different are often when inspiration sparks, and that’s how you can find ways to solve the problem.
Step 5: Sketches – Choose the top mash-ups and sketch the ideas to visualize what they would look like if they were implemented. Then add a tagline or title to help understand what the picture represents.
The more ideas that are generated, the more mash-up options you have, and the better the chance for an innovative solution.
Now that all of the steps have been explained I will follow the steps to show you how it works. I decided to create my statement around doing homework. After I came up with my “How Might We” statement, I thought of the two categories. Then I created the elements, I put them together and created the five ideas off of the lists. Below is the document of my example:
Trust the Process
Ideation at its very core is a process. It’s hard to understand unless you put yourself through the process all the way to the end. This technique of ideation is the one where you can imagine the craziest of scenarios and still find the one you end up with. This approach is effective in helping you reach new ideas. Trust the process, and you will be amazed at where you might end up.