Monday, 21 December 2020

Addressing Large-Scale Challenges: Part 2

Ideate: Go Big and Wide. Get Creative!

by Kristen Cousineau and Christine Moreland

Congratulations! You have a ‘How Might We’ statement (HMW) that narrows down the big, unwieldy problem, to a manageable question that includes constraints and insights. Now, let’s talk about how to start answering that question: ideation.

Just joining us? Read Part 1 to discover how to create your guiding question, a ‘How Might We’ statement.

Ideating is often used as a synonym to brainstorming. However, brainstorming is traditionally spontaneous, and with ideating, we’re talking about a concrete, planned approach to creating new ideas. (We also prefer saying ideation because it differentiates our process from the negative experiences you may have had brainstorming in the past.) Ideation takes you a big step forward in solving your problem.

Figure 2.1 
Figure 2.2

Tip: ‘Ideate’ is the phase we’ve chosen to follow ‘define’, but you can flow through the design thinking process in different ways. For example, you may want to go back to ‘Empathy’ at this point and check in with your user(s).

The Benefits of Ideation
With ideation, you can: 

  • Generate a large quantity of ideas that you can fall back on (if the first idea you pick doesn’t work)
  • Put together strange and unusual ideas to generate something new
  • Stimulate creativity and spark imagination within your team
  • Push people outside of their comfort zone by helping them think without constraints

When planning an ideation session, we recommend some backwards design. Start by thinking of the end goal for the ideation. Let’s look at our HMW from earlier:

How Might We... create relevant, engaging guest experiences in new ways that adhere to COVID-19 guidelines and allow us to make up our budget shortfall?

The main goal is to have some new ideas for guest experiences. At the end of the ideation session, you want a bunch of ideas for guest experiences that can generate revenue and be engaging and relevant. You do not want a large mass of ideas that still require hours of work to whittle down to something actionable.
Don’t worry: we have a tested structure you can use with some tips along the way!
Preparation: Who to Invite and What Materials to Bring
We recommend a variety of stakeholders. The more diverse the people, and their opinions, the more amazing the idea generation will be! Invite between three and ten people.

Figure 2.3

Tip: You may want to invite an organizational decision-maker so they know what is happening and can provide feedback on new ideas. However, be aware that having powerful people in the room may inhibit others from contributing their ideas.

Stick to the Agenda
Set strict timing. In your meeting invitation, include the agenda and any relevant links or contextual information to help participants prepare to contribute. To build trust and confidence, always finish an ideation session by the declared end time in your agenda. The example agenda we’ve provided below is the minimum time to set aside for a session.

Figure 2.4

Set the Norms

Always carve out time for this at the beginning. The session will be the most productive and useful if everyone feels comfortable contributing. Set the norms, make them visible throughout the session, and refer back to them as needed. You can select the norms in advance and review them with the group, or have the group come up with norms together. Think about what stops people from contributing and include norms that would ensure that doesn’t happen.

Figure 2.5

Creativity Time

Before you start ideating, you will want to do a little brain exercise to spark imagination and creativity. There are many ways to get the creative juices flowing. Our favourite is called 30 Circles. Read about it here.

Figure 2.6

Ideation Steps

Split a whiteboard in three (or hang three different pieces of flipchart paper on the wall). Title each section with one word / phrase from your HMW statement that identifies a constraint or goal of the statement.

Figure 2.7

Each participant needs a thin marker / colourful pen and a pad of post-it notes. Give a brief definition or explanation for each section; for example, the visitor section is where you can write down all the different profiles of people who visit or don’t visit the museum currently. 

For the first section, tell everyone to write as many ideas as they can in three minutes. Encourage them to write down the most obvious ideas and the most wacky and crazy ones. Keep to only one idea per post-it note. When the time is up, participants add their post-it notes under the first section. Repeat with sections two and three, but increase the time allowed by at least one minute with each section.

Tip: If you are only part way through the set time and people are writing down less, give them a prompt or two. Tell them to look around the room, sneak a peek at an idea from the person beside them, or imagine what it would be like to be a billionaire and be answering the question.

Tip: Some people struggle with not knowing entirely what you want them to do in this section. That’s OK! However they interpret the prompt / question will provide insights into the language you’re using and may inspire others.

Now you have a lot of ideas! We are going to whittle them down. Each participant will go up to the board and select one idea from each section. The ideas cannot be their own.

Figure 2.8

Ask participants to look at their post-it notes and find different ways to combine them to create guest experiences. They should be aiming for quantity, not quality. Again, keep to one idea per post-it note. After 8 minutes, have everyone place their new ideas on a blank sheet of flipchart paper hung on the wall.

Figure 2.9

Prioritization time! Give participants two heart stickers and two star stickers. Ask them to take their heart stickers and stick them on two post-it notes on the board that they are the most excited about. Then, ask participants to take their star stickers and place them on two post-it notes that scare them the most.

Tip: You can play around with the number of stickers and the adjectives you want participants to think about. If your organization wants to prioritize speed of implementation and daring ideas, you could ask participants to place three green stickers on different ideas that they could implement tomorrow and two orange stickers on ideas that are the most daring.

Take the post-it notes with the highest number of stickers, the ones that really stick out. These are your winning ideas to take forward!

Read these top ideas aloud and take a few minutes to discuss with the group why they placed stickers on these ideas. Listen carefully to what participants say. Did they mark an idea scary because it is new? Is it the quick timeline? This will help you pinpoint the barriers to implementing the idea and can help you make it actionable.

All post-it notes should be kept throughout this process as the ideas can be used for future programming. This will also give you a number of backup ideas if the ones you initially choose don’t work out.
Well done! You’ve just finished your first ideation session and come away with some great ideas about how to tackle your big problem.
There are many ways to ideate and we encourage you to learn through experimentation. Good luck and remember – we are all a little uncomfortable, so lean into it because this is how we learn!
Want More?
Here are some ways you can expand your ideation:

  • Each participant selects one post-it note that has been prioritized. They draw 4 – 8 variations of what this idea looks like in action on a ledger-sized piece of paper. Place transparency paper over the drawings. Have participants swap papers with each other and draw additions onto the original drawings.
  • Each participant selects one post-it note that has been prioritized. They draw 4 – 8 variations of what this idea looks like in action on a ledger-sized piece of paper. Hang these all over the room within reach. Ask participants to circulate and provide feedback on the drawings using their post-it notes.

Tip: Have participants give feedback in written form on post-it notes. All feedback must start with “What if”, “I like” or “I wish”. This will ensure constructive, non-personal feedback.


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