Three Ways to Generate Ideas When You’re Stuck: Brainstorm, Roleplay and Mashup

May 26, 2020

Virtual or in-office, ideation can flourish in any environment. Whether you’re building out features, kicking off a product, or laying the groundwork for a project, ideation is the best first step.

What is ideation?

Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas. It is the journey from problem statement to idea creation and then final execution. Below I’ll overview why ideation is important, three ideation session strategies, and, in a later post, roadblocks to avoid.

Why is it important?

Ideation encourages collaboration. When team members with different perspectives come together, they can build on each other’s ideas and share responsibility for a project. Instead of relying on one person with countless ideas, the whole team can be involved in the process, even your clients. Involving people not normally included in the creative process is a powerful way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Collaboration drives innovation, creating smarter approaches to solving new or existing problems and building different products and technologies. Ideation drives us toward solving the problem differently, together.

Ideation also improves critical thinking. When we critically evaluate problems, we challenge assumptions and our own perspectives. We analyze, assess, and reconstruct a problem in order to reveal solutions that may have gone overlooked.

Finally, ideation fosters empathy. One of the most important aspects of the creative process is being able to put yourself into someone’s shoes and uncover their needs, the challenges they face, what keeps them up at night, and what delights them. When we understand these fundamentals, we can effectively solve the problems our customers face.

Three strategic ideation sessions

There are many different types of ideation sessions. I’m going to share three effective sessions we’ve used in the past at SingleStone and will continue to use in the future. You can start trying these out with your team today.

1. The classic brainstorm. It’s likely you’ve participated in a brainstorm session in the past. In a classic brainstorm you propose a clear problem statement, individually diverge to generate ideas, and converge as a team to talk them out. This type of session is a great start for teams who are new to the ideation landscape.

Brainstorming is an example of an ideation session

2. Role-playing ideas. This is a quirky one. Put yourself in the perspective of someone else as you address a question or topic. How would a five-year-old solve this problem? How would Luke Skywalker do it? This one is all about thinking through different perspectives to generate atypical ideas. Try having someone adopt or pursue the persona of a likely customer or user. Then you could put this person in a scenario or situation to get a better sense of how that person may think, feel and do.

Role play is an ideation session example

3. The Mash-up. IDEO’s Mash-up brings unexpected things together to spark fresh ideas. If the problem is: how might we create a better experience for customers at the DMV? Our mash-up exercise could be: describe elements of the DMV experience plus describe typical things you would find in a restaurant/drive-thru. One idea: touch screen kiosks for faster check-in at the DMV.

Mashup is an ideation session example

Which session do you see most often use with your teams? Do your team members get excited when you go down the ideation path?

In my next post, I’ll share which session we use most often, and I’ll mention some common roadblocks to avoid. If you want to learn more about effective brainstorming check out this great resource from InVision’s Design Thinking Handbook.

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Victoria Griffin

Senior Designer
Victoria Griffin has a passion for creative problem solving and human centered design. Through her 5 years of experience at SingleStone, she has collaborated with teams to lead design direction on websites, applications, dashboards, information graphics, and advertising publications that always keep the customer at the heart of the solution. Victoria brings in her background of illustration to create custom design experiences tailored toward her audience. Texan born and raised, Vic studied design and graduated with a degree in Visualization at Texas A&M University. Most days you can find her geeking out over the curves of letterforms or playing with her cat, Pegasus.

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