Creating a Project Ideation Culture

Ideation – Planting the seeds of innovation
The ever-increasing expectations of customers and their desire to have even easier access to valuable experiences are dictating the way businesses evolve. The future of companies is no longer in their own hands but in the hands of consumers. The implementation of these trends in the development of strategies and in the process of generating ideas allows companies to feel the pulse of the times and to adapt to dynamic changes.

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas…… Linus Pauling

Ideation is a process that helps organizations form new ideas and map them visually or verbally. The teams can use ideation at any stage of the development process to unveil new and exciting concepts.

The benefits of ideation

  • Ideation helps organisations take bold and innovative strides.
  • Helps to make more informed and consumer-centric decisions
  • Ideation boosts the variety and balance of your team’s ideas and creates fresh team dynamics as it gives everyone a voice.
  • Ideation increases the number of solutions your team comes up with.
  • It further helps question existing premises and challenges the current state of mind.

How to create an environment for Ideation?
Innovation in the workplace is predominantly driven by the workforce, so the employees are the greatest asset in the successful development of any business. As business owners and managers, it is important to facilitate formal channels for employees to generate new ideas and concepts. Regardless of how talented or skilled employees may be, innovation is something that needs to be actively cultivated.

Let’s start firstly with the problem, that the organisation is trying to solve. Define an objective, because, without problem exploration, the ideation session will miss its impact, The company may want to solve an organizational problem, offer new products or services, expand the market reach, etc. and specifying that need will help set a goal for the session and lead it more effectively. After properly defining the specific opportunity, customer, or business problem, there is one more important factor, before even starting the ideation:  Who do we need to involve?

It’s not necessary to gather a large crowd to source a variety of ideas. But when it comes time to plan the next ideation session, these components should be considered to drive success:

  • Invite the right people and prepare them to engage – when considering who to have in the next ideation session, it’s important to have the right people around the table, considering both their internal and external perspectives. There should be team members with technical skills and the ability to think creatively and critically.
  • Diversity of thought and background – the best innovation teams have people with various skill sets and backgrounds, which can allow them to come up with different approaches and ideas, then debate them in a healthy way.
  • Freedom to challenge the status quo – that will provide alternative ideas for ways the company faced the challenge/problem.
  • Wide choice of participants – participants in the ideation process should be in different parts of both the horizontal and vertical hierarchy, which will allow a broader view of the problem.

By implementing ideation techniques into their daily operations and workflow, the employees can be prepared to problem-solve any concerns or situations that arise. Additionally, this keeps the company ahead of the curve by creating the opportunity to predict and set trends in the marketplace. Here are some ideation techniques that businesses can use to foster innovation among their workforce:

  • Brainstorming – the most common technique, which helps for interaction between a group of people to create solutions building on one another’s ideas.
  • Worst possible idea – this technique asks participants to come up with their worst solutions to a problem. It also removes the fear of potential criticism because it welcomes bad ideas.
  • SCAMPER – this literal thinking technique refers to a set of actions that can be carried out to help with the innovation process and contains 7 elements: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify/Minify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse
  • Mind mapping – a visual technique that establishes relationships between the problem and the team trying to solve it and potential solutions. By writing down in the middle of the whiteboard the problem or keyword, all team members come with descriptions, solutions, or ideas.
  • Challenge assumptions – this technique is useful to think twice about the characteristics and functionalities of the business problem. The questions that the leader asks during that kind of session can be silly, but they will really make the team think about it from a whole different perspective and come up with even greater solutions.

How to run a successful Ideation process?
There is a right way and a wrong way to run an ideation meeting. A little preparation pays dividends. Here are some dos and don’ts for the most projective ideation session:

Dos:

  • There are no bad ideas – listen to each other, avoid any sort of judgment, wild ideas are encouraged, be patient and respectful
  • Capture and log everything – this is important because all ideas might be useful in the future
  • Quantity over quality – Selection is important but it shouldn’t be done during creative exercises. Go for quantity and worry about the quality later.
  • Give feedback

Don’ts:

  • Don’t come unprepared – that will make you an idea killer or even worst – be afraid of the ideation session.
  • Don’t welcome chaos – Although it’s a normal ideation session to be messy, it’s great to set some sort of structure, don’t rush the team members, and don’t leave them uncertain about the consequences of their idea proposals.
  • Don’t criticize other ideas – the session should be focusing on generating ideas rather than criticizing them. Avoiding making comments on other team members’ opinions, will make the environment more attractive and friendly.
  • Don’t forget to record every idea.

How to Measure Ideation Success?
Once an idea has been collaborated on and developed, the next stage is for the team to evaluate it to see if it’s viable for implementation. This involves sifting through idea submissions to identify which ones are most relevant and have a high probability of solving a challenge.

After setting every idea into a log and reviewing them, the team should define criteria for reducing the number of ideas to a manageable number. Criteria should be specific to the business context but may include factors such as estimated implementation time, revenue-generating potential, potential customer reluctance, or impact on competitive advantage.

Now the team has a manageable number of ideas. The next step is to consider the wild idea, the brilliant idea, or a combination of the two by using the approaches:

  • Democracy – give everyone 3-5 votes to pick their favourites.
  • Cluster – Look for similarities between ideas and group them together.
  • Discuss – The leader should summarize what ideas resulted from this phase, then the team discusses which are worth considering, what were the top 3-5 ideas, and why.
  • Decide – The final decision is made by the team leader.

What’s next?
Ideation helps reveal unexpected solutions and sometimes even sheds light on obvious ones that we might have missed and push us to think outside the box. But the ideation process should only be seen as a rough guide, not a strict path. Every innovation initiative is different, so it’s important that the process be continually adapted based on the company’s unique requirements, audience, and goals. To learn more, book a consultation with Aspira today and find out how the ideation process can benefit your company.

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Plamena Radeva, Project Coordinator

Plamena Radeva, Project Coordinator

Plamena is a Project Coordinator at Aspira. She is an experienced specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Plamena is skilled in analytical thinking, Microsoft Project, teamwork and project management.

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