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Many successful companies have a lot of ideas coming from workers, ideators or even a founding team. But what makes the ideation process so important for business?

Having many ideas is great, but not all of them can be brought to life. The ideation process helps you find the best ideas and use them to grow your business or find solutions to your problems.

In this article, you will learn more about the ideation phase and its positive impacts on your business.

What Is an Ideation Process?

Ideation is the process of generating new ideas with the help of ideation techniques. For example, brainstorming, reverse brainstorming, brain dumping, etc.

Ideation or “ideate” is one of the stages of Design Thinking. It comes after the “emphasize” (gaining customer insights) and “define” (understanding the core problem). 

The goal of ideation is to produce numerous ideas for a certain project or problem. These ideas are filtered and cut down by the team, to choose the best ones. Usually, the ideation process ends with many practical and useful ideas that the business could implement later. Ideation can also be used to make changes to the existing services or products.

The Stages of the Ideation Process

There are three stages of the ideation process. They cover everything from collecting new ideas to refining them.

Idea Generation

The first step consists of generating as many ideas as possible. You don’t have to worry about how good or bad they are. Just put them all in one place. Sometimes the ideas that seem too far-fetched can be great, and it is hard to see that in the beginning. That is why generating new ideas and moving to the next step is important. So, aim for quantity over quality.

Idea Evaluation

The second stage is evaluating all the ideas and selecting the best ones for your business. Sometimes an idea can be great, but it is not helpful to the problem you have. Try putting it aside for some other time, and focus only on the ideas that will help you achieve the goal in mind.

Idea Refinement

Once the ideas have been evaluated, it is time to refine them. Think about every pitfall your idea can encounter and try to limit any future problems. It will save time in the long run. Better preparing for any challenge than going back and trying to fix the problem.

Once the idea has been refined, it is time to move to the next stages in design thinking and see if it can be applied to your products or services. The “Prototyping” stage helps you to experiment with your idea by building a simplified version of the product or service. It is followed by the “Testing” stage, which allows you to see whether the concept will work in real life or not. If the testing is successful, such ideas can be implemented in your business. If not, you might need to repeat the process and find even better and unexpected ways to develop solutions to help your business.

How Can Ideation Help Your Business?

If your business struggles with generating ideas, or you face challenges in the workplace, then the ideation process is perfect for you. It allows you to see things from a different angle and gain a new perspective on things.

The ideation phase in design thinking works because your team has already identified the existing problem. Now you can generate new ideas to find the best solution. Ideation is crucial for the transition between having a problem and fixing it. By applying different techniques, your team can find the solution quicker and move to the next task at hand.

How To Overcome Barriers to Ideation?

The ideation phase sounds easy, but many companies encounter difficulties during that process. Most often, the problem lies in a poorly organized structure that prevents the company from getting the best ideas. However, other pitfalls can also occur.

Unclear Problem

Without the identified problem, there is no point in organizing the ideation session in your company. Coming up with new ideas that are useless to the existing problems is just a waste of time. So, the first step is to find the area in need of improvement.

Unfriendly Atmosphere

Generating new ideas is easy in a friendly environment. But, if someone criticizes someone else’s proposals or the team is afraid to suggest new ideas, the process will most likely not bring the desired results. Creating a safe space where employees are not afraid to voice their thoughts is vital to the process.

No Plan

Getting started is always the hardest part of almost any process. Not having a clear plan in mind on how or where to assemble the team or what to do next could be a creativity killer. Firstly, get to know the basics of the ideation process and different ideation techniques to achieve the best results.

Lack of Imagination

For the ideation process to work, there should be many ideas to choose from. Sometimes, once the team has collected a certain amount of ideas, the motivation and creativity can start to disappear, or the time is running out. One of the principles of ideation is quantity over quality. If your team has a limited amount of time and can only generate a limited number of ideas, then it will be better to postpone the session for a better time. 

Idea Killers

No one likes to voice new ideas, only to hear they are not good enough. Idea killers are phrases that might seem innocent at first, but they would prevent the group from being creative and open. For example, it’s too expensive, the management won’t agree, it’s impossible, get real, etc. 

Not Knowing When To Stop

Another problem could be not knowing when to stop collecting ideas or whether the ideas are good or bad. Once you’ve reached the critical mass of ideas, it is time to decide which ones are the best. There are many techniques that can help you choose. You can try voting with your team for the best ones, or let the manager decide. Focusing too much on only generating new ideas and not moving forward can have a negative effect on your teamwork and business in general.

Methods of Ideation

There are hundreds of different techniques you can use for the ideation phase. Let’s discuss the most popular ones. For more ideation techniques, check out How to Make the Best of Ideation.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a technique used when many people sit down and generate new ideas. Most of the time, there is a set time limit that the participants can’t go over. This is to keep them from getting tired and losing their creativity.  Coloured pens, markers and post-it notes are also used to create a visual representation of the creative process.

Brain Dumping

Brain dumping is similar to brainstorming. The key difference is that it is done by one person. It is a method of free-thinking when every thought is recorded for later examination. It is a great way to get rid of some old ideas and unfinished tasks to avoid mental blocks and creative stagnation in the future.

Mind Mapping

It is a method that helps to visually represent information. Likewise, it also helps you to see the correlation between concepts and ideas and makes them easier to understand. This method is great for exploring the connections, and the visual aspect of it makes it easier to remember.

Brain Writing

Brain writing is a method when the participants write their ideas on cards or pieces of paper and later exchange them. The ideas move in a circle, allowing every participant to add to the existing ideas. This method is used not to criticize the ideas of others, but to make suggestions and build even better ones.

Worst Possible Idea

The Worst Possible Idea is a creative method that allows you to let go of any fears and limitations. This is a great way to not stress over things and let your creative juices flow. Instead of thinking about the best ideas, you need to generate the worst one possible. It is a fun and liberating technique that allows you to be adventurous and relieve any anxiety.

Conclusion

Using the ideation phase in design thinking helps you find many useful and practical ideas for different problems. It is a creative and, at the same time, bonding experience that can make your team stronger and more resilient to future challenges. Learning to overcome problems is a crucial skill every team needs to know. The ideation phase can help you to grow your business and make it even more successful.

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