Five Ways to Generate New Ideas

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When it comes to the process of generating ideas, the default answer is to host a brainstorming session.  Are there other ways to generate new ideas that are not dependent on traditional brainstorming?  Today on Killer Innovations, I am going to share with you five that I use.

Generate New Ideas

Mind Mapping and Wishing 

Mind mapping is a fairly common term nowadays; there are many types of software proving templates for mind mapping.  Traditionally they are used to organize your data, but it is also a great way to generate new ideas.

  • Develop your problem statement.
  • Write down the problem statement in the center of your idea (whiteboards work great).
  • Expand on this problem statement by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need.
  • Now add a second layer to each of your needs describing how you might be able to solve for these individual challenges.
  • Keep adding to your mind map using the steps above until you have sufficiently broken down your problem into manageable parts.

It is a fantastic ideation technique that encourages creative answers.  Another great way to generate new ideas is wishing.  Wishing encourages your team to let imaginations run wild.  Assuming you have a well-researched and understood problem statement, ask each participant to dream up the most unattainable solutions they can think of related to the problem statement.  Create a list of a few dozen wishes and go through the wishes by considering and discussing the ideas in detail.  Ask yourself:

  • What makes them so impossible?
  • How can that idea be scaled down?
  • Which features of that wish could we integrate into this other approach?

You might be surprised to discover applicable, real-world solutions among the team’s wildest wishes.

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Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats by Dr. Edward de Bono unleashed a new approach to generating ideas by breaking down the ideas into six areas of thought.  It helps participants put themselves into the shoes of another.  The six hats are:

  • Logic- the facts.
  • Optimism- the value and the benefits.
  • Devil’s Advocate- the difficulties and dangers.
  • Emotion- Feelings and intuitions.
  • Creativity- Possibilities and new ideas.
  • Management- Making sure the rules of the hats are observed.

So, how do you use the tool? Have each member put on one of these different “hats” for the discussion. Make sure everyone has their say and for extended sessions, rotate the hats to others so everyone gets the opportunity to see the problem and ideas from a variety of different perspective.

Brain-writing and Forced Combinations

One challenge for generating ideas is to get everything that is rattling around in your head out.  In this exercise, each participant takes a piece of paper and writes down a few rough ideas for solving the problem statement.  Each piece of paper is then passed on to someone else, who reads it silently and adds their own ideas to the page.  This process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to add to each piece of paper.  Once each participant has retrieved their original piece of paper, they read and organize the ideas.  Then each participant shares the notes and ideas on their piece of paper.  The big advantage of brain-writing is that it makes sure everybody has an opportunity to share their ideas and it also reinforces the idea of “building on the ideas of others.”  The last way to generate ideas I wanted to share is one I have used with my own product teams.  The premise is to look at non-logical combinations to create entirely new ideas.  This exercise involves bringing together ides that serve very different needs or interest to form a new concept.  How does this work?

  • Bring a bag of random items to your ideation
  • Draw up two lists side-by-side of the items in the bag.
  • Ask a team member to pick two or more items and explore different ways they can be combined.
  • On the list, draw a line for each combination shared with a brief description of the ideas that resulted.
  • Put the items back in the bag.
  • Next person selects two or more items and repeats the process.
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This technique can produce some silly results, but it is ultimately a helpful way of getting your team out of a creative rut.

To learn more about generating new ideas, listen to this week's show: Five Ways to Generate New Ideas.

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Everybody wants and needs change, but on the other hand we enjoy doing what we do well. We tend to limit ourselves to the things we know we do well. When it comes to innovation, this plays out in spades when a new innovation team reaches success. They become repetitive in their process, believing the steps are what lead to success. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about how the only way to change creativity and generate new ideas in our lives is to do it deliberately. We all can do things to get ourselves out of our old ruts and avoid the habit trap.

 

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