Idea Generation

Places to Start


  1. Go where people live and work. Observe how they live and play.
  2. Consider andusenew technology. Refer to the Generation Links.
  3. Encourage play. Engage users throughout the process.


"The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas." -Linus Pauling Great brainstorming takes work and practice. Many people believe they know to brainstorm but are not doing it effectively. 7 Secrets for Better Brainstorming (based on the Ideo Methology).
  1. Sharpen the focus - state the problem.State something tangible without limiting the solutions. Focus outward on a specific customer or market need.
  2. Playful Rules -
    1. Don't critique or debate ideas.
    2. Go for quantity.
    3. Be visual - try the giant post-it notes.
    4. Encourage wild ideas.
  3. Number Your Ideas - Great for motivation - set a goal for 100 ideas before you leave the room.Also, it makes it easy to jump back and forth between ideas.
  4. Build and Jump - With high energy brainstorming, the process usually follows a series of curves in which momentum builds to intensity and then plateaus. The facilitator should be good a switching gears when the energy starts to fade on one line of discussion. Jump back to another idea that was not fully explored or skip forward to a completely new approach.
  5. The Space Remembers - Write it down so that it is visible to all the members. Post it on the walls. Cover your walls with paper before the session starts...not just the front wall or a flipchart.
  6. Stretch your Mental Muscles - A warm-up exercise is needed when:
    1. When the group has not worked together before
    2. When most of the group doesn't brainstorm frequently
    3. When the group seems distracted by pressing but unrelated issues.
  7. Get Physical -
    1. Bring in props - use competitive products, solutions from other fields, new technology.
    2. Build models from foam, blocks, tubing, duck tape...
    3. Act out usage.
    4. Use sketching, mind mapping, diagrams and stick figures.

Six Ways to Kill a Brainstormer

  1. The boss gets to speak first.
  2. Everybody gets a turn.
  3. Experts only please - notjust the experts but people with the right insight.
  4. Always do it off-site- you want creativity to flow in your office.
  5. No Silly Stuff - this shouldn't be like work.
  6. Write down everything.
Brainstorming is not just a good idea but an inexhaustible source of inspiration and fresh thinking.