With your opportunities informed and framed as questions, you can now unleash your colleagues to address them with confidence. But how do you come up with promising ideas? And how do you wade through all those ideas to land upon viable solutions?
First, you must embrace the fact that people across your organization not only have a stake in future solutions, but they have ideas, too. Your colleagues have important viewpoints and knowledge, pre-existing solutions already in roadmaps, and the very human need to contribute to defining the future (not simply executing someone else’s vision). Therefore, you need to build on the collaborative atmosphere that has been established while engaging others to generate and explore new ideas.
Generating ideas with many people of different skills, knowledge, and experience is critical at this stage, but it does come with some challenges. Many of your colleagues likely have lived through poorly facilitated brainstorming sessions that resulted in groupthink or dominant voices shouting out other perspectives. New collaborators may challenge prior research and the opportunities you have identified because they did not have a direct hand in it. And that’s if you can get everyone to free up the time to participate. Your job, therefore, is to design working sessions and other activities that mitigate these challenges and produce quality ideas to further evaluate and choose. This chapter will equip you to do just that.
A plethora of books and resources exist on the topic of generating ideas. Advocates and detractors argue over the efficacy of brainstorming alone or in groups. Hundreds of proprietary approaches tout their methods as the most predictable ways to achieve innovative results. And then there’s the old truism: “I get my best ideas in the shower.”
Let’s face it—ideas are mysterious. They can come at any moment during any phase of your initiative, project, or sprint. And most of these ideas—despite the refrain “there are no bad ideas”—end up being off topic, unviable, or simply never acted upon.
That said, you can successfully engage others in generating ideas and working toward agreed-upon solutions based on your identified opportunities. This process won’t happen in a single workshop.
It requires careful planning, a variety of inputs and methods, and strong facilitation. It also takes a little creativity and a lot of flexibility. Let’s look at four aspects of designing and managing collaborative sessions:
As with any orchestration endeavor, structure and focus in your ideation activities are critical for a positive outcome. How you plan to engage your colleagues (and customers) depends in part on your context. If you have stakeholders across a broad geography, you may want to hold workshops in multiple locations or mix in remote sessions or individual ideation. A hierarchical culture may require you to increase the size of your sessions to include multiple layers of decision makers and influencers. A tight schedule could force you to hold open sessions based on availability instead of having ideal groups for specific sessions.
Regardless of your context, you should consider the following guidelines to set yourself up for success:
Opportunities give a specific focus for ideation in and across sessions, but they aren’t your only inputs. The many insights and frameworks that emerged during sensemaking now become tools to help your colleagues explore solutions creatively. Touchpoint inventories, experience maps, and ecosystem maps provide proper context to optimize or reimagine the end-to-end experience. Personas and other models ensure that the needs of people remain top of mind and inspire better ways to serve various stakeholders.
Most critically, experience principles should be used throughout the ideation process. They can be combined with other inputs—opportunities, journey stages, unmet needs, channels, or technologies—to prompt a range of creative solutions. Throughout this chapter, several examples of using principles to generate and evaluate ideas are provided.
In addition to sparking new ideas, these inputs serve as important constraints to keep ideation focused and productive. This is a delicate balance. Well-framed opportunities—“How might we . . . ”—provide a springboard to go beyond overly constrained problem statements, and human-centered frameworks encourage you and your colleagues to set aside personal viewpoints and biases. However, all these inputs and variables can be overwhelming. Table 8.2 shows examples of combining different inputs to constrain and focus idea generation. For any opportunity, however, you should mix your inputs in different ways to see what leads to the best results.
One question that always comes up that you’ll want to plan for: “What about feasibility?” Your objective at this stage is to produce a large quantity of possible new solutions, so you should not constrain yourself to what your organization can or probably does now. However, you do want to stay within some boundaries, if only to honor the laws of physics or the natural abilities of people! Here are some tips on managing the question of feasibility:
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