What Is Ideation? Tips for a Successful Creative Process

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 16 November 2022

Published 6 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Ideation is a part of the creative process within a business environment to address challenges or issues. It's usually part of a design framework that focuses on developing and producing as many creative ideas as possible. Knowing what this concept is and understanding its importance can help you create practical ideas for business projects, products and services. In this article, we discuss the concept of ideation, explain why it's important and explore useful tips for developing practical ideas.

What is ideation?

Ideation is part of the thinking process, which also includes empathy, definition, development and testing. This process involves developing and conveying your ideas to your team members in a business setting. Producing as many new ideas as possible can help you and your team address the issues and concerns of customers in creative ways.

The process of generating ideas usually involves the expression of suggestions via online forums, seminars, brainstorming sessions, surveys and team-building exercises. Team members typically draw on their opinions, principles, knowledge and experiences, to produce new ideas. Anyone in a company, from top management to interns, can participate in the idea process, since all creative suggestions can be useful. You can organise this collection of ideas to identify those you feel may be most suitable for addressing a certain challenge.

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Why is ideation important?

This concept allows you to produce as many potential solutions as possible to address a certain challenge. The purpose of this process is to generate as many ideas as you can without deciding which one may be best at resolving an issue. Generating ideas is usually an informal exercise where you can express your creativity without judgment. This can also provide you with an effective problem-solving strategy and help you generate a variety of innovative and useful ideas.

What does this process include?

This process doesn't rely on one universal model, but there are various guidelines you can follow to increase its efficacy. Here are some common guidelines that you can consider to successfully generate ideas:

  • Select a team leader: The idea process is typically conducted in groups with selected team leaders to optimise its success. Before starting a session, it's important to assemble a group of participants, select a team leader and identify an ideal location for the meeting.

  • Define a challenge: Before starting the brainstorming session to generate ideas, it's important to define a challenge or issue that requires resolution and understand the general underlying factors, such as customer needs, budget constraints or industry trends.

  • Determine the cause of the challenge: After identifying the key issue, you can start considering the underlying factors that turn it into a challenge to identify the best possible solution.

  • Generate ideas: This represents the stage where you and your team members can start to suggest ideas that can best resolve an issue. It's important to remain open-minded, accept all group members' suggestions and treat them fairly without judgment.

  • Identify the best idea: After creating a list of ideas, you can identify the one you and your team consider best suited to addressing the defined issue.

  • Test the idea: After selecting the best idea, you can test it and adjust it accordingly until you've perfected the solution. You can then apply the suggested solution to an actual situation to conclude the process.

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Useful tips to consider for organising a successful brainstorming process

Here are some tips you can consider for streamlining your brainstorming session and promoting its success:

Have an open brainstorming session

Brainstorming sessions typically involve making suggestions and documenting them in a collaborative and open-ended way. You can use various techniques to achieve this. For example, you and your team members can use sticky notes to write ideas and paste them to a bulletin board. Another way is to provide each group member with the opportunity to provide verbal suggestions while someone writes them down on a whiteboard. The purpose of brainstorming sessions is typically to generate as many ideas as possible while encouraging the participation of all team members.

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Relax and remain open-minded to all the ideas of your team members

Some individuals may find it easier to think and develop creative ideas during this process when they feel relaxed and comfortable. It can be useful to create a friendly and calm environment during the brainstorming session to encourage the flow of ideas. It's important to ensure that the environment is judgment-free to motivate team members to share their suggestions. A comfortable environment can also increase the efficacy of the process while helping to ensure the participation of all team members.

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Try mind mapping

Mind mapping is a common strategy used during the creative process of generating ideas. Although this technique is similar to brainstorming since your group members typically write all the ideas they can think of, it differs in a fundamental way. This approach involves organising the collected ideas based on how they relate to each other in a mind map. With mind maps, you can create visual diagrams of the relationships between a variety of ideas in an informal and engaging way.

Turn the process into a game

To keep your idea session casual and interesting, you can consider turning it into a game. Including game elements in the process can increase the session's productivity while maintaining a casual, informal environment. You can try thinking of ways to integrate game elements or introduce friendly competition into the session. This can include dividing the team into groups to see who can generate the most ideas in a certain time or introducing small prizes as rewards.

Stay positive during the process

Idea sessions are usually most productive when you accept every idea the team suggests before moving on to selecting the most suitable one. It's important to encourage positive communication and acceptance to increase the efficacy of the session. If each team member feels like the rest of the group value and consider their suggestions important, they may be more confident to provide creative ideas for practical solutions.

Emphasise the goal

While this process aims to generate creative ideas, it's beneficial for the team to keep the objective of creating an effective, actionable solution to a certain challenge in mind. A good way to achieve this is pausing periodically and reviewing the session's objectives to refocus the team's attention. You can also write the challenge on a whiteboard or project it on a screen to constantly remind you and your team members of the main goal.

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Visualise the suggested solutions

Visualisation can be useful when generating ideas since it can help increase your creative thought process during the session. You can identify ways to encourage all team members to visualise the successful resolution of the challenge after effectively applying one of the suggested solutions. You can also ask the team members to write details of the exercise to share with the team.

Take breaks to recharge

Since an idea session may take some time, taking occasional breaks during the process can increase the motivation of your team members and help ensure that they think clearly to continue generating innovative ideas. You can consider setting alarms as break reminders during the session, allowing your team members to take a mental rest. Breaks can also help everyone recharge for another round of brainstorming sessions to generate more ideas.

Generate less viable ideas

Idea sessions can be interesting because you can generate a variety of suggestions while brainstorming, including ones that may be less viable. This approach can be useful during idea sessions since it helps team members brainstorm in creative ways. If you spend some time intentionally generating less feasible ideas, it can also lead to a discussion of what makes these suggestions less successful and what you can change to increase their efficacy.

Ask the public for ideas

You can also occasionally use platforms such as social media or other public platforms to source ideas from the public. Leveraging this audience for suggestions can be useful since it expands your chances of finding adequate solutions to certain challenges. In some cases, you can also consider assembling focus groups to find out what consumers think of the challenge requiring addressing and what they suggest as effective solutions.

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