Let’s face it: every one of us has faced a lull in our creativity at some point or another. This lull can come from designer burnout (which you can read more about here), corporate monotony, or even personal events at home leading to a stillness in your creativity. Not having your creative juices flowing at top speed can be frustrating, but not to worry – we’ve got seven ideation techniques to help you get your innovation wheels turning.
What is Ideation?
Ideation is the process of forming new ideas or concepts. Think of ideation like those brainstorm bubbles you used to make in grade school: starting with a simple idea and using that idea to spin off more and more ideas until you have a solid concept together. Rather than word mapping, however, there are plenty of other types of techniques you can use to create new ideas (like the ones we’ve listed below!).
Ideation can be done singularly or in groups – so if you’re a solopreneur and find you’re having a hard time, it could be beneficial for you to call up a friend or two to help you get the juices flowing.
7 Ideation Techniques
1. Worst Idea
Just as the name suggests, start a list of all the things that you think would be a horrible ideas. Once you’ve made that list, find solutions to those ideas – how would that idea go from being horrible to being extraordinary? Or, is there a part of that horrible idea that could seed a good idea?
This technique is a great tool to use because it uproots your normal working habits: usually, we’re always trying to think of the next best thing. By turning the process around, you’re able to problem-solve in a different way to exercise your muscles – and build some inspiration along the way.
2. Wild Wish List
Similar to the worst idea, create a wild list of all the things you’d like to design – even if they’re impossible (think fire-breathing unicorns). Make your ideas as crazy as they come; once you’re done creating your list, find some possible ideas out of your wild list. This can include combining elements of different wild ideas to make something completely unique (like glitter-breathing unicorns).
3. Mind Mapping
Similar to the word cloud we mentioned earlier, mind mapping creates a diagram to link together ideas and generate new concepts.
Start with a generic term; like ‘Website.’ From that word, sprout related words and ideas – like ‘Product,’ or ‘E-Commerce.’ From those words, sprout even more related words – like ‘Jewelry,’ or ‘Pottery.’ Keep workshopping your mind map until you’ve got all your ideas on paper, then use that map to help guide you on your next project.
A storyboard is a visual representation of how your project will unfold – scene by scene. Like most stories, there’s an introduction, character development, a climax, and a conclusion; start with those four primary ideas to fuel the start of your storyboard, and once you’re happy with the outcome, start adding ‘scenes’ to help build out the rest of your project.
You don’t have to be an artist in order to make a good story board; you can make comic book sketches or use magazine cut-outs to put your storyboard together. What matters most is putting ideas onto paper – and with a solid outline of your project, you’re able to get started on that great new idea.
Brainstorming is your most common form of ideation technique: you start with a problem, and then you start writing down ideas to solve the problem.
The goal of brainstorming is to provide a safe space for your mind and the people you’re brainstorming with, so with brainstorming, there’s no bad idea – write down everything that comes to mind. Once you’ve written down every possible idea, pick your favorites and start working with them. You may find that some of your favorite ideas don’t work out with the project you’re working on, which is totally fine: remember there’s value in the process.
SCAMPER is a formal technique that represents seven ways to look at a problem. This technique works best with an existing product or service to determine how you can enhance or improve the product. Here’s what each letter of SCAMPER stands for and related questions to ask yourself:
Substitute: What about the product or service can be substituted for something else?
Combine: Can you combine a product or service with another product or service to improve the experience?
Adapt: How can you adapt your product or service to fit another target market?
Modify: What element of your product or service can you modify to make improvements?
Put to Another Use: What is another use for your product or service that you haven’t considered yet? (Could it fit another target market?)
Eliminate: What unnecessary elements can you eliminate from your product or service to make the process more streamlined and efficient?
Reverse: What would happen if you reversed your process or reorganized the product/service?
7. Crazy 8s
This idea actually comes from Google’s Design Sprint Kit, and its extremely easy to implement. Start with a blank sheet of paper and fold the paper in half three times to create 8 boxes. Then, set a timer for 1 minute: you have 1 minute to sketch 1 idea into a box. Repeat the process seven more times – or, if you’re working in a group, trade papers and sketch a design into someone else’s box.
Once all 8 boxes are filled, pick your favorite few sketches and use those to build a new design!