What is Ideation?
Aspirants of UX design often google what is ideation? In layman terms, it is about formulating innovative ideas as it is the third phase of the Design Thinking process. Before that, let us briefly recap on the ImaginXP’s 5D framework of Design Thinking: Discover, Define, Dream, Design, and Dry Run. Now, it is imperative to remember that Design Thinking is not a straightforward process. Instead, the awareness and results derived from the Discover and Define phases will guide and apprise a productive dream (ideation) phase.
The answer to what is ideation? The dream phase of Design Thinking is like an exercise of creating an extensive set of ideas without judging or evaluating them. In this phase, the design team explores and transpires various innovative ideas; some of those ideas will be potential solutions to the team’s design challenge. At this stage, the focus is on the number of ideas. The main aim here is to think outside the box. Owing to innovation and creativity – the dream phase is considered a judgement-free zone. The dream phase comes in many different shapes and sizes. One of the many ideation examples comes from Google, which encourages its employees to meditate on ideas that solve real problems. This focus on dreaming allows organisations to become innovative by escalating the probability of new product launch and expand customer acquisition.
We will talk about a few popular ideation techniques a little later on in this blog.
When people as what is ideation, they also ask what is Design Thinking? As mentioned in one of our previous blogs, Design Thinking is a non-linear methodology for solving a complex problem.
It involves various principles like:
- Analytical reasoning
Design Thinking helps us view the product or service from a user-centric perspective. Design Thinking helps the design team develop a reliable and effective way to solve a design problem.
The process begins with an in-depth understanding of the problem, conducting research based on research data, defining the data into a set of information, coming up with all the different pain points and needs and objectives that require focus. The dream phase comes next, in which the design team generates various ideas using ideation techniques. After scrutinising these ideas using logical analysis and analytical thinking, prototypes of the same are created. The next step after prototyping is to test these prototypes and collect real-time feedback from the target audience to reiterate.
Ideation in Design Thinking
When people often ask what is ideation, they expect to gain a perspective to find design solutions. That’s why, during the dream phase, the design team looks and seeks every angle. In the beginning, the team must define the precise issue to address. Ideation, or Dream, is the third step in the Design Thinking process – after Discover (gaining insights from research) and Define (finding patterns to create a meaningful problem statement). Therefore, the team must clearly define the issue(s) to tackle – a focused problem statement to guide everyone. Asking the right questions will help in reframing issues, leading to potential resolutions.
To do that, the design team would need to prepare a judgement-free zone to amass relevant information like various personas, etc. The team also need to follow specific rules such as –
- Time limit,
- Quantity-over-quality approach,
- Ban on diversions like phones etc.
- There-is-no-bad-ideas mindset.
Participants in the dream phase can examine opportunities past commonly held beliefs. These folks build on each other’s ideas, recognise various patterns and link concepts to turnaround impossible notions, revealing new conclusions.
Ideation can help the team in:
- Increasing the level of innovation in their solutions.
- Uncover unexpected areas.
- Create volume and variety of innovative options.
When asking what is ideation, UX designers or design team must understand that the dream phase will challenge them to go beyond general thinking and rational thought process. One can not think about the quality of the idea. The team must accept that infeasible ideas may somehow be more inspirational, sensible and create value than previously thought, resonating differently with each participant.
After collecting an adequate number of ideas, evaluation of those ideas begins, where any clarification about the idea(s) can be sought and addressed. There are many ways to do that; the most common way is via dot-voting. Dot-voting is a method used to prioritise ideas to conclude in a group setting. It is considered to be a simplistic way to narrow down ideas.
Advantages of dot-voting:
- Facilitators can finalise ideas in a time-efficient manner.
- Discussion is focused on a few, prioritised possibilities.
- It collaboratively generates a shared artefact to communicate decisions.
Ideation process steps
When people ask what s ideation, they also expect the process to be well defined and elaborated. I am here to tell you that the dream phase does not conform to a universal model, only general guidelines that can be followed to help them maximise its effectiveness in generating solutions. First and foremost, the dream phase does not begin with a random thought; Rather, to fit the problems, ideas are reverse engineered. It is imperative to define the problem and grasp underlying factors like user needs, budget limitations, business landscape or any other issue at hand.
Once pain points and its root causes are identified, synergic powwows are initiated to ideate and generate possible solutions to these pain points. A judgement-free zone is created to invite open, unencumbered and unrestricted dialogue, where participants feel safe to float ideas without fear of ridicule. Every idea is embraced and treated with fairness and open-mindedness, irrespective of how bookish or pragmatic it might be.
The plethora of ideas generated is then assimilated into one universal idea, that would drive the team’s actions. This idea is then tested and adjusted against the problem accordingly. It is then finetuned and executed in the real world. When the idea is deemed successful, the dream phase is concluded.
The question of what is ideation often followed by why is ideation significant? Since it is the middle phase of the 5D framework of Design Thinking. It acts as a bridge between determining the problem and designing prototypes for testing. The dream phase is a phase where team collaboration is highest, and criticism is at its lowest; allowing ideas and conversation to free-flow, generating solutions for a defined problem.
Some crucial ideation techniques are:
Worst possible ideas
Worst Possible Idea is an introverted brainstorming approach where participants focus on generating only bad ideas. This approach reduces the fear of criticism, making the discussion more free-flowing because bad ideas are easier to find.
Constrains block the way we perceive things. Considering and eliminating constraints as soon as an idea germinates can enhance the generation of ideas. I have realised through experience that finetuning infeasible ideas can lead to creative solutions.
Utilising analogies can elevate an idea to a whole new level. Comparing an idea to a situation helps the team think in a tangent.
It is an alternative to brainstorming. Instead of verbally sharing ideas, participants scribble their ideas before passing it amongst the group. The next participants add on to that, and so the process continues. In the end, all ideas are placed out for discussion.
Think of it as another version of brainwriting, where instead of passing pieces of paper around the room, the participants move and add their ideas to other participants’ ideas as they go around the room.
Mind mapping is a visual ideation technique encouraging the participants to draw links within various sets of ideas. The concept here is that every participant must create a visual map.
SCAMPER is a checklist that helps participants come up with new ideas. SCAMPER prompts the participants to –
- Substitute the idea with another.
- Combine the original idea with added data.
- Adjust the problem alternatively.
- Modify the idea creatively.
- Put it to other uses by spotting possible scenarios.
- Eliminate any invaluable idea.
- Reverse and replace the problem.
The question of what is ideation lead through an exciting phase in the Design Thinking process as free-thinking is unrestrained. In the dream phase, the goal has always been to generate a substantial amount of ideas, which the design team or UX designer can finetune into an innovative solution.