Methods to Generate Ideas in Design Thinking

Learn how to generate more and better ideas in this blog.

This article is part 5 in a series designed to explore the design thinking process. Click the links here to read through Part 1: What is Design Thinking, Part 2: Attitudes That Hurt Design Thinking & How to Change Them, Part 3: Challenge, Ideas, and Action: A Design Thinking Framework in Action, and Part 4: Design Thinking Empathy

Anyone can come up with ideas, solutions, or begin collaborating with others to come up with a viable solution to a challenge. In this article, we’ll share a series of methods that can help you generate many ideas quickly and efficiently.

1. Scenario Mapping

One simple way to begin generating ideas is by starting with your user personas and doing a technique called scenario mapping. This process involves walking through a scenario that your customer may come across. For example, maybe they need a car repair part and they visited your website to find it. What will the customer do? How do they gain the information they need? What do they need to move to the next step of the process?

Note that scenarios occupy a bit of a middle-ground. Vague statements such as, “Customer X likes cars,” don’t do much to inform your design thinking. Likewise, providing too detailed a step-by-step description of activity is unnecessary. When a scenario is well-executed, it teaches you exactly what the user needs so that they can accomplish their goal.

Once you’ve walked through your scenario maps, take a step back and review the work you have completed. What insights have you gained from this process? What information does your user need in order to follow through with you? What is lacking in your website, marketing strategy, product, or service that you can improve?

Although scenario mapping probably won’t cover every single type of interaction with your product, it should encapsulate the most important ones, and may uncover some ideas for how to improve the product and solve the challenge.

2. Blue Ocean 4 Actions Framework

This technique focuses on helping you maximize user value while eliminating and reducing user pain. As the name would suggest, this template uses four different sections: eliminate, reduce, raise, and create.

  • The “eliminate” section asks: “What features should be eliminated? What is not useful anymore? Are there features that are getting in the way of truly solving the problem?”
  • In the “reduce” section, consider: “Which features should be reduced? Are we making the solution too complicated? Can we strip it down to something simpler, but still relevant to users?”
  • The “raise” section asks, “What features should be raised above industry standard? What pain points does the market not currently address? Where do we have an opportunity to be a cut above the norm?”
  • In the final section, “create,” ask your team, “Are there factors that we have never offered before and should be created? What opportunities are available to capitalize on?”

The Blue Ocean 4 Actions Framework is a very simple option for keeping brainstorming sessions focused and productive. Find a template to get started with this technique on our blog.

3. Disney Create Strategy

Inspired by Walt Disney’s approach to creative projects, this starts with a diagram made up of three circles (in a familiar, mouse-head shape) representing three different stages of thinking: dreamer, realist, and critic.

  • The dreamer lets ideas flow without criticism or restrictions. The possibilities are endless. So in this circle, place all of your team’s brainstorming ideas. It’s a judgment-free space.
  • In the realist circle, take a look at the ideas in the dreamer circle. Figure out what specifically is needed to realize that dream. Ask yourselves how you can apply the idea and what the action plan would be.
  • Once you have an action plan, you can review potential roadblocks. This is the critic section of the template. Ask your team, “What could go wrong? What weaknesses exist in the plan? What is missing?”

The Disney Create Strategy can help eliminate negative thinking that can stall innovative ideas, while also adding the realistic thinking necessary to getting it done. Find a template to get started with this technique on our blog.

4. How Now Wow Matrix

This is a chart with four quadrants, one of which is blank. The other three are labeled “How,” “Now,” and “Wow.”

  • In the “How” quadrant, describe ideas that are innovative, yet feasible.
  • In “Now,” place ideas that are familiar and proven to work well.
  • And in “Wow,” describe ideas that are new but still relatively easy to implement.
  • The blank space is free space for brainstorming and other notes.

The ultimate goal in this template is to come up with as many “Wow” ideas as possible.

5. Random Word Brainstorming

Finally, for when you’re really stuck, try a technique called Random Word Brainstorming. This technique is a simple and creative approach to generating new ideas and finding creative solutions for your problems. Start with a random word. You can use an online generator, pick a word from a book, or some other source. Then, your team must determine how this word connects back to the problem you’re facing. This can seem like a, well, random approach. But it can be a good way to get discussion flowing when you’re at a standstill.

Conclusion

These brainstorming and ideation techniques can help with your design thinking and innovation projects. For customized workshops or training help, contact us online today. Click to see our design thinking training or innovation workshops which can be done for teams and organizations.

Want even more resources and tips? Review these other articles on our design thinking and innovation blog.

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