Every organization needs a steady supply of fresh creative ideas to stay relevant and ahead of their competitors successfully. As necessary as it is, generating good new ideas isn’t as easy as getting everyone in the team into a room and spending 3 hours to come up with barely anything.
A good ideation session is hard work. It needs a well-facilitated process, carefully-designed exercises, and proper tools (especially when a remote team is involved) to generate innovative, and viable ideas.
We’ve listed x ideation techniques you can try to generate diverse ideas easily, even if your team is conducting the ideation session remotely. We’ve also included interactive online templates that you can open on your web browser and use to collaborate with the team right away during the meeting.
What is Ideation
Ideation is the process by which you generate new ideas or solutions, using techniques such as mind mapping, prototyping, brainwriting, reverse brainstorming, etc. Ideation is also the third step in the Design Thinking process, where ideas are generated, analyzed, and prioritized to inspire the innovation of new solutions.
The ideation process
- Identify the need for ideating. Perhaps you are looking to solve an organizational problem, come up with new product or service ideas, expand your market reach, etc., and specifying that need will help you set a goal for the session and guide it more effectively.
- Select your team for the ideation session. To generate more diversified ideas, involve a variety of people with different experiences and backgrounds.
- Single out the best idea/s to implement. To do this, you need to have a set of defined criteria that the generated ideas will be evaluated against (this should be ready prior to the session). Along with the evaluation criteria, you should also determine the internal teams you will be handing over the prioritized ideas for further evaluation or implementation.
- Next comes the implementation of the prioritized ideas, which involves allocating resources, assigning responsibilities, mapping workflows, defining timelines, and tracking progress.
Remote team ideation
Even when the team is in one place, running a productive ideation session can be a challenging task. Doing the session online, when everyone is joining in from different locations, can lend itself to being even more complicated. However, you only need to do a few things to make a remote ideation session as productive and seamless as one done physically.
- Choose your tech tools wisely and keep them to a minimum. In order to do so, you need to identify your meeting needs. Ideally, you will need
- Communicate expectations clearly early on to avoid wasting time during the meeting. Clarify the goal of the meeting and any rules and guidelines the participants should adhere to during the ideation exercises that will be carried out.
- In order to make the most of the actual meeting time, you can encourage participants to do their research and analysis prior to the session. This will allow you to utilize more time discussing and collaborating on developing the ideas further during the session.
- Follow usual meeting etiquette to run the session smoothly.
- Start with a virtual icebreaker to get the team warmed up for the session.
Ideation techniques are many, therefore when choosing one, match it to the type of idea you are trying to generate. You may also need to consider the experience in ideation your team holds and their creative productivity when selecting the best ideation technique as well. Here are some to choose from:
The SCAMPER method is an easy and straightforward way to generate new ideas. It lets you innovate on an existing product, service, or process by looking at it from 7 different angles.
- Substitute – what can you substitute (i.e. material used, people involved, process steps, etc.) in your product/ service to make an improvement?
- Combine – What ideas, resources, steps in the process, can you combine to generate a more efficient output?
- Adapt – What process, component, or feature should you adjust to generate a better result?
- Modify – What elements can you modify (add more or less of it) to achieve the result you desire?
- Put to another use – What other purposes can the product/ service be used for? Who else can use it?
- Eliminate – What element in your product or service can you remove or reduce?
- Reverse/ Rearrange – What process, component, or feature can you rearrange or reverse?
How it works
Step 1 – Share the following SCAMPER template with the team prior to the session. Based on your requirements, you can make necessary edits to it in terms of color, alignment, etc.
Step 2 – Identify the existing product or idea that you want to improve upon.
Step 3 – Take the identified product or idea through the 7 thinking techniques in SCAMPER as listed above. There is no sequence or order, you can start with any of the 7 areas. You can get the participants to add ideas to all 7 categories during rounds or assign one category to a person or group.
Brainwriting is a brainstorming technique that gets the participants to write down their ideas on a piece of paper instead of speaking them out. After a few minutes, they share the piece of paper with another participant who then will work on elaborating the first person’s idea. It’s a great technique in terms of getting shy and introverted team members to share their ideas freely.
How it works
Step 1 – Create your brainwriting template or modify the one below before sharing it with the participants. Assign each participant a color.
Step 2 – Have a time limit for each brainwriting round and the number of rounds for the session. It’s also important to clarify how each participant should switch columns (i.e. counterclockwise or randomly as decided by the moderator) as they improve upon the ideas of other participants.
Step 3 – Introduce and explain the problem thoroughly and begin the first round. To avoid confusion, you can number or name each column on the brainwriting canvas, so as it passes around, everyone knows what column they should write on next. When the time is up, switch columns.
Step 4 – In the second round, the participants should work on adding to, modifying, or improving the idea written by the previous owner.
Step 5 – Repeat the process until you complete the set number of rounds. At the end of the session, you can discuss and analyze the ideas and prioritize them.
Round robin is another group brainstorming technique that is based on an iterative process where participants build off on previous contributions. While it can be conducted in both written and vocal variations, for a remote ideation session, the written variation suits better. It’s similar to brainwriting.
How it works
Step 1 – Create your Round Robin template and share it with the team prior to the session or at the beginning of it. Either you can have a single How Might We question for the session for all participants or multiple How Might We questions for each participant if you need to solve several problems simultaneously.
Step 2 – Allow everyone time to write down a possible solution to the problem identified or to the How Might We question.
Step 3 – The next person in line should review this solution and write down reasons why (risks and roadblocks) this particular solution will fail.
Step 4 – The next person should then identify possible solutions to eliminate these risks and implement the idea successfully. At the end of the exercise, the bottom row should contain a solid, well-articulated idea that can be presented.
Step 5 – Once the session is complete, everyone can take a vote to decide the most favored idea.
To adapt this exercise to an online environment, you can assign each participant a specific spot to start from by assigning them a number or color. While the facilitator can guide the participants through the steps, as a best practice encourage the participants to always move on to the column on their right.
Mind mapping helps you to give structure to the ideas in your head and develop them into full-fledged solutions. In a remote ideation session, you can get the participants to work on a single mind map or individual mind maps on the same canvas.
How it works
Step 1 – Write down the problem statement in the middle of the mind map.
Step 2 – Write down possible solutions/ related ideas on branches connected to the center. As you build off on each of these sub-ideas, you can add more and more branches. On an online canvas, to identify the contributions made by each participant you can assign them colors (for each sub-branch they are working on or their own mind map on the canvas).
Step 3 – Once the mind map/s is complete, you can analyze the ideas and prioritize the more viable ones.
Reverse brainstorming is commonly used in problem-solving. Instead of working on how to solve a problem, reverse brainstorming gets the participants to identify ways to actually cause the problem. This allows you to generate even more creative ideas. It also helps with identifying problems that may occur in the future.
How it works
Step 1 – Create your reverse brainstorming template and walk the team through how to use it.
Step 2 – Clearly define the problem at hand and write it down on the template.
Step 3 – Reverse the problem by focusing on ways you can cause it or make it even worse. Add the ideas you generate to the board.
Step 4 – Brainstorm solutions for the reverse-problem causes you have identified. Accept all ideas contributed by the participants without rejecting them, at this stage.
Step 5 – Go over the list of generated solutions and identify how you can use them to eliminate the original problem.
Step 6 – You can discuss and prioritize these solutions as you consider which ones to implement first.
Six Thinking Hats
Six thinking hats is an ideation technique used to provide direction to decision-making and group thinking. It explores six thinking styles represented by six different colors. It allows the team to look at an idea from different perspectives and gain an in-depth understanding of the idea’s potential.
White – data, facts and figures
Red – feelings, intuitions, emotions, and hunches
Black – judgment, legality, morality
Yellow – optimism, benefits
Green – new ideas, opportunities
Blue – conclusions, action plans, next steps
How it works
Step 1 – Prepare a worksheet that includes descriptions of the six hats and share it with the group. The facilitator should decide an order in which the group should use the hats.
Step 2 – Set a time limit for each hat based on the relevant thinking style. For example, the green hat thinking style may take longer than the red one.
Step 3 – You can go through each stage as a team wearing the same hat at the same time and contributing ideas as you go around. Or you can do it in rounds where each participant can wear an individual hat at a time as they add ideas under each column.
More Ideation Techniques
Listed below are resources for more ideation techniques and templates that you can use to generate ideas remotely.
- 5 whys analysis to get to the bottom of an issue and uncover more insight needed to generate a solution
- Lotus diagram to breakdown broad topics into smaller components for easy analysis and prioritization
- Online idea board to collect and organize ideas in a visually pleasing way that is easier to refer to and understand
- Mood board to solidify your design ideas
- The ultimate list of essential visual brainstorming techniques
- The ultimate list of visual creative thinking techniques
Ideation helps you discover unexpected solutions and even sometimes shed light on the obvious ones you might have missed, and push you to think beyond them. With the right tools, techniques, and the team, ideating the correct feasible solutions will become easier. We hope these techniques will help you conduct productive ideation sessions with your remote team.
Got more ideation techniques that you would love to use with your team? Share with us in the comments section below.