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Explore More Methods for Generating Ideas

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the journey map process as it relates to ideation.
  • Explain the asynchronous ideation process.
  • Describe the co-creation process.
  • Explain the common mistakes made in group ideation.

In addition to brainstorming, the designer’s toolkit has other ways for teams to generate ideas to solve problems. While it’s possible to generate ideas alone, you get more and better ones if you do it in a group. Through journey mapping, asynchronous ideation, and co-creation—three commonly used methods at Salesforce—we bring together different perspectives to create a solid foundation of understanding user and business needs. 

Journey Map

Sometimes a Journey Map is used to analyze an existing process and diagnose issues with it, but design teams also use journey maps to describe a future state experience. Designers choose a persona and JTBD to focus on and write the steps involved in completing the job as the actions on the map. Breaking down the actions makes it easy to fill in the social, emotional, and functional needs at each step of the process. Then, instead of analyzing the flow, the design team focuses on each step and lists out design ideas, open questions, and factors to consider. 

Using a Journey Map as an ideation tool won’t yield the same revolutionary innovation ideas as a brainstorm because it includes too much context, which you learned earlier tends to limit creativity. But it might be the right level of ideation if you’re problem-solving within an existing experience rather than creating something brand new.

Asynchronous Ideation

Sometimes a meeting in real-time won’t work out, due to scheduling or issues with group dynamics. In that case, you can run an asynchronous ideation session using Slack, a digital collaboration tool like Figjam, or even a Google Slides deck. 

To set this up, the design team writes a set of prompts, just as they would for brainstorming. If you use:

  • A Slack channel: Post several prompts as separate threads and ask participants to reply in-thread. Participants’ responses can be written, visual, or even video clips.
  • A digital collaboration tool like Figjam: Set up separate frames or boards for each prompt and seed the frames with a couple of responses as thought starters because a blank canvas can scare people!
  • A Google Slides deck: Place each prompt and some thought starters on a separate slide.

Prompts for asynchronous ideation can be How Might We provocations, or they can be more specifically designed to suit the digital medium they’re in. Ask people to paste images that illustrate their favorite examples of characteristics you’re designing for. 

For example, an asynchronous ideation board for Cloud Kicks might prompt participants to paste their favorite examples of sustainability messaging, visualizations of processes or efficiency, or even a “more like this, less like that” set of comparisons that show how the new experience could look and feel. 

Co-creation

Co-creation is when a design or product team invites people outside the core team into the ideation process. For example, you might invite users of an existing product or service, potential users of a new offering, or people from other teams within your organization. In these cases, the design team brings expertise on the tools and methods of ideation, and the guest collaborators bring the expertise of their perspective. In other words, you get these diverse groups together because they know the problem space intimately and have intrinsic reasons for wanting to solve the design challenge. 

To prepare for a co-creation session, the design team should’ve already done some work to understand the problem, frame the opportunity, and begin to explore some possible solutions. They should already have an idea of some high-level concepts they believe would benefit from the group’s perspectives. 

If you bring in co-creators too early, it will take a lot of presenting and framing before you can start co-creating. By bringing them concepts to react to, you can jump right into solutions, and often learn more about the problem space in the process.

To share these early concepts, the design team uses materials like post-it notes, hand-drawn sketches, and screenshots of similar existing experiences, creating stimuli to represent their thoughts. Showing rough-looking sketches saves the design team time, and it also communicates the early stage you’re in, which makes collaborators feel more comfortable giving feedback and adding their ideas. If a concept looks more polished, collaborators may hold back their input so as not to hurt the team’s feelings. 

Team members in a co-creation session

With these stimuli, run a facilitated co-creation session to discuss what’s there, iterate on it, sketch new and adjacent ideas, and explore these concepts. Groups are best for moments like this when you’re intentionally diverging in your thinking, generating ideas, or building on them. Groups help you identify blind spots and uncover priorities for how an experience will look, feel, and behave. They validate your moments that matter and Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) or adjust your thinking with the nuances they intimately understand. 

Stakeholders from different perspectives reach shared understanding by sharing their different points of view, representing their team, discipline, and identity, and solving problems together in real-time. 

Common Mistakes in Group Ideation

When groups of people get together to generate ideas, particularly when social dynamics like company hierarchy and diverse perspectives are involved, there are key factors to monitor. Here’s what to watch out for. 

Deferrals to Leadership

People may consciously or subconsciously look to the highest-ranking people in the room and assume their perspective is more important or correct than others. Ideation should be an equal opportunity activity. Set that expectation explicitly, and decide if you need to hold separate sessions for different groups to avoid this pitfall.

Grouping by Perspective

Even in a single-conversation brainstorm, there may be a tendency for like-minded people or those on the same team to support each other’s points of view. Remind the group that ideation is a generative process, and there are no sides to take. You’re all working together toward a goal of generating ideas, going for quantity, not quality.

GroupThink

When people in a group consciously or unconsciously seek harmony and avoid conflict, they may keep building on a single idea rather than come up with new ones. The facilitator should encourage wild ideas to avoid ending up with iterations instead of ideas at the end of the session.

Dominant Personality Bias

Simply put, the most extroverted or loudest person, or people, in the room might dominate a session, typically unintentionally, trying to be helpful. To make sure you’re hearing from everyone, the facilitator should explicitly invite others to chime in. Also, consider starting your session with a warm-up exercise to get everyone comfortable with participating.

Distractions

It’s hard to get people’s undivided attention for a solid block of time. Especially if you do ideation remotely, there might be constant competition for participants’ attention. And even when people are engaged, keeping a group on-topic can be difficult. Set the expectation that participants keep distractions to a minimum and notifications turned off during ideation sessions. The facilitator should gently remind people as needed throughout the session. 

Now you know more about the variety of tools available to generate ideas collaboratively. It's time to prioritize and synthesize the high-level solution concepts from ideation.

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