Skip to main content

Ideate in Teams

Learning Objectives

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

  • Describe how to prime your audience for co-creation.
  • Describe how to inspire your audience to stretch their imagination.
  • Define the purpose of job stories.

Warm-Up: Rules of Play and Icebreaker

Within the first few minutes of your meeting, your goal is to signal that it’s not a typical business meeting. It’s more creative, dynamic, and action-oriented than the norm. Be thoughtful about how you communicate this mood. Your style provides an example of how everyone else is to act. For example, instead of saying, “Considerations for today’s meeting,” say, “Here are the rules of play.”

Here are some rules of play that we often establish.

Headlines not stories Acknowledge up front that everyone has a lot of expertise in the room. They don’t have to take up a lot of airtime establishing their credibility. Instead, people should offer headlines, not the full article
Suspend disbelief Our tendency when we hear a bold idea is to immediately shoot it down with a lot of reasons why it couldn’t work; Dare events are about suspending disbelief
Question everything At a dare event, everything is on the table to be re-imagined, thrown out, or flipped upside down.

Then get everyone’s creative juices flowing with an icebreaker. For this Heroes and Villains exercise, break up the room into groups of 2 or 3.


  1. Choose an animated character, either a hero or villain, and write down these characteristics:
    • A super power or strength the character possesses
    • A time the character failed, was foiled, or heartbroken and what happened
    • How would you adapt one app from your smartphone and use it to make your hero or villain’s life better
  2. Write the descriptions on a flip chart, and put them on the wall for everyone to see.

Take-away message: We’ll be inventing solutions that make our customers feel like superheroes.

The goal is to get the room laughing and excited to get to work. So let’s do it!

Inspiration Invasion

Photo of Duke Ellington

“I began by tinkering around with some old tunes I knew. Then, just to try something different, I set to putting some music to the rhythm that I used in jerking ice-cream sodas at the Poodle Dog. I fooled around with the tune more and more until at last, lo and behold, I had completed my first piece of finished music.” – Duke Ellington

Legendary musician and composer Duke Ellington created his first original composition by riffing on a rhythm that an ice-cream soda machine makes. Whether you’re aiming for incremental or breakthrough innovation, grease your team’s wheels by immersing them in a space where they can think about how to apply insights, trends, and achievements from other arenas to your challenge.

Share Your Futurecast

Whether it’s from the voice of an outside expert or your core team giving an inspirational, ignite-style presentation, set the stage with some context about what’s happening in the world, and how that relates to your company and customers. A good practice is to hit on a combination of external factors that create change.

Refer to the “Give Your Customers the Future Now” unit in the “Innovation Customer Discovery” module to review the most important components of a futurecast.

After you share your predictions and compelling case for change based on external factors, spark a conversation in the room around the theme of “What might happen if we wait …” or, “In 15 years, our customers will want this_______.” Capture the ideas on sticky notes or on the whiteboard.

Meet the Customer

As mentioned in the first unit, “Create an Inspiring Envrionment,” now is the time to use your discovery process and conclusions as a point of inspiration for your attendees. Be sure to craft your report-out in a way that illuminate the needs and opportunities of your customer that might be surprising. Frame it as, “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Our Customers.”

Again, after the report out, encourage participants in small groups or as one unit, to highlight the most compelling insights that they took away from the presentation. Hold on to these ideas.

Darling Disruptors

There is no better inspiration candy than sharing the stories of best-in-class companies and organizations solving relevant problems. The intention is to inspire participants and answer the question: “What can we learn from company X to solve our problem and achieve our vision?”

An effective way to facilitate this exercise is to break up the group and rotate through example disruptors. Have participants carry sticky notes as they travel around and call out the features of these successful companies that you can borrow and adapt. It’s also helpful to guide participants with themes. For example, how can we do things just in time like Uber or completely connected like Disney?

Getting excited? These activities are fun and, when orchestrated, leave a profound impact on participants. By the end of these activities, your walls and windows are canvassed with ideas, doodles, and sketches at the “Imagine if …” level.

In the next section of ideation, we begin our descent back down to earth for more practical brainstorming.

Job Stories

How do we connect all these big ideas to the task at hand, which is to transform the experience of your customers? An important first step in making the connection is to use a technique in tech product development popularized by the company Intercom called “Jobs to Be Done.” The idea is to define as many jobs or tasks that your customer needs to complete using a single sentence with the following framework.

When I______ (situation), I want to______ (motivation) so that I can ______ (outcome).

Some examples for Aqua Blue guests are:

  • When I am traveling with my family, I want to make sure that we have everything we need for the kids so that we don’t have to buy things when we get there.
  • When I travel internationally, I want to feel like I have enough so that I can feel like a local and not a tourist.

The product and engineering folks in the room identify this statement as a spin on the more traditional user story.

Spend 30 minutes with participants creating a list of job stories. It might be tempting to write them beforehand and bring them to your working session for review. But it’s important that each member of your innovation team goes through the process of thinking about what your customers need to do to be successful.

Once you’ve collected a hearty list of job stories, congratulate your participants for accomplishing two important parts of the innovation process: 1) thinking outward about external forces that offer inspiration on how things transform in the future and 2) clarifying the needs and wants of your customers.

It’s time to connect the dots from the different ideas generated during the inspiration phase and focus your ideas into a solution that can be prototyped.

Keep learning for
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • Get personalized recommendations for your career goals
  • Practice your skills with hands-on challenges and quizzes
  • Track and share your progress with employers
  • Connect to mentorship and career opportunities