10 techniques to improve ideas
there are many ideation techniques with various levels of complexity. As with all techniques, results improve with practice. Personal preference also matters. The list below assumes that you are:
- online, i.e. connected to the internet
- alone, i.e. not in a group
- looking for a quick hit of inspiration
remember to return to your Challenge as soon as inspiration strikes!
most ideas have clear dimensions. They might be spatial, numerical or time oriented. For example, if we wanted to improve supermarket check-outs, dimensions might include number of counters, staff, customers, opening times, etc. Take a key dimension and distort it to the extreme: one checkout or 1000, one customer or a million, always open or for just one second every year, staff made up of midgets or giants. Consider the consequences of the distortion of the idea and apply to the Challenge at hand.
2. imaginary friend
pick another person - historical, fictional, topical or just a role like plumber or brain surgeon. It doesn't matter who, as long as they are different from you in terms of experience and outlook. This website generates random suggestions: click here. How would they improve the idea? Compile a list of ideas from this person's point of view. Then connect them back to the Challenge at hand.
3. on this day
go to a website like On This Day: click here. Look up what happened today in history. Typically the dates in such lists represent an event in history, or the birth or death of a famous person. Imagine yourself present at the event. How would you look at the Challenge? What would you do about it? Combine multiple ideas. Be prepared to treat them as a starting point, rather than a final solution.
4. lost in translation
a personal favorite. Copy the context of your challenge (just go back to the 'background & context' page) and paste into Google Translate: click here Translate into another language, then to another, then back to English. Or add as many foreign language loops as you like - its good fun translating from Lithuanian to Telugu. The process will introduce various misunderstandings and confusions. Often the result is hilarious. Think how aspects of the new paragraph could provide new solutions.
5. what if
to come up with creative solutions, we need to step from our analytical and logical way of thinking into a fuzzier activity like daydreaming. You may find it helpful to have a two minute distraction, e.g. glance at the newspaper or anything else to get off track. Try comedy, laughing is a wonderful lubricant: click here. Then sit back and say 'what if...' Imagine that there were no obstacles, no limits to your abilities. What would you do? Don't be logical, indulge in infinite possibilities. What would the solution look like?
6. random word
the grand daddy of ideation. This technique is the crowd favorite. Choose a word at random click here and come up with as many associations as you can. Then connect some of your associations with your Challenge and use this new angle to improve existing ideas. Make sure your random word is truly random and initially does not relate to the Challenge at hand.
7. two words
this is a variant of 'random word that creates all kinds of synergistic possibilities. Choose not one but two words click here. Make sure they're both nouns. Now think of the implications of combining these two words. Different to random word, this is not exploring your personal associations with these two works. Instead consider what new concepts arise from the combination. How could you improve your existing ideas with concepts inspired by this combination?
8. random picture
a slightly more elaborate version of 'random word'. Once you've decided on a random word, throw it into a Google image search. You should look for images that are not just straight representations of word, e.g. a photograph of a computer will not give much stimulation. Add a bored employee sitting next to the computer and staring into space and all kinds of stories will start in your mind. Select an image, record all associations that you come up with, then relate them back to the Challenge at hand.
9. random object
once you've tried words and images, why not objects? Look around you, go for a short walk and find the most interesting object you can lay your hands on. Pick it up, examine it, move it around. The tactile experience is a big part of this technique. Again, record all associations that you come up with, then connect them back to the Challenge at hand and apply to improvements.
10. cool site
check out cool websites to kick-start fresh ideas or improvements. Spend a couple of minutes exploring, find something that connects with you. Don't worry too much about why you like something. As soon as you find it, return to the Challenge and force a connection. You will have your own favorite websites you turn to for inspiration, here are some of ours:
trends click here
entrepreneurial ideas click here
encyclopedia of cool click here
random facts click here
art & design click here
poetry click here
sound & vision click here