There is no innovation without ideas. New ideas are needed for any kind of improvement, whether about the product, the delivery, or customer service. That is why idea generation is considered the lifeblood of organizations.
However, for ideation to be successful, a business must be able to generate at least 300 ideas. But the problem is, this number is quite plenty to handle when generated and managed manually.
Hence, there must be a process in place for generating and managing them. However, how can you integrate such a process so seamlessly in your company? And how does this relate to starting your own idea-generation process?
In this article, we will discuss what ideation is, why this process is important, and how you can cohesively incorporate it into your business.
What is idea generation?
Basically, idea creation involves making, refining, and gathering novel concepts for existing challenges and opportunities.
It is a process of figuring out new ideas and solutions by means of brainstorming and mind mapping. For this process, the goal is to come up with as many ideas with as diverse a group as possible (members, customers, external parties, and other stakeholders).
Plus, as a method of generating ideas, it also aims to identify the best possible options that a company or organization can use in terms of:
- Implementing changes
- Integrating improvements
- Solving actual problems
- Addressing opportunities
Idea generation can be done in various ways. The most common is through brainstorming sessions, where a group of people comes together to share and generate ideas.
Other methods include:
- Idea competitions, where employees or customers submit ideas that are then evaluated and ranked
- Innovation labs, where new ideas are developed and experimented with
Why is idea generation important?
As mentioned earlier, idea generation is the lifeblood of organizations and is an important process for improvement. From the dawn of time, it is ideas that have brought us to new heights, making an organization and economy totally dependent on new ideas.
In the business world, ideas are important for any kind of change or improvement, be it in products, services, or processes. To bring about this change and improve, businesses need a structured process for generating and capturing ideas. This is where idea generation comes in.
Idea generation provides a systematic process for coming up with new ideas, as well as a way to manage and evaluate them.
This is important because it helps businesses identify which ideas are truly viable and beneficial for the company. That way, they wouldn’t have to waste their time, effort, and resources on implementing ideas that are unlikely to contribute to the organization’s success.
To iterate, here are some reasons why idea generation is important for an organization:
- It gives ideas for new lines of products.
- It gives ideas for new features of products.
- It gives ideas on how to improve current customer service.
- It gives ideas on new ventures and opportunities to tackle.
- It gives ideas on other markets to enter.
- It gives ideas on the changes that must be done in the organization.
- It gives ideas on what else to do to become more profitable.
- It gives ideas on how to improve competitive edge and survival.
As you have noticed, there are a lot of specific reasons why idea generation is important. If you take a closer look, all of them have a common theme: improvement and innovation. Although innovation is not all about ideas, they are vital to the overall process.
What makes idea generation difficult?
Ideas are the lifeblood of any organization that wants to innovate, yet many organizations struggle to generate them.
Businesses often don’t have a system or process in place to generate and capture ideas. This obstacle can be a major hindrance to innovation. Because without ideas, there is nothing to develop or improve on.
One way to overcome this obstacle is to implement a structured process for generating ideas, which can be done via:
- Brainstorming sessions
- Idea competitions
- Hackathons, and many more
The important thing here is to have a fixed methodical approach that allows for idea generation and collection.
Once done, it is important vital to implement mechanisms for evaluating and selecting the best ideas, like:
What matters is for you to identify the most promising ideas so they can be further developed into products or services with real business value.
Other reasons why idea generation may come off as a challenging activity for others
Aside from an organization’s lack of a comprehensive, step-by-step ideation process, generating ideas may also be strenuous for them due to the following reasons:
- Vague objectives. Ideating without a clear purpose breeds ideas without real business value.
- Unclear problem statements. Creating solutions without actual problems to solve is not only a waste of energy and resources but a complete waste of time.
- Closed mindedness. An organization that does not welcome the input of its employees is missing out on valuable contributions and potential improvements.
- Lack of boundaries. Too much freedom in innovation does not establish the need to make a difference. While the possibilities are endless, it would be wise to establish limits so the ideation process creates a whole batch of new and extraordinary ideas.
- Inner reservations, doubts, and reliance on old patterns. Mental stresses may hinder employees from voicing out their thoughts. Meanwhile, general resistance to change may hinder the company from entertaining new ways of doing things.
- Cognitive bias. Negative impressions of modern-day methods because of a negative experience in the past may cause a phenomenon called cognitive bias, where specific ideas are automatically rejected for not aligning with preferences and viewpoints.
- Criticisms and other idea killers. Employees shy away from contributing to the idea-generation process when a company claims to be open to ideas but is quick to shut ideas out with unconstructive criticisms and other harmful statements.
Why does idea generation matter in innovation?
Idea generation is important in innovation. No matter what type of innovation funnel, method, or model you use, this process is integral in bringing new concepts to light.
Despite being a challenging process for some, idea generation can actually be considered simple in innovation. The real challenge lies in finding strategic issues to solve and create business value.
For example, the classic Stage-Gate method of innovation, which is a popular model used in a new product or service development, starts with idea generation in Phase 0. This is called the “discovery” phase, the one that precedes the first real phase in this method.
The same goes with other methods, including Accept Mission’s own innovation stage process, a practical innovation funnel that can be applied to both small and large organizations and on simple and complex innovation projects.
The first stage is about problem finding. This is where we generate ideas on what to do, or in other words, what business opportunities or areas to focus on.
The second stage is solution finding, where the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible and after categorizing and selecting the best ideas, arrive at one or more validated solutions.
Idea generation is important in innovation because it is the first step toward creating something new. Ideas are the seeds that will grow and develop into a new product, service, or business. Ideas are the foundation of innovation.
Idea generation is also an important part of the innovation sprint, which is a timeboxed period (within 1-4 weeks) to develop three possible solutions and assemble proof to decide which concept is the most valuable and feasible.
By the way, we published an ebook that will walk you through idea management. We discussed there almost everything there is to know about idea management. Feel free to grab your copy now!
An environment that empowers the creation of ideas
Creating an environment that supports and encourages innovation also plays a significant role in generating great ideas.
As the company’s innovation manager, you need to:
- Foster and maintain a culture of openness and collaboration where new ideas are welcomed and encouraged. The type of environment that your employees are in matters in the quality of ideas that you can gain from them.
- Provide them with the resources and support they need to turn their ideas into reality.
By kickstarting the idea generation process in your organization, you can overcome one of the biggest obstacles to innovation. Plus, with a system in place to generate and select ideas, you can ensure that only the best ideas are given the attention they deserve.
However, generating ideas is only the first step on the path to innovation. The real challenge is taking those ideas and turning them into transformative products, services, and experiences.
For this reason, you need to establish an environment that supports innovation. This way, you can unleash the power of your organization’s creativity and turn it into a force for change.
How to create an environment for generating ideas
Setting up a workplace conducive to ideation and creative thinking inspires employees to think more innovatively. To create an environment that encourages ideation, you can:
- Set up idea boxes. Whether online or traditional, an idea box welcomes the thoughts, comments, ideas, and suggestions of others without having the need to speak up or defend their ideas from a panel of interrogative people.
- Facilitate more brainstorming sessions. Make your employees feel that your ideation and decision-making process is inclusive. Invite them for brainstorming sessions on specific topics and issues and empower them to participate.
- Encourage taking breaks. Sparks of ideas may take place randomly. Give your employees the time and space to move around and relax. Let their minds wander and draw inspiration from different things and life experiences.
- Use tools. Make it a point for everyone on your team to share their ideas easily. Use tools to make your idea generation a hassle-free process.
What are the tools for idea generation?
The good news is that there are tools you can use to simplify the process of idea generation. It is a good idea to know them before going through the steps of designing your own idea generation process.
There are three main tools that you can use for idea generation:
- Physical brainstorming sessions
- Brainstorming tools
- Idea management tools
Physical Brainstorming Sessions
There are two types of brainstorming:
- Physical brainstorming
- Digital brainstorming
Physical brainstorming refers to the traditional method, where members participate in person and get involved with the session and contribute ideas. On the other hand, digital brainstorming is done using tools, where members do not have to participate at the same time and place.
Conducting a brainstorming session is quite easy. It can be summarized in three steps:
- Step 1: Gather and prepare the group. In this step, it is important that the team members are prepared. It is up to you to decide how much information they need to prepare, but take note that it should not be too much as to not destroy the free-flowing nature of brainstorming.
- Step 2: Present the problem or challenge. In this step, you must clearly define the problem that the brainstorming is trying to solve. It can also be about a theme on which you want to gather ideas.
- Step 3: Moderate the discussion. Once the discussion starts, it is important that someone has to moderate the discussion to develop and build on others’ ideas. This can e.g. be done by asking questions.
When conducting the session, make sure to appoint someone to record all the ideas generated. Naturally, the recorder must be someone who does not actively participate during the session.
There must also be a projector, a chart, or even better, a whiteboard, where everyone can see notes about the problem or theme. Remember that the goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible.
The downside to physical brainstorming sessions is that not everyone may be able to attend the activity. In addition, participation is not usually that great during the start and some members may not be that keen on taking an active part in the discussion.
Furthermore, there may be members who are hesitant in sharing their own ideas, for fear of being ridiculed or criticized, as their ideas may seem too absurd or too dumb.
These disadvantages are avoided in digital brainstorming. The good thing is that there are lots of good brainstorming software available for anyone who wants to conduct a digital brainstorming session instead of a physical one.
In addition, platforms like Accept Mission have gamification features to help encourage participation, engagement, and creativity. The undercover feature also allows members to contribute their ideas without the fear of getting ridiculed or criticized.
Using a brainstorming tool will also allow you to collect ideas from members wherever they may be. Setting up sessions and challenges is quite easy especially since you are not bound to a specific time and place.
Idea Management Tools
Idea management tools will help you manage and structure the whole ideation process and selection, in which brainstorming plays a vital role. Using such a tool helps in generating and assessing the best innovative idea and in executing the best ones.
For example, Accept Mission’s platform is one of the most complete idea management solutions out there. It will enable you to manage and qualify all ideas in one place. There is also an inbox feature that lets you collect ideas from different sources without doing additional work.
It also has an advanced selection tool, complete with the capability of enabling you to design your own criteria and invite others to assess the ideas based on those criteria. There is also a collaboration feature called “Boards” that will enable you to work together in real time.
Idea management tools like Accept Mission will help you increase the speed of your innovation process. As you know, the ability to develop new ideas and execute them is important in increasing your organization’s competitive advantage and survival.
How to start your own idea generation process?
Now that you know why idea generation is important, why it matters in innovation, as well as the tools you can use, it is time to proceed into learning how to start your own idea generation process.
Here are the five main steps you can also apply in your own idea generation process:
- Step 1: Prepare the idea generation process. This is where you lay down your plan on how to approach the process. Will you be holding a physical brainstorming session? A digital one? Or both? What will be the main problem or challenge that your group will be discussing?
- Step 2: Prepare the target group. In this step, you will be determining who your target group will be. Once you have identified them, it is important that you let them know beforehand of the activity that you will be conducting. It is also beneficial to give them some information to stimulate activity during the process.
- Step 3: Start the idea generation activity. This step is about launching the idea generation activity. If you are doing a digital brainstorming session, make sure to remind them to drop their ideas. Ready questions when necessary to ignite discussions and inspire new ideas.
- Step 4: Select the best ideas. After you have gathered all the ideas, and the time allotted is up, the next step is to determine which ideas are worth pursuing. This is where the criteria you have designed in step 1 come into play.
- Step 5: Report results. Once you have determined the best idea, you must also report them to the concerned stakeholders. This is important as those ideas that have been selected will become innovation projects in their own rights.
If you are doing all these steps manually, it might take a lot of your precious time to simply select the best ideas, and turn them into projects. Some organizations use plenty of platforms to achieve this.
Fortunately, that is not the case with Accept Mission.
With our platform, you can do all of those steps without having to leave the tool. Your group can drop their ideas into inboxes and on ideation missions. Once you are ready, you can then use the selection tool to determine the best ideas.
Once you have the best ideas, you can then input them to the projects board and track them from roadmap to execution.
If you are looking to kickstart your idea generation process, there is no need to look further. Accept Mission can help you from start to finish with all the features mentioned earlier and more. Book a demo today with no strings attached.