According to legend … or at least to the d school , the next two steps in design thinking is to ideate and prototype under the Exploration phase.
let’s try to understand what does ideate means.
To visualize, is to have a vision of your desired outcome. To ideate, is to come up with as many images in your mind in relation to the issue at hand. The problem that many people face when ideating is they become overly concerned about how their ideas will be perceived. Most ideas never leave the thinker’s mind because of the internal calculations and scrutinizing. This has many reasons, it could be to save face and not seem ridiculous, not feeling confident in own idea, or not trusting the receiving end. Sadly, it is everybody’s loss as well.
To overcome such situation, an important concept needs to be in place: that is separating divergent and convergent thinking when addressing issues at hand. The balance between both is so central that I will focus on each separately while explaining the design thinking model at hand.
Puccio, Murdock and Mance in their book “Creative leadership” (2007) explained how Guilford identified four basic characteristics of divergent thinking: fluency, flexibility, elaboration and originality. I won’t go into detail in each one of them but the idea is when we ideate, we don’t squelsh the ideas made by us or by others and we come up with as many from our minds as well as building on others.
Many tools have been used for ideating. For example, in brainstorming we come up with numerous point of views that are directly or indirectly related to our subject matter. The trick is not to give any idea more than few seconds of our time when it is stated and documented, then we move on to other ideas until we are ready to converge or evaluate. brainstorming has many variations, such as brain writing, brain walking, or SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Other Uses, Eliminate, Rearrange). You can find out more about conducing a good brainstorming session from this short article titled “10 guidelines for effective brainstorming“.
On a wilder side, you can use tools such as “Forced Connections” by using objects that are unrelated to the situation. This ability to borrow ideas from one context to solve a problem in other context. here’s how:
1. Identify a challenge. Offer it as a question to be answered. i.e. How might we address the pollution in the city?
2. Select an object unrelated to the challenge. Anything! a chair, a lamp, a an office building.
3. Note the characteristics of the object. What’s the size, shape, color, uses, texture, smell, etc.
4. Force a connection between the object and the challenge. Ask “what ideas do I get for addressing pollution from my jeans?
5. Repeat with additional objects. keep selecting new ones and connecting new ideas.
6. Use other senses and modalities. explore listening, touching, etc.
7. Let us know how did it go 🙂
While this tool requires effort only the first few times (after that it will be second to nature, believe me!), there are other tools that are less innovative in that sense but have the same effect such as the Random Word. Here’s how: Get a dictionary or open any book on any page and place your finger on any word, then force a connection between that word and your challenge and enjoy the rich texture of your new ideas.
In this step of design thinking, I have not connected directly with social innovation since ideational thinking is a skill applied to everything we do on a daily basis. Using stories to come up with scenarios and visualizing our solutions in very colorful mind images are very powerful tools that if one has, one can accomplish much.