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3 minute read

How to tap into the ideation process to bring ideas to life

Nancy Knowlton | President and CEO of Nureva Inc.
Posted by Nancy Knowlton | President and CEO of Nureva Inc. on Jun 23, 2015 7:00:00 AM
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Ideation. While it’s not a new concept, it may be a new word for many. The term was first used back in the late 19th century to describe what today is a common activity that’s seldom discussed. In fact, you’ve more than likely participated in ideation activities even though you may not have labeled them as such.

Ideation is the process of bringing ideas to life. We think of it as a disciplined process of generating ideas and then working those ideas in a team or group environment.

Duration and quantity

Ideation should not be confused with brainstorming – they’re different but related. Brainstorm is defined in the dictionary as produce an idea or way of solving a problem by holding a spontaneous group discussion. It is the spontaneous, short-lived nature of brainstorming that differentiates it from ideation – a disciplined process that can take place over a sustained period of time. With ideation, it’s not one meeting and you’re done. It’s coming back time and again to build on, challenge and refine ideas.

Often in a brainstorming session, the focus is on the quantity of ideas. You may hear introductory comments along the lines of there’s no such thing as a bad idea, a directive that is meant to discourage participants from filtering their suggestions. The intent is to open the floodgates and have free-flowing idea-generation without limitations. 

Context and quality

In contrast, an ideation process is driven by context and is thus all about the quality of ideas. Participants are fully aware of the situation – the opportunity, constraints, obstacles, etc. – and their contributions reflect that understanding. While a brainstorming session may be used within a larger ideation process, it is the process itself that will quickly move to filter or qualify the brainstorming input.

Teams use ideation processes in developing new products. They consider reams of background data and information. They digest competitive offerings and competitive advantage and disadvantage. They consider emerging technologies and trends along with evolving user needs and expectations. 

Business processes can be reengineered through an ideation process. Understanding what is as a starting point and moving to what could be as the ideal provides boundaries and context to the process.

Space and visibility

Every ideation process starts with fuzzy ideas in the heads of team members. The process is enabled by taking the input and ideas from the team and making them visible to all to ponder, challenge, condense and adapt. Today, visibility most often takes the form of paper stuck onto big walls – sticky notes, printouts, pictures and flip chart jottings. This work takes place in group spaces – work areas that are open and collaborative with wall spaces for the paper artifacts, furniture on wheels and multiple workspaces for team members. Some work takes place in private with teams literally locked away in rooms that remain dedicated to the project. 

It’s this analog ideation process that we at Nureva are moving to the digital realm. We’re retaining the familiar, effective elements of this tried-and-true process and adding advantages that only a digital application can provide – cloud storage, input from personal devices, collaboration with remote colleagues and more.

Ideation – it may be a “new” word, but it’s something that most of us already know.


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Topics: Ideation