I love my hobbies. Hobbies give us an escape from the stress of daily life and restore our inner peace. They also allow us an opportunity to explore new ideas and to be creative. My longtime followers, friends, and colleagues know that my favorite hobby is scrapbooking.
One of my great pleasures that enriches my hobby is attending craft shows. I am desperately hoping our newly tyrannical governments will once again allow such crowded, busy, and fun events! At craft shows, I watch vendors demonstrate new tools and techniques. I rub shoulders with other creative people sharing my hobby. This encourages me to try new things and it expands my own creativity. (Yes, there’s a reason I have glitter on my shoes!)
As product innovation professionals, we also need to expand our creativity and learn new things. Perhaps more important, we must maintain our ability to generate new ideas and to examine our product portfolios with new perspectives. And, just like the coolest news stamping platform or die cut machine for scrapbooking, we need to try new tools for creating, designing, and developing new products.
The earliest stage of the product design and development process is ideation – kind of a fancy word for idea generation. (Read more about the stages in the Product Design Process here.) Formally, ideation is defined as a “creative process to generate and communicate ideas and concepts within the new product development (NPD) ecosystem”. Let’s look at a few common ideation tools.
SCAMPER (read more here) is an acronym that uses verbs to stimulate new viewpoints toward a product solution. You can apply the SCAMPER technique to an existing product, a new product, or a general customer problem. The acronym is:
- S = Substitute
- C = Combine
- A = Adapt
- M = Modify
- P = Put to Another Use
- E = Eliminate
- R = Reverse
Check out my Skillshare class here for more information and an example of apply SCAMPER.
Brainstorming and Brainwriting
Brainstorming is a traditional method of idea generation, often used in groups. A problem statement is presented, and the group is encouraged to speak freely about potential solutions. People are encouraged, but not required, to build from existing ideas and to even come up with ideas that defy science and logic (can anyone say lockdown or facemask?).
On the other hand, brainwriting (read more about this tool in Chapter 2 of The Innovation ANSWER Book) is a quieter activity, still utilizing free association and even wild ideas. In brainwriting, each individual writes an idea on a sheet of paper and passes the paper to another member of the group. Each person subsequently builds on the ideas they receive. The activity is timed to further drive creativity. After a few rounds, each idea originator shares the “best” idea.
Mind mapping is also a free association method of generating ideas but is often used individually rather than in groups. (Read more here.) It is a graphical technique in which a core problem is presented and ideas or concepts are documented as words, phrases, or figures. Clustering and grouping of ideas are conducted in the second stage. Usually, each word or concept leads to additional “layers” of words and concepts so that the end result is reminiscent of a spiderweb.
Several ideations techniques directly involve the customer. This is highly beneficial for new product development since we intensify our focus on customer needs, thoughts, and perspectives without the bias of technology or pre-determined solutions.
The ethnographic approaches to ideation are based on observing customers in their own environments where they face problems and use product solutions. Complex challenges are better evaluated when an innovation team examines behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and preferences at once.
Another customer-focused ideation method is A Day in the Life. This is essentially “shadowing” the customer to uncover routines, behaviors, and circumstances they face when using different products and services. It also captures emotional aspects of product usage for further ideation and analysis.
Another way to capture emotional inputs is through empathy analysis. This is a way in which innovation teams connect with and understand customers deeply and share a direct emotional connection with them. Empathy means understanding the customers problems from their point of view.
From these customer-focused methods, the innovation design team may develop one or more personas. A persona is a fictional character based on composite, objective, and direct observations of groups of users. These personas become “typical” consumers for whom the innovation design team describes in terms of demographics, behaviors, attitudes, styles, and preferences. Products and services are designed, therefore, to meet satisfy the needs of a specific persona. This improves long-term product design and launch success.
Ideation Tools for Design
Designing and developing new products and services is never easy but is always fun! We use a variety of tools, techniques, and methodologies in the early stages of the product design process to expand creativity and to generate, develop, and communicate new ideas. We use ideation for all activities and processes that broaden a set of solution alternatives for a consumer problem. Ideation tools are also applied in risk management, troubleshooting for operations and in any situation where creativity is important in finding an ultimate solution.
Just like we attend classes, conferences, and exhibits to expand creativity for our hobbies, we also must use similar opportunities to expand creativity for product development. Ideation tools can be used individually or in combination to generate new alternatives for designing and developing products and services that solve customer challenges. Many ideation tools use the power of a group to build on ideas and concepts but many of the tools are used independently to help an individual focus on troubleshooting solutions (e.g. SCAMPER, mind mapping, and empathy analysis).
Of course you must start with the vision – or strategy – before you jump into ideation. I used to have hobbies of quilting, knitting, cross-stitching, and scrapbooking. I had too many ideas and too little time. Over the years, I have narrowed my focus and increased my talent in scrapbooking and card-making. That’s a result of a strategic analysis. With a strategy in place, new ideas are more cost-effective and lead to greater payoff.
Reset Your Strategy
Reset Your Strategy is a four-hour workshop that will help you independently answer this question. We will provide the theory, frameworks, and tools so that you will leave the workshop with a specific, actionable strategy to take you out of 2020. Register here. We have special discounts for anyone who is unemployed right now. And, with all the depressing news on television and the radio, I promise to leave you laughing with our top-secret and mega-fun contest during the workshop (attendees only).
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I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.