10 Creative Ideation Tools for Design Thinking Process

Creative Thinking Tools- Turian Labs

Manoj Kothari

Ideation is the phase in Design Thinking once we know what really is the re-defined context. Initial brief or initial understanding of the problem usually undergoes severe changes after the empathy phase. Usually, this is a big realization in the DT workshops that people do not know when NOT to ideate.

Ideation phase is time-bound fast-trigger process. If a team of 4-5 people is generating the ideas, one can expect 50-60 ideas in the 30 minute period. A key to rapid-ideation is ‘BUCKETING’. Each team must choose a bucket to ideate on and then everyone contributes in relation to that bucket. i.e. if we choose SEMIOTICS as a trigger bucket than every one should be generating at least one or two ideas driven by the essence of the brand under consideration alone.  Here are 10 triggers which are rarely used but present a powerful set together:

1.     REDESIGN THE TASKFLOW: Once the empathy research shows that the task-flow of the user if flawed or has inefficiencies, it is best to think of ways and means to make this efficient. Location based sensing technology made the on-demand-taxi-apps possible and disrupting the taxi business. The task-flow step of searching for taxi and negotiating the travel was very frustrating for the consumers. It presented a big leap with leverage of technology.

2.     BIO MIMICRY: Nature has every situation and a relevant solution, already modeled in some form. Discovery of Velcro is an example of learning from the nature. Posing a question in the ideation process like ‘How does nature do it?’, can throw up great insights. For example, ideating for an ideal travel-bag that one can follow the simile of a person and a pet-dog. A pet dog is chained but you don’t have to ‘drag’ him. The dog walks on his own. The luggage must travel on its own and just need gentle nudges.

3.     MEGATRENDS: Megatrends are the imminent changes in the society that would affect the way we see and decide upon certain actions. i.e. EXPERIENCE ECONOMY is pushing for building immersive experiences in products and services (or even in education). While ideating for creating a better taskflows for services, Virtual Reality, another megatrend, can be thought of as a trigger. Many airlines are offering a VR based walkthrough to the tourist place you are planning to travel.

4.  PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Do not look at the existing competition. Many innovations happen when you look at the domain other than yours. If you are a banking and finance company looking to innovate the digital experience for the customers, look at how people are exchanging large files (i.e. movies) through their mobile phone. It may open completely new way of transacting and relationship building. Also, there is a great “trickle-down”effect across the industries. Advertising is quickest to react to a new thought. Accessories are quickest to react to new technology. Automotive lags behind by years purely due to development cycles involved. So, one can actually build complete chain of insights just by looking sideways.

5.     INNOVATION FOR A CULTURE: Globalization has entered a new phase. While the era just gone by, focused on making global products with same features, today we all know that every region and a micro-region has enough marketing potential to have the local tastes incorporated into the product and services. McDonalds is a great success story in India which turned into a ‘family restaurant’ from a ‘takeaway’ and introduced the legendary ‘aloo tickki burger’. The latest change in the McDonalds is in the drinks menu, where ‘kaccha aam’ (raw mango) flavor has been introduced which is a highly regional taste for India.

6.     THINK HOW WOULD YOU SELL IT: No, it is not to give a leg up to the marketing team. It is the think through the new ideas on how will they be articulated to the customer/consumer. What will be the one phrase, one line answer when someone asks- what’s new? Words are used to explain a new concept, but here words actually make you think hard on the USP of the offering. Semantics is a great tool for innovation. Get it.

7.     SCAMPER: It is an acronym for seven thinking techniques to come up with untypical solutions to problems. It will well documented with examples scattered across internet. Here is a quick elaboration of the letters:
S Substitute: Remove some part of the accepted situation, thing, people and replace with something else i.e remove the mobile back-cover of plastic and replace with with a cover built with mirror polished metal, to use it as a mirror.
C Combine: Join, affiliate, or force together two or more elements to provide a new solution i.e. join a pencil (back) and a spoon, to use it as a travel spoon.
A Adapt: Change some part of your problem or pick-up element of other parts so that it works where it did not before i.e. making the spoon longer to eat icecream in from the tall glasses.
M Modify: Consider drastic change in one or more of attributes : size, shape, other dimensions, texture, color, attitude, position, history, and so on. A toy ball, scaled-up 10 times, becomes a sculpture.
P RePurpose (Put to other use): Modify the intention of the subject. Challenge all of these assumptions and suggest new and unusual purposes. A metal laptop is the only thing to break your car-window open, in case of emergency.
E Eliminate: Arbitrarily remove any or all elements of your subject, simplify, reduce to core functionality i.e. remove the boot from a car (make it hatchback) if we know that in city situations, boot is hardly used.
R Reverse/Rearrange: Change the direction or orientation. Turn it upside-down, inside-out, or make it go backwards i.e. People choose politicians, and they make the laws. What if people made the laws through crowd-sourcing the mandate.

8.     SENSE-STORMING: Like brainstorming is about random ideation, SenseStorming is about ideation using five senses i.e. think through the context and how each of our senses would be involved in that. What kind of smell should pervade; what all textures, shapes we would come in touch with; what should we hear etc. This is extremely helpful in creating space design and iteractions i.e. airport lobby, office reception.

9.     DECONSTRUCTION: A child tears apart a toy and builds a new one. Ripping apart an existing construct and seeing the elements is a natural idea generator. It works across services, product- more so where it is highly complex. Traditionally, value-engineering and BPR practices thrive on it. While working on a new ceiling fan design, we applied this tool to study what really goes in the different fan circuits. We were surprised to know that the company was using two broad philosophies to build fans – chasis structure and monocoque-array. This was also a revelation to the client themselves.

10.  FLIP THE RULES: While collecting requirements or relevant information on any innovation context we come across a dead-lock. Two contradictory things like a user-convenience and price would be in contradiction. A traditional auto-rickshaw in India has been providing ride to the consumer at Rs. 5/km for ages. The rickshaw maker in fact boasted about the ‘lowest fare in the world’ in favour of keeping the rickety contraption market alive. The car-taxies were at distant Rs. 15 per km. Here comes location based sensing and arrival of Uber. Today, one can get an air-conditioned taxi on-demand, at Rs. 6/km which during the promotional times falls to Rs. 4/km as well.  Use the technology as a leverage to flip the rules.