Rules for ideation

Here are classic rules for creating a safe idea environment for ideation. It's important to keep these top of mind when generating ideas—you may even want to post them someone visible to the group.

  • Don’t judge
  • Wild ideas are great!
  • Always build, never pull down
  • What was the task again? Stay focused
  • Draw!
  • Don’t talk over each other
  • So many ideas, go for quantity

Generating ideas is the foundation of innovation. This is a team sport. You’ll need markers and lots of sticky notes. Give yourselves 20 minutes.

  1. Always start solo. Announce the topic. Before any discussion, give everyone in the group 3 minutes to write their first ideas down on sticky notes. Aim for as many ideas as possible.
  2. Ask everyone to choose their favourite 3-5 ideas to share. This will preserve a diversity of perspectives.
  3. One person at a time, read an idea aloud and post it to the wall. Listen carefully to be sure you understand but don’t criticize or vote on anything. If you hear an idea that duplicates one of your favourites, discard your sticky note and promote another idea from your personal stack.

Ideation is all about uncritically, collaboratively generating lots of ideas. There are no wrong answers at this stage. You’ll sort the wheat from the chaff later with other methods. The goal is to develop a pool of 30 to 50 ideas. Depending on the size and diversity of your group, you may get there purely through solo ideation. If you have nearly enough ideas already, you can ask everyone to contribute one more favourite idea, and declare victory. However, if you have more time to invest, your group is primed to produce more and bolder ideas by collaborating.

  1. Appoint a scribe to take notes.
  2. For 15 minutes, discuss the ideas and how you might combine and/or extend some of them to produce new ideas. “What that made me think of was...” “What if we also...” “If we put these together, we could...” The scribe will add the new ideas to the wall.
  3. Finally, give everyone in the group another 2 minutes to work solo again. You probably each had an idea or two you didn’t get to contribute during the collaborative round. Add them to the wall.