Ideation: craft targeted, specific business questions

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This is the fourth post in our Design Thinking series. If you'd like, start with the big picture and delve into Discovery and Insights before diving in on Ideation. 

Typical corporate “brainstorming sessions” skip the Discovery process of seeking out new information at the source. Instead, these sessions begin with the Ideas phase, seeking the moonshot solution that secures praise, a raise, and the corner office.

By contrast, in Design Thinking, the Ideation process begins with a spirit of “what if?” and employs a core design thinking principle, "curiosity before judgment." 

The exercise of “crashing Insights," juxtaposing apparently unrelated findings from the prior phase, can unleash deeper creativity while (because each Insight is based on Discovery) remaining grounded in primary, customer-centric concerns.

For example, participants in our design thinking process for Toyota's transition to a mobility company may juxtapose: “range anxiety causes distrust of electric cars” and “rich countries implementing electric vehicle-only mandates does not offset pollution caused by production in poorer countries.”

At first glance, these Insights lack a connection, but combined with the introductory prompt, “How Might We?,” they yield a natural transition from a brainstorming mindset to a problem-solving mindset, unlocking creativity through re-framing the same problem in new ways. Questions may start very broad, but then narrow over the course of the session.

  • How might we make mobility less of a necessity for people in cities?
  • How might we encourage government to develop policies to aid the transition?

During this phase, it can be useful to write down a restatement of the problem from the perspective of another interested persona. How might we restate the question for our children? How might we restate the question for our parents? How might our customers ask our competition for help with the same problem? 

Again, all of the techniques in Ideation are framed to shift participants' perspectives so that creativity begins to flow naturally. This mindset shift and the resultant creativity is the font of business innovation. 

By leveraging design thinking and practicing Discovery and Insight generation, we have a deeper understanding of our customers and a firmer foundation to "think outside the box" and create innovative, data-backed Ideas.


At The Berkeley Innovation Group, we are co-creators, working shoulder-to-shoulder with your team on immersive design thinking projects to solve core business challenges. Moreover, individuals are empowered with enhanced skills and a common language to continue using design thinking methodologies to unlock innovation and value for the long run.

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