What is Ideation?

When trying to come up with a new idea, most turn to ‘brainstorming’. What happens when you can’t ‘storm’ anything useful though? What if you’re just not that creative? Often simply brainstorming on a blank page doesn’t get you very far.

The problem is a lack of structure. A blank page has unlimited options; too many for us to process. Could we become more creative by limiting options in a focused way? This is the concept of ideation; brainstorming with structure. There are many ideation techniques; I’m going to walkthrough how to use one.

Reversing Assumptions

This ideation technique has 3 steps:

1) Stating all the assumptions about a business, solution or industry

2) Reversing those assumptions

3) Brainstorming specifically on how to make the reversals true

Example #1

You can see how this technique could have been used to come up with AirBNB.

Example #2

By reversing a transport industry assumption, you might have predicted Uber.

You can see how powerful new ideas can spring from challenging existing assumptions. I ran this ideation exercise at our MBS Technology and Entrepreneurship club meetup. We selected Retail Fashion as an industry to disrupt.

Here are some of the assumptions the group came up with of the Retail Fashion industry:

We then reversed each of these assumptions:

If you have a larger group, you could break out into smaller groups to brainstorm on how to make the reversed assumptions true. For each one, you may come up with multiple scenarios.

Obviously not all of the ideas will be feasible. The idea is to generate lots of new ideas and look at things in new ways.

Here are just some of the business ideas we came up with in 10 minutes:

I like to think these ideas are more disruptive than what we would have come up with using traditional, blank-page brainstorming.

If you need more ideation in your life, here is a blog with 10 ideation techniques. Next time you’re looking for an idea, try one and see what your team can come up with.