Coming up with an idea is hard, especially when it seems that everything that you could ever imagine has already been done. In the ideation process, it is common to experience “innovator’s block,” where you struggle to brainstorm ideas and concepts. Similar to experiencing “writer’s block” when formulating an essay, there are some strategies to get unstuck and to create targeted, promising ideas.
Here’s a few strategies for you to try:
Think about what it’s like to go through the process of any good or service through the eyes of a consumer. For example, think of all of the steps required to brush your teeth. What are the problems and challenges a user might face? Try to isolate the points where a customer could experience pain or difficulty. Also, try to consider what things the consumer would be passionately interested in.
Process of brushing your teeth
• Purchasing toothpaste and a toothbrush
• Finding a water source
• Squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube
• Making sure you brush all the hard to reach places in your mouth
• Swish and spit
In this circumstance, a pain-point might be squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube when the tube gets close to empty. Another might be having to use water when your brush your teeth. Use this tactic to find the places consumers face a challenge, and try to devise a solution that would make their life easier.
Every process has assumptions that most of us make. We all assume that in driving to work, we have to keep both hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road. But companies like Tesla and Apple are questioning the assumption that we actually have to be driving when we are in the car. By challenging assumptions at every step of service or product development, you can enable the birth of fresh possibilities and ideas. Try to list out 10–15 assumptions associated with a certain process or service. Alter or reverse the assumptions and see what ideas you can generate.
Some assumptions about brushing your teeth
• You need toothpaste
• You need a toothbrush
• You need water
• Toothpaste comes in a tube
• You have to replace your toothbrush
What happens when we reverse the assumption that toothpaste comes in a tube? If toothpaste came in another type of container or shape, would it be easier to get all of the toothpaste out? What would happen if you didn’t need water to brush your teeth? Could this lead to a breakthrough?
Working with future tech trends
In ideation, it is easy to constrain your thinking to only building on or utilizing existing technologies. But what if you thought about an application of a future tech trend? How can we solve current problems with new and future technology? For example, dental x-rays release radiation, which limits how frequently you can get an accurate examination of your teeth. Is there a way that Virtual Reality technology can be applied to the world of dentistry to solve this problem? Sure the idea may sound far-fetched at first, but when you analyze the problem, you could come up with something promising.
• What if we could use drones to walk dogs for us?
• What amenities can we provide for self-driving cars in the future?
• How could augmented reality help people in the medical field?
Lastly, SCAMPER is an idea generation technique that utilizes action verbs as stimuli. It assists a person in coming up with ideas either for modifications that can be made to an existing product or for creating a new product. Each letter in the acronym stands for an action verb which in turn represents a prompt for creative ideas.
S — Substitute
C — Combine
A — Adapt
M — Modify
P — Put to another use
E — Eliminate
R — Reverse
Try to consider some of these action words the next time you are doing ideation! Who knows, maybe you’ll come up with the next big thing!