Monthly Dose of Design: Idea Generation for Market Researchers

October 3, 2020

Nicholas Lee
Senior Creative Designer
Emma Galvin
Creative Executive

'Design thinking' is an essential process for market researchers. It consists of several stages, starting with the ‘Discover’ phase and followed by the ‘Define’ phase. In this article, we’ll be discussing the DT process’s Development Phase. We will be sharing three essential idea generation techniques that you can implement yourself.

A Short Recap

Before we dive into it, let’s quickly recap what should occur before the development stage in idea generation. First, you should align your stakeholders and team on the challenge you're trying to tackle.

Phrase the scenario with a question that starts ‘How might we’... This question gives your team context for the task at hand. It allows you to proceed to a more focused idea generation stage: Aka, the development phase.

What is the Development Phase?

In the development phase, teams start thinking of creative solutions to a problem they are trying to solve. Ideally, the team should consist of diverse backgrounds and offer many, widely varied perspectives on a topic. This creates a greater collective intelligence and presents the basis for constructive debate and disagreement.

The development phase hopes to generate as many ideas as possible. At this stage, feasibility is no concern. By allowing any and all ideas, a wide range of design routes can be discovered. Some of these will eventually be fleshed out and prototyped.

Why is the Development Stage important for Market Researchers?

The development phase is usually where market researchers hand the process over to designers and exit the Design Thinking process. However, market researchers should involve themselves in the creation of ideas.

They are the ones that have conducted research on the user, product or service and understand the problem that needs solving best. It is crucial to keep market researchers at the table and allow them to contribute.

What to Consider when Producing Ideas

Stick to the ‘How might we’- statement. This allows you to stay focused on the topic.

Staying focused on the issue at hand is crucial. If you stray from the initial challenge, you risk not solving the problem and instead of missing the point with your ideas.

Encourage all ideas - refrain from judgment

The ideation session should be a space in which all ideas are welcome. Encourage people to share their ideas freely without judgement, and embrace even wacky, weird and wild ideas.

Aim for quantity, kill bad ideas quickly.

At this stage of the process, the goal's to hit out as many innovative ideas as possible and discard the ones that don’t work. No one should be attached to any ideas at this point. Keep ideas wide and broad, explore all possible solutions, and therefore ensure that you reach those winning few.

Expand on each other’s ideas.

Look towards your colleagues as friends, not enemies. Cooperating and building on each other’s ideas are crucial to expanding concepts and creating variations of an idea.

Be visual

Try to be as visual as you can. You don’t need to be an artist. Rough sketches are a great way of communicating ideas effectively. This helps open up new possibility and creates an interpretation of an idea that can be more easily discussed.

Not all ideas can make it to the finish line

Ideation sessions generate lots of ideas, but not all of them can be developed and taken forward. In the words of Stephen King, you should ‘kill your darlings’. Don’t be too attached to any idea. The next step is narrowing down the pool to a few favourites and proceed from there.

3 Idea Generation Techniques

There are many techniques for generating ideas. We'll discuss three of them here.

Crazy Eights - Generating a bunch of ideas

Crazy eights is a fast-paced activity aiming to create as many ideas as possible in a short time. The exercise asks individual team members to sketch up eight potential solutions to the question of ‘How might we…’. They get eight minutes to do this! Afterwards, team members present their ideas to the group and open it up for discussion.

Feedback is provided afterwards, allowing potential solutions to be developed further.

Collaborative Drawing - Learn from one another

Team members are given five minutes to draw their ideas. They then line them up alongside the opinions of other members on a canvas. At the end of the round, ideas are compared. This allows team members to find different ways ideas can co-exist and be integrated with one another.

Mission Impossible - Impose seemingly impossible limitations

In this activity, you exaggerate existing constraints to a seemingly impossible-to-solve level. This encourages team members to use lateral thinking and imagine ideas outside of the box.

Often, this revolutionary approach makes room for new and exciting ideas.

Examples of limitations could be “how might we build a house in one day” or “how might we build a house using only recycled materials?”

Suppose you are running several idea generation sessions, or you have lots of people in your team. In that case, you can split the session into groups. Each group can be given a different limitation. Just like the techniques discussed before, this activity should be fast and have a time limit of 5-10 minutes.

Voting for Ideas

At the end of idea generation, you can only pick a couple of ideas to develop further. Developing more than that would be impractical. Voting can help decide which ones to take forward.

By letting your team vote, you can create a hierarchy of ideas. The one with the most votes is taken to the Deliver phase, where it will be turned into a prototype. Voting should be done anonymously and independently, as you might otherwise run the risk that team members follow the highest-paid person’s opinion. Alternatively, group thinking might switch on, and individuals may simply follow the crowd.

You can vote via post-it notes, or digitally, whereby one person collects all of the votes and announces the winners.

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