During ideation and consumer interaction, it’s important to keep the conversation on track. But there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way is to say, "Don’t do this." "Don’t think of that." or "We’re not going to go there."
Limitations like these quickly become the elephant in the room. They make the walls close in and suck all the life out of the discussion. Even worse, they're soon the only thing anyone can think about.
But limitations can help idea generation and lead to more ideas – if you use them the right way. The key is to change how you view them. Instead of adding restrictions to focus your thinking, consider ideating around “Opportunity Areas.”
Same premise—you’re still preventing ideation from going off in random, unhelpful directions—but very, very different results.
Why does this work?
- First, because vocabulary is important.
By changing from “Don’t think about x, y and z,” to “What does this Opportunity Area make you think of?” you tell your brain that you’re open to possibilities.
Idea generation is all about making connections between the challenge you’re trying to solve and your life experience/knowledge base. When you ask your brain to focus on an Opportunity Area and make new connections, you’re working with your brain, rather than against it.
As long as an idea is connected to the Opportunity Area, that idea isn’t bad or wrong (as your brain would interpret it if you were imposing limitations).
- Secondly, focusing on Opportunity Areas increases your idea quantity.
Ideation typically begins fast and furiously. Ideas are all over the board and they’re wildly creative—right until the momentum runs out!
The human brain wants order, and so it channels thinking into pathways that it has used before. People frequently get stuck on a theme when generating ideas. As a result, they have tons of ideas, but the ideas don’t cover a broad range of opportunities.
Imposing limitations on ideation (by focusing on an Opportunity Area), can combat this tendency. How? Simple—you deliberately come up with ideas in a single area (e.g. Customization) until you run dry. Then you switch to a new focus (e.g. All-Natural).
The deliberate switching keeps your brain fresh by pushing you to look in different directions every time it gets stuck. By staying nimble, you come up with exponentially more ideas than you’d get by simply throwing yourself full-force in a single direction until you run out of gas.
So as you can see, limitations don’t have to be the bane of ideation sessions. When used properly, they open the brain to new possibilities and dramatically increase the number of ideas you create—and the number of ideas that make it to development and, eventually, to market.
This post was originally published April 1, 2014 on the Ideas To Go blog.
© 2014 Katie Konrath and Ideas To Go. For permission to republish, please contact.