Ideation Jonathan Poland

Ideation is the process of generating ideas and solutions to problems. It is a crucial step in the creative process, as it allows individuals and organizations to come up with new and innovative solutions to challenges they face.

The ideation process typically begins with a clear understanding of the problem or challenge at hand. This involves defining the problem, gathering information about it, and identifying potential constraints or limitations. Once the problem has been clearly defined, individuals or teams can begin to brainstorm potential solutions.

There are a variety of techniques and methods that can be used to facilitate the ideation process. For example, brainstorming is a popular method where individuals or teams generate ideas in an unstructured and free-flowing manner. This can be done through discussions, writing, or drawing. Other techniques include lateral thinking, which involves approaching problems from unconventional angles, and SCAMPER, which involves using a set of prompts to stimulate idea generation.

Ideation can be an effective way to generate a large number of potential solutions to a problem, but it is important to also evaluate and prioritize these ideas. This can involve using tools such as a SWOT analysis to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each idea, or using a decision-making process to select the most promising ideas to pursue further.

Overall, ideation is an essential step in the creative process and can help individuals and organizations come up with innovative solutions to the challenges they face. By using effective techniques and methods, and carefully evaluating and prioritizing ideas, ideation can lead to successful outcomes. Here are some examples.


Brainstorming is the process of spitting out ideas without validation. For example, a design process that begins with everyone on the team suggesting their most far fetched ideas without fear of criticism.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming is the process of considering what could go wrong. Ideas generated with brainstorming can be later validated with reverse brainstorming. For example, an architectural team that comes up with a design for an earthquake resistant house that brainstorms a list of the design’s weaknesses and risks.

Preserving Ambiguity

Preserving ambiguity is the theory that it is better not to make assumptions too early in an ideation process. For example, a student who is thinking about where to work after graduation who doesn’t automatically assume they need to work for a large company.

Creativity of Constraints

The theory that beginning with constraints increases the creativity of ideas. For example, an architectural team tasked with designing a house that is both extremely earthquake resistant and inexpensive.

Creative Tension

Creative tension is the idea that lively debate improves the creativity of groups. This would suggest that nations and organizations that value group harmony aren’t as creative as those that embrace individualism and argument.

Motley Crew Principle

The motley crew principle is the observation that extremely creative outputs are often the result of diverse contributors. For example, film crews that are composed of people with a broad range of backgrounds and talents.

Challenging Assumptions

The basic process of identifying assumptions, including your own, that may be blocking you from seeing broad ideas of value. For example, an oil company employee who challenges the assumption that their firm is an “oil” company and not an “energy” company that is free to produce clean energy.

Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is the process of thinking about areas that have no “correct” answer. For example, planning your future whereby you are free to do anything.

Failure of Imagination

Failure of imagination is the expectation that the future will resemble the past despite the fact that things constantly change. This is often seen in risk management whereby societies expect future risks to resemble recent problems even where new risks have become extremely obvious.


Taking time to let your mind work on a problem. For example, a solution to a problem often appears after a break or a good night’s sleep.

Derivative Ideas

The process of taking existing ideas and changing them. In many cases, brilliance is an imperfect copy of something. For example, writers, musicians and artists may stumble upon extremely valuable and non-obvious ideas while trying to emulate their heroes.

Inventive Step

Inventive step is the original thought of an individual that generates a non-obvious idea. Most ideas are obvious. It is somewhat rare to generate ideas that aren’t obvious and these may seem obvious later in retrospect. For example, innovative film directors of one generation are often copied by the next generation of film makers such that later audiences may view brilliant films of the past as cliche.


Creative ideas often come when you are in a playful state of mind and those who have cultivated their ability to play are typically more creative than those who have become altogether serious.


Improvisation is a common exercise for putting people into a more flexible state of mind that is conductive to creativity. This involves collaboratively building upon a shared story without ever rejecting the additions of others.

First Principles

The process of reducing things to their most basic truths, known as first principles. For example, an designer who uses the principle of least astonishment to find design ideas based on existing conventions that are intuitive to users.

Thought Experiment

A thought experiment is an analogy that models a problem in order to simplify it or gain new insights. For example, a manager finds that an engineer always talks over the heads of others. As an exercise, they ask the engineer to think about how they would explain a complex system to a small child.


Serendipity is the observation that extremely valuable ideas can occur suddenly as if out of nowhere after struggling with a problem for a long period of time. For example, a mid-career professional who struggles with disinterest in their career who suddenly sees a way to a more satisfying career or lifestyle.

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