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What is ideation?

Definition: Ideation is a part of the design thinking process, an approach focused on solving customer problems by understanding and empathizing with them. Ideation comes after the “ clarifying the problem” stage and consists of generating, evaluating, and refining ideas.

To find the best user-centric solution, the team comes up with a wide range of ideas from different perspectives, carefully selecting the ones they’ll move forward with. The end goal is to create solutions based on user feedback, not assumptions.

Ideation methods and approaches

The three most popular ideation methods and approaches are:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Idea mapping
  3. Opposite thinking


Brainstorming is the most common ideation approach because it helps generate dozens of ideas quickly. During brainstorming, teammates are encouraged to say everything that comes to their minds regarding the main keyword.


  • Quick and easy to implement
  • Suitable for small or big groups


  • Focuses on quantity
  • Can be misleading

Idea mapping

Idea mapping is a method used to connect ideas, structure and present them visually.  It’s similar to brainstorming but requires the participants to be more concrete with their ideas, thus narrowing the options.


  • Precise and structured
  • Quality over quantity


  • Can be too narrow 
  • Takes more time

Opposite thinking

Opposite or reverse thinking is a method particularly effective after dozens of ideas have been generated. The method functions by giving an opposite perspective on the original idea

By changin the perspective, many new ideas could pop out that can help refine the original idea.


  • Different points of view
  • Concrete ideas


  • Can be confusing

Ideation process

Generating ideas

The first part of the ideation process is generating as many ideas as possible to approach the problem objectively and leave no stone unturned.

The first step benefits the company because:

  • Unexpected ideas and perspectives can show up
  • All team members are included
  • Ideas for multiple projects can occur

Evaluating & Prioritizing ideas

The next step is evaluating ideas based on user needs, potential, the difficulty of execution, etc. The goal is to eliminate and select the idea(s) that best solve the user’s problems determined in the needfining process.

Refining the best idea(s)

Before moving onto the testing and prototyping stage, the last stage of the ideation process is refining the idea(s). This process aims to describe the idea as detailed as possible to help the later stages flow more smoothly.

How to prepare for an ideation session

For the ideation session to be successful, everyone should research beforehand. Market research and needfinding are essential to determine the customer pain points so that the new product can address the urgent issues.

Example of ideation

Mindmesh, your virtual desk software, has introduced a new feature, “ Recurring cards.” Let’s take a step back and explore a potential ideation process for this new feature.


The needfinding process has revealed that customers waste time noting down repetitive tasks, such as weekly meetings with clients.

During ideation

Brainstorming: new features that could be added to a virtual desk software to help users manage tasks that reoccur:


  1. Recurring card template (the user can make a task recurring with one click)
  2. Task history option (the software automatically detects recurring tasks from the previous month and updates the board each month)
  3. Automatic routine creation (the software automatically creates routines based on the info from integrated apps)
  4. Task notification (notifying the user when a task reoccurs)


The ideas are evaluated based on priority, user needs, ease of development, etc. The team members decided that the “recurring card template” has a high chance of success because the user can control and edit the recurring tasks easily.


During the refining stage of the “recurring card template” idea, the team discusses the details of this new feature.

For example, the feature's appearance, internal options, and placement.

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Article FAQs

What is the purpose of ideation?
The purpose of ideation is to generate fresh, unique ideas from different angles to find the innovative, user-centric solution the team may have initially overlooked.
What is the most popular ideation technique?
The most popular ideation technique is brainstorming because it straightforward, widespread, and easy to execute. Brainstorming is excellent when the team wants to objectively approach a concept and generate many ideas from different perspectives.
What should not be done during ideation?
During an ideation process everyone should feel encouraged to participate. The company should offer a safe space where employees feel the company favors diversity, follows up on ideas, and allows individuals to take their time.
What is the opposite of ideation?
The opposite of ideation is the elimination or prioritization of ideas. The process can occur during the “evaluating” phase of the ideation process if there are dozens of ideas or later on. The goal of the elimination is to choose the most promising concepts that have the best chance in the development stage according to user needs, potential impact, etc.

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