In-house Ideation process. A checklist and agenda for IT managers

In-house Ideation process. A checklist and agenda for IT managers

Natalia Figas
April 29, 2021  | 5 min read

If you are looking for an Ideation session checklist and agenda that will help you leverage new ideas and solve your clients’ problems, you have just found it.

We have prepared an easy-to-use checklist that will drive business and management success. We covered UX best Design Thinking practices and complemented them with expert’s comments.

From the very first step to good-to-knows when organising in-house workshops, use this checklist as a mini-guide for running your Ideation session smoothly.

With the list, you will be sure that you are not missing anything meaningful for the process. Read the article to get even more information on the facilitator role, idea management, the best time to Ideate or commonly used methods.

Ideation workshop agenda-1Download agenda Ideation workshop checklistDownload checklist

 

Here are the main categories covered in this guide:

How to use this checklist

We have divided this checklist into several sections. In combination with the article below, each section covers organising the effective Ideation session: the structure, techniques, tools and rules.

Suppose you participated in or facilitated any Ideation workshop before. In that case, there is a great chance you already know how to acquire great ideas.

However, support yourself with the advice of our experts to run even more effective sessions.

With the list, you can pick methods and tools to solve your problems, develop ideas, avoid obstacles, and maximise opportunities for a ground-breaking session.

Ideation session structure

Customers, users, and employees face problems every day. But in whole or in part, you can solve them. The Design Thinking method is used to discover those problems and address them. The technique consists of five steps:

  1. Defining the problem
  2. Research
  3. Ideation
  4. Prototyping
  5. Testing

Ideation is the third step. Thanks to it, you generate new ideas to solve existing problems or come up with new products or services.

The key to a good session is the freedom to express your thoughts. Everyone who is invited to a session should feel that their idea is equal to other ideas. If you want to introduce an atmosphere of equality, inform participants from the very beginning that there is no room for negative thinking, doubts or judging.
- Katarzyna Leśniok, UX Team Leader at Skyrise.tech

How long can the meeting be?

The most commonly adopted in-house models are sessions lasting from fifteen minutes to an hour and longer sessions lasting between one and three hours. Before the workshop, think about how long a session should be for your product.

  • 15 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 hour to 3 hours
  • Half-day (4-5 hours)
  • Full day (6+ hours)
  • Several days
  • Full week

Who should participate in the Ideation session?

IT managers often practice Ideation sessions alone. These can be effective sessions, but research shows that using other people's knowledge and ideas when creating a product vision is strategically the right move. Small group sessions or working in pairs pay off the most.

  • Try to link the mission of the session to the participants’ areas of expertise and goals. Select those who understand the challenge - even if it is only one person.
  • Invite those who have different perspectives to support a diverse environment and allow ideas to flourish.
  • To ensure that the meeting results in actionable progress, invite decision-makers and key stakeholders.
  • Ensure that your participants’ list includes people with different skill sets, expertise, attitude, tenure, etc.
  • Involve your clients – this can be particularly powerful in a B2B context.

For instance, if you want to overcome a problem with multiple support tickets from clients, gather in one room: a person who talks with clients on the phone or responds to them via e-mail, the leader of the Support Department, an IT specialist who knows the most about technical details of the support module, and a UX designer.

Large groups can easily become unwieldy and difficult to facilitate. Make sure that you cooperate only with people who can really add value to the meeting. Do not invite someone just because of their role in the organisation.
- Maciej Lukas, Strategic Growth Manager at Skyrise.tech

Facilitator

As a facilitator, you are responsible for leading the group and utilising design thinking methods.

First of all, you need to define and state what you want to achieve with your session. You need to set the specific challenge and keep in mind that you need particular results too.

  • Use the paper to write down your objectives, so every person in the room can see them.
  • Note down the main questions you want to discuss.
  • Make sure meeting participants understand your goals.
  • If you want the session to be even more effective, schedule short meetings with each participant before the session to clarify the objectives of the upcoming meeting.
  • Set the meeting agenda and send invitations.

Remember - among every person in the room, you need to be focused all the time.

When to Ideate?

Choosing the right time for the Ideation session is important because, in many cases, it determines the success of the creative process. So, when is the best time to utilise the meetings?

The previously cited Nielsen Norman Group study shows that it makes the most sense to organise an Ideation session after user research and before prototyping. It is important then to take into consideration your research outcomes and implement them into the Ideation phase. That way you and your Ideation team have particular personas or business requirements on the top of your minds.

It is worth mentioning that if the session is conducted at a random point in the process, unfortunately, its effectiveness is very low.

In other words, you will get the best results when you run a complete, five-step Design Thinking process.

ideation-process-when-to-run

Source: nngroup.com

Ideation techniques and tools

There are many techniques supporting ideation: IDEO Design Kit, parallel design, bodystorming, design idea card decks, design charrettes, deprivation or simulation studies.

Choose the one that best suits your current project. Below you will find a description of the most frequently used techniques during Ideation sessions.

  1. Brainstorming
    The group comes up with ideas without judging or categorising them. You write them all down on the board, and after brainstorming, you move on to evaluating your ideas (storyboarding is often used at this stage).
  2. Crazy Eights
    Give each participant a sheet of A4 paper divided into 8 parts. Ask each person to fill in six to eight squares with a picture with an idea for the solution within 5 minutes. Then hang cards on the board, hand out sticky notes and ask the participants to stick them on the two concepts that appeal to them the most.
  3. Brainwriting
    Give each participant an A4 sheet; have each one write down three ideas. Then have everyone pass their card to the right. Now the participants improve the ideas from the card they received or generate three new ideas from them.
  4. Mind mapping
    Write the problem you are working on in capital letters in the centre of the board. From there, lead the following lines and write down the ideas of the participants with slogans. Mind maps work well with the ideation of features, cases or complex problems that benefit from being illustrated.
  5. Storyboarding
    The best usage of storyboarding comes after the brainstorming activity. Gather all the ideas on sticky notes and place them on the top of the whiteboard so that everyone sees them. Now draw the steps that need to be taken to achieve a goal of your user. Now place the sticky notes under each step.
  6. Worst Possible Idea
    Ask team members to come up with the worst possible idea to solve the problem you are dealing with. After fifteen minutes of generating bad ideas, the group picks one of the most interesting/awful ideas. Try to turn it into a good or great idea by using one of two prompts.
    • Is there something of value in this idea that could turn it into a good idea?
    • If we reverse this idea, could we create a valuable new idea?

 

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Ideation tools

Depending on whether you conduct the meeting offline or online, you will use several tools.

You can run online meetings with Miro – it is a free online mind mapping, brainstorming and creative collaboration tool.

If the group you are coordinating will work in one room, provide everyone with:

  1. Paper sheets – A4 format is the best one because it provides space for writing down all the thoughts.
  2. Sticky notes – to note down singular ideas and stick them to a whiteboard/a wall/a large table/the floor.
  3. Markers and pens.

Three rules to follow

There are four rules that you never want to break. They provide value, and if you stick to them, you will lead your group through an Ideation process to success.

Rule number #1: There are NO BAD IDEAS

It is essential for the success of an Ideation meeting. Every participant needs to understand that during the session, ideas are equal, and they can feel comfortable with whatever comes to their minds. You want them to contribute ideas without even asking for them.

  • No “yes, but...”
  • No doubts
  • No negative comments
  • No criticism
  • Every idea is equally good

Rule number #2: Note down everything

You must capture every idea for a solution. Otherwise, in a moment, you can lose a brilliant thought or discourage participants for further discussion.

  • Use post-it notes
  • Draw
  • Utilise emojis or symbols

Rule number #3: Quantity over quality

Your goal is to generate as many ideas as possible. Of course, you will select better and worst further, but first, you need to ensure a high volume of thought.

Got any questions? Our specialists will answer them all!