How to generate lots of new ideas

Want to spark fresh ideas? Whenever you face a new challenge or problem with your team (or even solo), try this! Turn a blank slate into a concise, well-assessed list of viable ideas ready for action.

Frame your problem as a question

Generate lots of ideas

Develop and clarify your ideas

⏱️ How much time will I invest?+
  • Over multiple days: two short sessions, about 1 hour each.
  • Half-day experience: two sessions for about an hour each, with a longer break in the middle.
💬 What example scenario will be used in the tactics below?+


Pip Creative Consultancy Company is planning an “Idea Storm” session to generate innovative solutions for enhancing communication between their creative and consultant teams. This brainstorming approach will involve collaborative and dynamic idea generation, focusing on breaking down departmental barriers and fostering open, creative dialogue.

1

Use How Might We… to frame your problem as a question

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⏱ Time: 1 hour

🧠 What’s the goal? Frame your problem as a question to get the group into a solution mindset.

👀 Why is this important? This tactic transforms problems and observations into solvable questions. A problem on its own can seem daunting. Rephrasing problems as questions is a powerful way to switch the mind from panic mode to solution mode.

💡 Tip: ask yourself if your question allows for a variety of solutions. If it doesn’t, broaden it.

Instructions

  1. Gather information about the problem you are solving. This could be in the form of recording an interview with an expert on the problem, or compiling research findings into a presentation (completed before workshop).
  2.  Since this is the start of your overall workshop, make sure to start with an icebreaker to warm everyone up.
  3. Inform the group that as they watch the interview or presentation, they should write down any problems they hear as ‘How Might We…’ question, one per sticky note. (5 minutes)
  4. Explain how to write a How Might We… question: rephrase a problem you hear as a question, so that it asks for a solution.There are two columns. The column on the left is Problems with three sticky notes. The first sticky notes says: Communication between departments with email is not consistent and often lacks information. The second sticky note says: Departments don't meet with each other in person/online. The third sticky note says: There is no designated person to communicate important information between departments (no structure). The column on the right is the question column. The first sticky note says: How might we improve communication between departments with messages that have all vital information? The second sticky note says: How might we get departments to meet with each other in person/online? The third sticky note says: How might we designate someone to communicate important information between departments (create a structure)?
  5. Present your research about the problem to the group. (25 minutes)
  6. Invite everyone to stick their notes on the workspace. (15 minutes)
  7. If you have a lot of competing questions, use Priority Map to work out which one to tackle first. (10 minutes) 
    There is graph with four quadrants. The x axis is small problem on left and big problem on right. Y axis is low cost at top and high cost at bottom. How might we designate someone to communicate important information between departments (create a structure)? This question is place high on y axis and just past the middle on the x axis. How might we improve communication between departments with messages that has all the vital information? This sticky note is placed at the top of the y axis and far right on the x axis. These two sticky notes are in the do now quadrant. The last sticky note is in the plan quadrent. How might we get departments to meet with each other in person/online? sticky note is to the middle left of the center of the x axis and just above the middle on the y axis.
    ⬇️ In the next tactic, take these questions and generate ideas with a Idea Eight.
2

Use Idea Eights to generate more ideas

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⏱ Time: 35 mins

🧠 What’s the goal? Generate lots of ideas and share them with each other.

👀 Why is this important? This tactic generates a lot of ideas, quickly. Sometimes, to be truly creative, our brains need structure and rules. By restricting space and time, but letting everyone know that anything goes – this tactic forces ideas out, fast. 

💡 Tip: encourage people not to overthink their ideas, you might want to even provide an example or two of how creative people can be. You can also pair up people into teams if your groups is struggling to find ideas alone.

Instructions

  1. Fold a piece of paper three times to make a grid of eight rectangles. (2 minutes)

  2. Define the problem to solve in the form of a How Might We… question (see tactic one). (2 minutes)
  3. Set a timer for one minute per crazy idea (one idea per box) and encourage each person (or groups of two) to write or draw as many ideas as possible. (8 minutes)

  4. At the end of the eight minutes, ask each person to talk through their ideas and steal each other’s ideas for the next step. You can also use the topics generated during the Mind Map exercise for inspiration. (5 minutes)
  5. Repeat the exercise for different How Might We… questions from the first tactic. You can also give each group a different How Might We… question if you’re tight on time. (8 minutes)
  6. Ask each participant to present their final ideas to the group. (10 minutes)

    ⬇️ In the next tactic, each person chooses their favourite idea and will develop them further with T-Bar Format.
3

Use T-Bar Format to develop your ideas further

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⏱ Time: 30 mins

🧠 What’s the goal? develop and clarify your ideas by drawing them up.

👀 Why is this important?This tactic helps you put your ideas into a format that can explain itself. Having clearly articulated ideas in a consistent format makes them easier to understand and compare in a group. It also encourages the development of an idea by expanding on the detail and function.

 

💡 Tip: to save time have the T-bar format already prepared (step 1) for all participants ready to use. 

Instructions

Ask every participant to follow these instructions:

  1. For chosen idea, draw a ‘T’ covering the height and width of a piece of paper. (1 minute)
    T-Bar Format
  2. On the right, give your idea a description that is easy to read. Bullet points are your friend. (3 minutes)
  3. Draw your idea on the left. It doesn’t have to be a work of art. It just needs to help communicate your idea. (5 minutes)
  4. At the top, give your idea an inspiring title. The title should communicate your idea clearly. (6 minutes)

Now, as a group:

  1. Each stick your T-Bars up on the wall and present them. (10 minutes)
  2. Prioritise the top three ideas with Secret Vote. (5 minutes)

    ⬇️ Now that you have generated and expanded your ideas, it is time to put some into action! Use Who, What, When to help you do this.
📚 What do I need before I start?+

In person

  • Prepare (book room, invite people, write and share agenda)
  • Materials (whiteboard, sticky notes, pens)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, screen projector)
  • Room (refreshments, temperature, chairs, wall space)

Hybrid

  • Prepare (book room, send call link, invite people, write and share agenda)
  • Materials (whiteboard, sticky notes, pens, Miro board)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, screen projector)
  • Room (refreshments, temperature, chairs, wall space)

Online

  • Prepare (invite people, write and share agenda, create and send call invite)
  • Materials (Miro board)
  • Tech check (charger, adapter, Microphone/headphones)
✨ Extra reading+
💭 What next?+

Congratulations you have completed your Idea Storm! You have put a problem through its paces by gathering lots of ideas, narrowing them down and evaluating them.

With all these new ideas, it is time for a Design Dash to get your ideas to a testable solution.

Do you have questions, tips or tricks, etc? Join our Slack community of over 13,000 professionals.

1 thought on “How to generate lots of new ideas”

  1. This is just what I needed. Have the cards was nice but I struggled with putting utilizing in a functional way. This helps me get started and will help me get the most from my purchase. Much appreciated!

    Reply

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