Design thinking #3; ideation and directed thinking.

Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology, defined two types of thinking — directed and non-directed.

Directed thinking is, as the name suggests, a process where thoughts are directed using pre-prepared stimuli. Ideation applied to business-based tasks can benefit from this method, because it can arrive at a palatable output from a session relatively quickly. The outcome is, of course, influenced by the stimuli used.

Non-directed thinking, on the other hand, is where ideas are allowed to develop by free association. This is the process most often thought to produce creative ideas and lateral solutions: blue sky, outside the box and radical. Without context, though, non-directed thinking can result in people with functional responsibility focusing on their problems. A kind of self-imposed direction. So ideation sessions are usually more productive when guided.

Non-directed thinking does have its place. Ideation is often the best part of an innovation project: when all the data are in, we can let the creative juices flow. Throw the net wide and all kinds of good stuff can be caught. But how many times have you been ultra-creative, only to have the least radical options selected by management at the end of the session?

To help overcome such disappointments, we apply a dose of both methodologies.

From researching a client’s business, any creative group (like room44) will develop an external perspective. We apply this naivety to the task of direction. It’d be going a bit far to tell you how we do this here, but let’s just say our ideation sessions deliver an outcome that meets the business need, and reward participants by ensuring their creativity is focused to achieve that outcome. Satisfaction all-round, treating non-directed and directed thinking with equal importance.

Creative ideas generally fall into buckets of: ‘we can do this now’; ‘we need a bit longer on this one’; and ‘this is where we want to end up, but we don’t know how yet.’ And that’s your innovation portfolio right there. A list of actionable outcomes, linked by the thread of directed thinking to arrive at a vision of your future, with a line right back to where you are today.

Don’t forget, though — the way that direction is informed depends on the quality of insight you feed in. It’s a skill we often coach clients in, so they can go on developing it as their innovation strategy comes to life.

Future thinking. Future proofing. Innovation justified. It’s what we do.