How to Ideate Better?

— 3 Key ingredients for Effective Brainstorming!

  • Do you feel stuck at getting ideas for finding solution to a problem, in spite of repeated attempts?
  • Do you feel run out of ideas after trying out several ideas in the past?
  • Are you worried that your ideas might be rejected or ridiculed?

Whatever might the problems you’d be facing, here’s the thing :

Ideating is as uncommon as common sense!

And, ideating is such an awesome intuitive process that it needs careful nurturing. Here’s why:

  • Explore unknown realms of varied innovative solutions
  • Enhance creative ingenuity of team members by diligently exploring out of box alternatives through being curiously inquisitive and applying lateral thinking strategies
  • Improve convergence of thoughts among team members in order to

— Empathize with end user requirements in accordance with changing times

— Accelerate the pace of innovation by processing end user needs aligned to required outcomes using right tools and techniques

— Distill right mix of information, insights, initiatives and inspiring ideas delivering useful outcomes

The Ideating Process

When an idea sparks within you, it has 3 aspects to it:

  • Firstly, an idea triggers the birth of a potentially impactful thought.
  • Secondly, it intuitively takes shape as a thought form from hitherto unknown and inexpressible realms of Universe.
  • Thirdly, it could evolve as an Actionable outcome delivering tangible benefits to the world at large!

Let’s see how it pans out. When the idea is taking shape, the process is similar to connecting dots among disparate elements. Those disparate things might be seemingly disconnected and even contradictory at times!

The interesting part is that this process is intuitive at a high level to begin with. And imagination evolves it by connecting dots among the disparate elements. Its similar to an aero plane taking off by gradually accelerating on the runway and then reaching the targeted altitude.

Situations we experience supply the problems which act as Cues to trigger the intuitive process. The cues exploit mind’s ever expansive nature beyond its current state of awareness.

The ever expansive state of mind stems from the energy it draws forth from the ideating process. The inexpressible seed thought evolves from the “unknown” realms of Universe. It becomes coherently expressible to the “known” state using words of language we speak!

This is similar to a fertilized egg growing in the womb of a mother, culminating as birth of a baby! And just like a baby, the longer the idea “lives”, it naturally thrives, creating more and better impact with time!

The expansion of mind leverages one’s dominant state of conditioning, which could apply one or more of the 5 supreme faculties of mind. They are Inference, Intelligence, Intellect, Imagination and Intuition which play the dominant roles to shape ideas in response to cues triggering them.

And the outcomes take shape in accordance with the dominant contribution from the respective faculty of mind. As you can see from the picture, applying different faculties of mind on the cues from situations gives rise to different outcomes.

Brainstorming Session Intricacies

To get an idea on what this means, consider a typical brainstorming session intended to generate ideas! As we know, not all members participating in a brainstorming session resonate with the cues from situations.

Therefore, those who treat the cues as mere events by virtue of their dominant conditioning, tend to infer them as “imprints”. Which means, they limit themselves to the “facts” pertaining to situations such as so and so happened at such and such times etc. These facts merely serve the purpose of “imprinting” the situations as memories in mind.

Whereas, some other members might apply themselves a little deeper and use their intelligence on the given cues. They come out with “information” viz. related trends pertaining to such events. Remember Google Trends and the contents it throws up?

Some other people go little farther and apply their intellect on the same cues. They come out with “ insights” such as the interesting highlights thereof which one can act upon. These actionable “insights” could act as “triggers” for ideating to find solutions to the problems being faced in such situations.

At this stage, interesting things begin to happen! Some enterprising people might take these “insights” as cues and suggest actionable steps using their “imagination” faculty which could give rise to “initiatives” capable of delivering favorable outcomes! The nature of such suggestions could be vague at best and not concrete enough to warrant further due diligence, though.

Now, the brightest among the group might use their “intuition” faculty to identify an “inspiring” future state from such “initiatives” and help figure them out as those worth launching, so to speak! Even though this appears far fetched, its this ultimate benefit from future potential outcome that could inspire the group to pursue such ideas with missionary zeal.

So, the first key thing to take care during the ideating is to create an ambience conducive to its growth, just like a mother’s womb. This entails entertaining only those thoughts conducive to supporting the “evolving” idea till it reaches a “mature state” of manifesting in the physical world as an inspiring initiative.

In other words, the inner dialogue of the group needs to be healthy for the idea to survive at first so that it can take off like an aero plane. Once the take off is smooth, manifestation in the physical world is similar to the aero plane reaching its targeted altitude.

In order to facilitate this smooth take off initially, the group needs to consciously apply the five faculties of mind to arrive at the best ideas worth taking forward. Of course, not all members of a group can use all the 5 faculties of mind during the brainstorming process.

So, the moderator needs to carefully influence the group to orchestrate opinions towards arriving at a few consolidated points of view. Such convergence of views among group members gives rise to shortlisted actionable “points of view” for further due diligence.

Conducting Brainstorming Session

Here’s what the moderator can do to drive converge of ideas among respective group members: Its assumed that the topic or problem statement to be brainstormed is already identified. A well framed topic or set of cues help conduct the session smoothly.

  • Moderator may observe the initial thoughts coming out from the members to ascertain which faculties of mind are dominant.
  • This may be done by noting individual thoughts on post-it notes etc. and grouping them according to the relevant faculties of mind.
  • It may then help to regroup teams such that mix of members expressing inference to intuition related thoughts are together.
  • Grouping members in such diverse mix helps in triggering insights and intuitive ideas through convergence of thoughts carefully moderated.
  • Members in each subgroup may discuss the cues to generate insights based on imprints and information gathered.
  • The insights so generated may be used to figure out initiatives which serve business objectives in a realistic manner.
  • From these initiatives, those with inspiring outcomes may be pruned, so that members may paraphrase them as “points of view” since they’re generated from converge of thoughts within the subgroup.
  • Members may pass on their finalized “points of view” to moderator for further processing.
  • Moderator may consolidate such “points of view” from all the subgroups to proceed with next steps outlined later on.

This exercise completes the ideating process with first ingredient fulfilled. Now let’s look at the second key ingredient needed for consummating further steps.

Of course, the manifestation of the consolidated ideas doesn’t happen by itself, just because they’re identified as worthy initiatives capable of delivering potentially impactful outcomes. These are those aero planes which are just taking off the ground towards their “leap of faith”!

They need the support of skilled pilot, capable and fit engines along with sufficient fuel and auxiliary systems to maneuver the aero planes into desired altitude. In the physical world, these roles are typically those of a mentor, the technology and other resources apart from like minded team of people.

So, before getting into the assessment of resources needed, its imperative to evaluate them using the last 3 I’s — Insights, Initiatives, Inspirations across the subgroups. Here’re the steps:

  • Moderator needs to evaluate the insights validated from Information gathered by all subgroups shall be consolidated to weed out weak ones.
  • Then initiatives from each subgroup shall be evaluated w.r.to the pruned list of insights so that strong ones are filtered out.
  • Now, it’d be easier to figure out the worthy “points of view” based on filtered out Initiatives with Inspiring outcomes.
  • All ideas or Points of view proposed are now consolidated across all subgroups to shortlist the best ideas with most inspiring outcomes.

So, as the best ideas become known, what’s relevant now is to ascertain the supportive resources which would help actualize the ideas in practical ways.

The objective of pooling the needed resources is to boost practical execution by the team members. This in turn brightens the prospect of fulfilling the third key ingredient in time, as we will see soon.

In order to facilitate practical execution, the bar needs to be raised higher since systematic efforts involving potential cross-functional collaboration are needed. Of course, it’d be much easier if the initiatives are low hanging fruits with the teams themselves managing all the resources needed.

However, some resources viz. subject matter experts etc. need to be sourced externally and such challenges must be effectively handled for accruing the best benefits to business.

Once the resources and associated challenges are proactively identified, the best ideas which have maximum chances of being realistically pursued will be identified. This in turn paves way for the 3rd ingredient which follows suit.

The 3rd and most crucial aspect is the consistent demand for such ideas from the end users being met on time. If the efforts put in by the team don’t meet the expectations of end users, validity of the idea itself becomes questionable.

Its survival and longevity in the market becomes difficult to justify its utility in serving the needs of end users in time. So, meeting end user demand in time is the 3rd key ingredient to be taken care of.

This calls for effective systems to be in place for timely execution, meeting the customer’s requirements within the budgetary constraints.

Alignment among team members is key to meeting the challenges cited above for timely execution. An important prerequisite for alignment is clarity on breaking an idea down to actionable steps delivering quantified outcomes along with clearly defined Roles & Responsibilities among team members.

Once these are set in place, execution would be smooth since viability of idea is an assured prospect. The stage would be ripe for the third key ingredient to be fulfilled, for which next steps are outlined as under:

  • Once the shortlisting of “points of view” is completed per the 3I’s criteria, the moderator may classify them into 3 categories w.r.to ease of taking action by concerned members of teams as under:
  • Points of view which a team can pursue by themselves
  • Points of view which a team needs support from other teams
  • points of view which need guidance and / or support from external experts and funding decisions etc.

Thus, stratifying these few “inspiring initiatives” into these 3 buckets have the potential to manifest as impactful outcomes when pursued with rigorous missionary zeal. So, the stratification of shortlisted ideas in the final step makes the job of making the needed resources available much easier.

Now, with all the decks cleared for fulfilling the 3 Key ingredients needed for an idea whose time has come, it truly becomes Unstoppable in creating desired impact!

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Living By Design is all about creating the Life you dream about! Its based on the principle: Everything is created twice — first in the mind and then in the physical reality. Napoleon Hill said, “whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve!”. This is towards making it happen!!

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Ramana Murthy H V

Ramana Murthy H V

Consultant, Entrepreneur; Loves to help people find their mojo in Living by Design!!

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