Ideation (creative process)

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Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought that can be either visual, concrete, or abstract.[1] Ideation comprises all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization.[2] Ideation can be conducted by individuals, organizations, or crowds. As such, it is an essential part of the design process, both in education and practice.[3]


The word "ideation" has come under informal criticism as being a term of meaningless jargon,[4] as well as being inappropriately similar to the psychiatric term for suicidal ideation.[5]

Methods and approaches[edit]

There are many methods and approaches for ideation. A list of common ideation techniques is as follows:

  • Brainstorming: Brainstorming is a popular technique for generating new ideas. The basic premise is to get a group together and have them share their ideas freely, without judgement.[6] The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible, regardless of whether they are good or bad. Once the brainstorming session is over, the group can evaluate the ideas and narrow them down to the best ones. Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate new ideas, especially when the group has a diverse range of perspectives. However, creating a safe and welcoming environment where all voices are heard is essential. Otherwise, the brainstorming session may not be very productive.
  • Idea mapping: Idea mapping is a method that you can use to generate new ideas. The process begins by brainstorming a central idea and then developing that idea by adding related concepts and details. The result is a map or diagram that visually captures the relationships between ideas. This technique can be used individually and in groups, and it is an effective way to generate a large volume of ideas quickly. Idea mapping is often used in business, engineering, and design, where creativity is essential for success.
  • Reverse brainstorming: Reverse brainstorming is a creative process that involves generating ideas for achieving the desired goal and then working backwards to find the best way to achieve that goal. It is often used when the usual methods of brainstorming have failed or when there is a need to think outside the box. You can utilise reverse brainstorming for both personal and professional goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, you might reverse brainstorm by thinking of how you could eat more healthily and exercise more. On the other hand, if you're going to increase sales at your business, you might reverse brainstorm by thinking of how you could promote your products or services. In each case, you would start with the desired goal and then generate ideas for how to achieve that goal. Reverse brainstorming is an effective way to break out of restrictive thinking patterns and develop fresh ideas.
  • SCAMPER: SCAMPER is an acronym for a creative thinking technique that can be used to generate new ideas. The letters stand for seven different aspects of ideation: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Reverse. By considering each of these elements, in turn, it is possible to develop new ways to approach a problem or challenge. For example, suppose you are looking for a new way to market your product. In that case, you might consider substituting a different type of customer, combining two or more products, adapting your product to new use, or reversing the order in which customers use your product. By using SCAMPER, you can quickly generate a wide range of ideas that you can further develop into more concrete solutions.
  • The 5 Whys technique: The 5 Whys technique is a simple yet powerful tool for driving to the root cause of a problem. The basis of the technique is to ask "why" five times to identify the primary causal factor behind a particular issue. You can use the 5 Whys for both simple and complex problems, and it is often used in conjunction with other root cause analysis tools, such as fishbone diagrams and cause-and-effect tables. Although it may seem simplistic, the 5 Whys can be an invaluable tool for uncovering hidden problems and generating new ideas.
  • Pugh matrix:
  • Morphological analysis
  • 6 thinking hats
  • The method of loci
  • Bodystorming: Bodystorming is a creative process that involves using the body to simulate various actions and explore different solutions to a problem. The term was coined by Gijs van Wulfen, who developed the process as a way to overcome the limits of traditional brainstorming. With bodystorming, participants are encouraged to physically act out possible solutions to a problem, allowing for a more immersive and realistic exploration of potential solutions. The process can be used alone or in groups, and is often used in conjunction with other ideation techniques such as role-playing and mind mapping. Bodystorming is an effective way to generate new ideas, and has been used in a variety of fields including product design, architecture, and marketing.
  • Brainwriting

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jonson, 2005, page 613
  2. ^ Graham and Bachmann, 2004, p. 54
  3. ^ Broadbent, in Fowles, 1979, page 15
  4. ^ Berkun, Scott (7 August 2008). "Why Jargon Feeds on Lazy Minds". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  5. ^ Thomson, Stephanie (14 June 2015). "Annoying Tech Jargon to Remove From Your Vocabulary-The Muse". The Muse. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Brainstorming: Generating Many Radical, Creative Ideas". Retrieved 21 June 2022.

External links[edit]

  • Michalko, Michael (2006) "Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques Paperback" ISBN 978-1580087735
  • Jonson, B (2005) "Design Ideation: the conceptual sketch in the digital age". Design Studies Vol 26 No 6 pp 613–624. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2005.03.001
  • Graham, D and Bachmann, T., (2004) Ideation: The Birth and Death of Ideas. John Wiley and Sons Inc. ISBN 978-0471479444
  • Fowles, R A (1979) "Design Methods in UK Schools of Architecture". Design Studies, Vol 1 No 1 pp 15–16 doi:10.1016/0142-694X(79)90022-X