Warming up for productive ideation

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

We firmly believe that successful ideation is the spark that leads to your success. You may have an elaborate plan of action that you are excited to execute, but if this isn’t based on collaborative ideation, your chance of winning becomes less.

Ideation sessions are where the seeds of promise are created. And with ideation being a team undertaking, there’s one thing that you should establish early on – and you might be taking this for granted just like many others in business.

The crucial establishment of trust

Building trust among teams is one of the golden objectives in ideation. Without trust, there would be no synergy, and without synergy, you won’t have your team moving as one unit towards your goal.

With a dozen team members on board in an ideation session, we don’t often see that we have a dozen different backgrounds, a dozen perspectives worth sharing, and a dozen ways of doing things differently. If you see the opportunities in diversity, you’ll have all that you need for the best ideas to come to fruition.

Your icebreaker is the perfect warm-up, and it will set the tone for the duration of the session, and all succeeding sessions. Icebreakers come in handy for everyone in the room to get to know everyone else on some level. There are many icebreakers that you can use, but we encourage you to use one that is purposeful – one that serves to wipe off the mental and emotional whiteboard so that everyone starts the journey at the exact same point. Resetting everyone to a clean slate allows for ideas to come in easily later on.

Icebreakers are not just about every person taking turns telling everyone their names and where they’re from. There are a lot more activities you can do that are more interesting and engaging. When each person gets to a fair level of openness and sharing, each develops respect for the cultural context or expertise of everybody else in the room.

It also gives everyone an idea of each other’s strengths. You might find that one is a great planner, while another is more talented in execution. One might be extremely talented as a thinker, and another one is a pure storyteller. The variety of things you uncover in an icebreaker is like seeing the cards you’re dealt for the first time. Only then can you play the game.

The right mindset for ideation

The goal in warming up is for everyone to attain a mindset of growth and expanse, and the willingness to explore new techniques and other ways of doing things. In order to achieve this, you must keep things moving. Note that with more interaction, team members get to know each other more intimately and get a fair measure of what each other can do. This also strengthens the bond of trust.

One of the more underrated methods of bringing people together in ideation sessions is the use of your trusty old marker and board. If one member is able to freely express his ideas – whether through words or sketches – it’s only a matter of time before another finds something that he can relate to. Soon enough, you’ll see the group start building connections.

When people find similarities between each other, this creates affinity. Many teammates have been pleasantly surprised to find out how connected they actually are to each other. This is how openness leads to trust, and eventually, better ideation.

Parker Lee

Parker Lee is the managing partner of Territory, a design consultancy, who has developed and led teams in transformation, design thinking, and business development for decades. Co-author of The Art of Opportunity, he has created and facilitated dozens of design and visual thinking engagements.

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