Common roadblocks to ideation success

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Ideation sessions are the germinating seed of successful product design, which is why it’s imperative to lead them successfully. However, even when you have ample time, an inspired team, and unparalleled resources, no ideation session is completely immune to roadblocks. And without critical attention, some roadblocks may go unnoticed.

Here are three roadblocks to consider when planning your next ideation session.

1. The people in the room

It’s common to see a seemingly diverse mix of people coming together to contribute their ideas to the group discussion. However, in many ideations, most participants couldn’t relate to what the speaker was talking about, even when the session had been going on for a few minutes. In human-centered design, participants must have shared objectives and knowledge of the subject for everyone to achieve a fair level of appreciation for the topic at hand.

Prior to the ideation session, it’s important to include the participants who have a hand in the design, as well as those who are going to be the recipients of the design results. Anyone else outside of these parameters is no more than a mere observer.

2. The diversity of personality types

Diversity of thought and ideas can fuel interesting, intriguing, and insightful discussions in your ideation session, but this may also turn into a roadblock. You may have one person who is a numbers person or one who likes to discuss only what’s measurable and empirical. You may have an introvert whose brilliance only surfaces outside of the group setting. These things can disrupt the focus and the flow of the discussion.

There’s not much the facilitator can do to control the diverse personalities that naturally color the group setting. What a good facilitator can do, however, is manage the session so that everybody has a fair chance of sharing their ideas and bringing those concepts to life. Creativity is key in facilitation, and the facilitator should have several activities in mind so that participation works for everyone in the group and not just a few members.

3. Dominant participants

There are times when one or two participants tend to hog the limelight, and their ideas get presented more often than others. This can be a result of many things, such as personality types or even just the quality of their ideas.

To avoid this problem, it’s important to set some ground rules before beginning the ideation session. For example, you can give each participant a certain amount of time to share their idea, and then move on to the next person. Additionally, you can ask everyone to write down their ideas prior to the start of the session so that each person has a chance to share.

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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