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Stuck for ideas? Throw out the brainstorm and try something different

Great ideas sometimes come in the shower, but most of the time they don’t. Collaborating and iterating concepts with your team can foster out of the box ideas and create a unified approach. Explore these uncommon techniques in your next brainstorming session to get those creative ideas flowing.

Get a new perspective

Force analogies

Forcing an analogy involves making comparisons between the current use case and something else that is unrelated. This reframing can invoke fresh ideas that could only be found from a truly new perspective.

Brainstorm bad ideas

Create a list of absolutely terrible ideas! Get your team together and create the worst case scenario of product features. The human mind can easily generate ideas that are polar opposites of each other, which may generate some fresh thinking.

Question every assumption

“But it’s always been like this.” Question these statements! Radical ideas that break the norm can disrupt an entire industry. Think Uber, Airbnb or these disruptive aviation concepts.

Draw some toast

The Drawing Toast technique focuses more how the working parts of an idea. The basis for the idea is that a group of people who are asked to draw how to make toast, will produce widely varying results. The activity demonstrates the varying mental models that each individual holds. The concept can be used to iterate conceptual models and ideas.

Rapid fire ideas

Crazy 8s

This technique used by the Google Ventures team, involves the team rapidly sketching 8 ideas in 5 minutes. Ideas are then discussed and iterated on by the team. The time limit on this activity is the key as it creates an environment for risk free exploration.

Attributes and values listings

Sleek, friendly, fast and powerful. These are all adjectives that can describe a product, feature, company or user group. Get some sticky notes and place attributes or values around your workspace. These will give the foundation for ideas that align with the overall vision.

Brain Walking

We’ve all used brainstorming, but what about brain walking? Your team gets together and each member sketches an idea on flipchart paper placed around the room. They then move around the room and build on each of the ideas. Standing is said to release creativity but this technique also provides an easy way to collaborate on ideas.

Go directly to the source

Rapid ethnography

Ethnographic studies or immersive experiences can uncover insights, behaviours and ideas that are not possible from sitting behind a desk. Get out and shadow some users, read the post it notes on their computers and observe in context. This technique doesn’t have to be of social science standards. Rapid ethnography trades off precision for speedy results. This technique has been used by Netflix and the original think tank, Xerox PARC.

Follow the leaders

Within your customer base there are die hard brand enthusiasts (hopefully). Also known as ‘lead users’, they have a deep understanding of the product space, are innovators and have behaviours that change earlier than the general trend. These users can identify new uses, needs and areas for improvement.

Guerrilla user research

Like guerrilla advertising, guerrilla research just pops up out of no where. Usability test or survey users where they might be using your product. A transport app at the train station or a new music service at a music festival. Researching in context means the respondents thoughts are already in the right space.

These techniques will help your team go beyond the brainstorm and the shower and can be applied to design, creative, strategies and development.

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