Ideation Explained

Ideation is an innate skill employed by the best product designers and inventors, but seldom used to design businesses.   Ideation is the most interesting part of Design Thinking; it is also the most difficult to manage effectively.   A manager needs to have both an innate feel for the creative process, and the natural organizational discipline of an effective project manager.

Ideation is not a planned process, it can not be predicted what solutions will develop.   Elmer Gates was an expert ideator, though he often called it mentation.   The quotes in this section are Elmer's.   Elmer used ideation to produce a staggering number of inventions.   While he could determine the subject he would work on, he could not predetermine what problems he would solve.   As well as being an inventor, Elmer thought much about ideation; he concluded that the problems his mind would solve were determined by the kind of information about the scenario he held in his mind, “The mind often leaps to new insights, seemingly skipping several logical steps, but it makes no skips; the unseen steps are subconsciously taken from actual data.”   To provide his subconscious with the information it needed, he acquired as much varied information as possible about the subject area.  

If you gaze at a pattern on the wall the subconscious mind will generate picture after picture.   The subconscious has at its disposal all of your memory-content, whether you can remember it or not.   If you have a problem to solve the subconscious will suggest many combinations of ideas.   The conscious mind pulls out those that appear to work, so that they can be further studied.

Flow is a positive mental state that accompanies effective ideation “A characteristic symptom of creative ideation is this ecstasy of enthusiasm which accompanies it.”   This state is often achieved when working alone.

Producing something workable is not easy.   Sometimes we have to come to terms with a new disadvantage in order to accept an item that is much improved in other respects.   The pneumatic tyres on our cars have disadvantages compared to their solid rubber forbears; they can be punctured, or blow out while you are travelling at speed.   Knowing which new disadvantages are acceptable in order to achieve new advantages is a further challenge.   It is not a rational trade off;  the fickle market often determines what it accepts and what it does not, and is capable of rejecting good products (those ‘ahead of their time’).

We have produced an Ideation Toolkit that contains 22 tools; some are concepts and some are thinking processes.   Between them they can help solve difficult problems, though they are no substitute for a gifted ideator.

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