Ty Hagler was expecting to get a group of innovators upset with him at a recent talk on ideation. He posed the question, "if you think back to the top 5, 10, even 20 ideas of your career so far, how many of them occurred during an ideation session?" We had some folks in the room who frequently ran or participated in ideation sessions, yet were stopped short. No one could think of a really impactful idea that had occurred during an ideation session, despite this being a room of 30 incredibly talented designers and innovation practitioners. Why is that?
The truth of face-to-face brainstorming is that the quantity of ideas generated per person drops significantly each time someone is added to the team. The political nature of the typical office can be stifling. Think about your most recent brainstorm, when a colleague was talking were you thinking about your ideas or trying to figure out how to respond to them? That's kind of what we thought. Check out Leigh Thompson's Creative Conspiracy for empirical validation of this concept.
Our goal is to shake up the system.
After breaking down our participants' walls, Ty brought forward a case study on how to prevent Anaphylaxis or a possibly fatal allergic reaction.
He offered two challenge statements:
What if we altered the shape of the EpiPen so a person with an allergy could carry it at all times.
What if technology was integrated into the EpiPen to ensure anyone using it knew how, when, why, etc it was needed.
The participants had five minutes (for what is normally a four hour process, minimum) to individually generate ideas on their laptops, tablets, or phones and the results were pretty much what we expected. Over sixty unique thoughts ranging from nano-inserts to various iterations of wearable devices came into our system. Next, everyone anonymously "liked" their favorite ideas.
"The most interesting observation is that no one waited for more instruction like you often see in live group brainstorming sessions, everyone just added ideas – no hesitation."
"No one knew who posted what idea, so people were free to let loose. It worked."
In the end, no one got upset. The insights Ty provided blew away those in attendance and there's no doubt that that this practice will get you and your organization to peak creative performance.
Check it out here.