Five Strategies for Leading More Effective Ideation Sessions

03.25.21

In an ever-evolving world where change is the only constant, business professionals are being asked to build and strategize for the needs of today, while envisioning the needs of tomorrow. As such, organizations are becoming more and more reliant on ideation session to spark ideas and build future product roadmaps. Whether you use a human-centered design or design thinking approach, simply facilitating a meeting isn’t enough to secure a meaningful place for your brand in the future. In order for the session to be impactful, it’s as much about what you prepare before and after as what you do in it.

When it comes time to plan your next ideation session, consider these five components to drive success:

1. Invite the right people and prep them to engage.

When considering who to have in your next ideation session, it’s important to have the right people around the table, considering both their internal and external perspectives.

When planning your attending team include:

From an external perspective, consider:

Once an initial list of attendees is identified, think beyond the role or expertise that an individual brings to also balance the right group dynamics.  Following that, identify what pre-work exercises might be necessary to get everyone on the same page in terms of goals, outcomes, and inspiration to get ideas flowing prior to the start of the session.

2. Focus the ideation on strategic growth territories.

Ensuring your ideation session has the right focus is essential to producing ideas that result in business results. While sessions may be centered around needs, jobs, pain points, and/or white space opportunities, taking the time to transform those into built-out strategic growth territories* allows for more in-depth understanding of guardrails, taking into account consumer, market, and business implications.

A strategic growth territory is an ownable opportunity space that reflects the consumer need and where the market is going. Key aspects of a territory include:

Want to get a jumpstart on building your strategic growth territory? Check out our one-page template.

3. Have hip-pocket exercises to drive new ways of thinking.

While some groups may have pent-up ideas they’re itching to share, a variety of brainstorming approaches ensures all voices have an opportunity to contribute while the groups hears and responds to all creative and new ideas.

Beyond simply open-floor brainstorming, consider mixing in a few novel strategies in your next ideation session, such as:

A good rule of thumb is to have two additional exercises in your hip pocket should the session not initially produce the right type of ideas, or if idea generation hits a wall.

4. Build and maintain the energy.

While you can’t control others’ energy, you can create the right environment by engaging the senses from the start. Set the tone using strategies from thematic music, sizzle reels, or a sensory immersion kit—that all connect to the strategic growth territory you’ve uncovered and serves as an additional touchpoint to the consumer. Additionally, explore energy-building activities that get people up and moving, and re-invigorate the discussion. Customize approaches based on if the session is in-person or virtual. Check out some tips for virtual sessions here.

5. Create a communication and execution plan.

Save time in your session to gain commitment, all the while developing a communication plan for next steps. This critical step is often missed, and individuals are left with lack of clarity on their role in moving ideas to the next stage.

Ideation sessions present an opportunity to build cross-functional relationships, deepen your understanding of the consumer, and secure a position for your organization in the future. Practicing these strategies, and continuing to adapt along the way, will keep the session both engaging and productive for all stakeholders.

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