High quality ideation sessions are built around design concepts crafted to explore complex or ambiguous challenges, surface new ideas, or stretch thinking into new spaces.
Trends & tensions
The session in this case was built around trends and tensions that allowed the executive attendees to explore the merits and pitfalls of opposing views across a number of trending topics.
Mindset & perspective
For a productive session, having the right mix of people to infuse different perspectives into the group is important, but even if attendees can’t be curated (as is often the case) creating the right mindset for people ideating together is critical. This session, as is the case with many of my sessions, started with a prompt that inquired about a recent personal experience with shopping. The personal nature of the question allows attendees to draw from their experiences to have a wide range of content to draw from, and introduces an element of vulnerability as they give people a glimpse into their lives. This vulnerability is a core component of effective ideation and allows the group to explore more 'risky' topics together going forward.
Seeing around corners
The work for this session started well before the main gathering with an investigation of consumer and experiential trends to inspire attendees. This was done through secondary research to gather insight and pluck real-world examples to illustrate where momentum was growing.
Creating tensions to relieve tension
Once several trend areas were identified, the trends were compared to find opposing directions. These trends under tension allowed for the creation of an activity where there was no ‘right’ answer — only options that could be explored and explained. This opens up more fluid dialog as attendees have no fear of a misstep with their words as all potential directions have merit already embedded through the surfaced examples.
Designing a tangible artifact
To inspire attendees, physical books were handcrafted that laid out the trends and tensions while providing examples of how different brands brought the trends into the world. Having a personal tactile element changed the environment for attendees, gave them space to develop their own point-of-view, gave them the freedom to revisit trends at their own pace, and stopped group-think as attendees recorded their answers on their own form independent from the view of others.
Developing an exercise
Building on the exploration, an exercise was developed for attendees to plot colorful dotted stickers on a spectrum where they believed aspects of our business could go in the future. For some added surprise and delight the exercise cards were built into the back cover of the tangible booklets and could be pulled out and personalized once the exercise started after the initial exploration.
Stirring the pot
Once all attendees had weighted in, the physical sticker dots were transformed into digital slides that compiled the votes of every individual — plotting potential directions across the spectrum of each tension. Discussion was facilitated from there pulling on the tensions and the merits of leaning one way or another with all attendees discussing the various points-of-view they embedded into their choices.
Skimming the cream
After robust discussion, the top reasoning and arguments in pursuit of particular tensions and trends were themed out from the larger discussion and plotted for additional deep dives to explore what pursuing them may look like for our business in real life. This wrapped the ideation session, but marked the starting line for where the surfaced ideas could go moving forward.