Ideation, Ideation, Ideation

Michelle Dawson, Innovation Manager at Thirteen explores 'ideation' in her most recent blog.

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When I was first learning about service design and more broadly about design thinking, the term ideation was new to me.

It sounded like a made-up word (it isn’t, I checked, it’s been a word since 1818!). It’s reassuring to know it means what it sounds like: the process of generating new ideas and solutions.

At Thirteen we use the term quite a lot and this can sometimes get confusing for colleagues. So, for my benefit, the benefit of my colleagues and anyone reading this, when we talk about Ideation at Thirteen, here’s what we mean:

  1. Our ideation platform. This is a brand-new online platform that enables everyone who works for Thirteen to share their ideas about ways we could do things better or differently. People can post their ideas about any area of the business, and their idea gets put through our front door for delegation to the right team. Sometimes we pick that up as innovation work, other times it’s led by the ideation, projects and programme team. The ideation platform is a kind of catch-all, safety net for every idea, no matter how random or wacky (so far, they have all been sensible, interesting, and well thought through) to be heard and considered. We also post business challenges on the platform to give everyone an opportunity to share their ideas about how to solve some of our bigger problems.
  2. Ideation as an activity in its own right. Sometimes we hold standalone ideation sessions, often when there is already a well-defined problem or process that needs fixing or improving. This is pretty much what it says on the tin, we find interesting and creative ways to bring people together and inspire them to come up with new ideas and use these to help solve the problem.
  3. Ideation as part of the design process. The innovation team uses ideation within a structured design process. Usually, ideation as an activity comes into its own when the problem is well defined, understood (from the perspective of everyone, including the customer) and able to be clearly communicated. Sometimes this means taking an idea back a bit and making sure we properly understand the problem it’s trying to fix. In real life this means someone’s idea, posted on the ideation platform might end up generating more ideation sessions further down the line and then we end up with more ideas. From an innovation perspective this is great, but I can see why it gets confusing.

The language can take on a life of its own if we aren’t careful and it can put people off getting involved. Often the very best ideas are hidden in the chats between frontline staff or waiting to be revealed through better understanding the lived experience of our customers.

We need to keep working to make sure there's a variety of ways that those ideas and insights can reach the people who can help turn them into life changing innovations.

To us at Thirteen, ideation is a tool we use in different ways to get the same outcome, to improve the lives of our customers and continue to strive to be better at what we do.