Innovation in the workplace is predominantly driven by the workforce, so your employees are your greatest asset in the successful development of your business. As business owners and managers, it is important to facilitate formal channels for employees to generate new ideas and concepts. Regardless of how talented or skilled employees may be, innovation is something that needs to be actively cultivated.
By implementing ideation techniques into your daily operations and workflow, your employees can be prepared to problem-solve any concerns or situations that arise. Additionally, this keeps your company ahead of the curve by creating the opportunity to predict and set trends in the marketplace. Here are three ideation techniques that businesses can use to foster innovation among their workforce.
Brainstorming is one of the common techniques used by professionals to come up with new ideas or solve problems, but reverse brainstorming flips the conventions of regular brainstorming to invoke fresh thinking. It allows employees to think outside of the box beyond the constraints of the usual methods of ideation, and it provokes points or concepts that they would not have thought of otherwise.
Reverse brainstorming can be enacted as followed:
- Identify a challenge (ex. how to increase the speed of production time for a product)
- Reverse the challenge (ex. how to decrease the speed of production time)
- Devise as many solutions to the reverse challenge as possible.
- Flip the reverse solutions to derive answers for the original challenge.
This is a particularly helpful exercise when employees get repeatedly stuck on the same problem as it takes a different approach. Instead of trying the same methods in a rotation, reverse brainstorming provides a new angle that requires creativity and ingenuity.
Storyboarding involves developing a visual representation of a scenario that illuminates real-life situations for a specific challenge or topic pertaining to your business. There is a broad variety of interpretations that can be used for this technique, but in general, it involves a team illustrating a visual story of how a specific scenario could play out.
For instance, storyboarding can be enacted as followed:
- Identify a scenario worthy of exploration related to the team.
- Assign characters and plot points within the scenario.
- Draw the storyline as established across a series of illustrations.
Once the storyboard is complete, the team should analyze the various illustrations to learn about the pertinent aspects of the derived scenario that can help their ideation and decision-making. This is an effective method of exploration when businesses are trying to gain a stronger understanding of a specific challenge or trend. When done efficiently, storyboarding serves as a visual simulation of real-life scenarios that teach employees how to tackle potential problems they may face and how those problems impact the company’s stakeholders.
Mind maps help employees with fleshing out high-level themes or concepts into smaller, more concise action points to derive specific and distinct ideas. It can be seen as similar to a roadmap that allows a team to figure out where they need to go and what they may need to do to get there.
Mind mapping can be enacted as followed:
- Begin with a central theme or subject.
- Branch out the central theme into subtopics.
- Break down each subtopic into individual ideas that tie back into the original theme.
When mind mapping, the information should transition from broad to granular as it branches out from the center. In addition to providing a holistic outlook on a single topic, mind mapping also provides a direction for teams to take from ideation and keeps ideas focused. This is a particularly advantageous technique because of the organization and order it provides when coming up with new ideas.
No single technique is best suited for every single business or team, so it is crucial for managers to continuously experiment with new methods of ideation. Even within the same company, different teams may have different techniques that work better for their roles. Also, ideation is most useful when there are clear parameters that define the purpose of what the team should strive to accomplish. Ideation sessions should be well-documented and followed up with an analysis of its output. By implementing such steps and practices within the workplace, businesses can foster the kind of goal-driven innovation that pushes their profits and development forward into the future.