Chapter 11: Ideation in:

Joachim H. Becker, Sven Pastoors, Ulrich Scholz, Rob van Dun

Towards Sustainable Innovation, page 215 - 234

A five step approach to sustainable change

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-3903-8, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6655-3,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
211 chapter 11: IdeatIon Joachim Becker Summary Ideation is the creative process of generating and developing new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought. As such, it is an essential part of the problem-solving process as well as design process. However, the real great ideas usually arise unexpected in moments of inspiration. As it is not always possible to wait until those moments happen we can use creativity techniques instead. Creativity techniques are cognitive tools that help the brain during work. They all work according to the same principle: creativity techniques allow chaotic thinking. The aim of creativity techniques is to find a new way of linking thoughts and to break out of the usual pattern of thinking. Develop creative ideas by combining and organising existing knowledge and experiences in a new, previously unknown way. Creativity techniques do not produce creativity; creativity techniques support creativity. In order for creative teams or innovation workshops to be successful, the generation of wild ideas is not enough. In the early stag- 212 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation es of creativity workshops, ideas need to diverge, meaning to go in all sorts of wild directions. Later, however, ideas need to be collected and grouped in order to come to a solution to the problem. These teams and workshops strive to generate creative collisions, where very diverse ideas collide and create valuable answers to the problems at hand. 11.1 Ideation and creativity techniques There are numerous opportunities to find solutions to a problem. Creativity techniques are cognitive tools that help the brain during work. They all work according to the same principle: creativity techniques allow chaotic thinking. And this is good, because if a solution could always be found in the usual way, i.e. through rational, structured thinking, we would not need creativity and therefore, no creative techniques. Some people simply think chaotically; others can quickly swap between rational and chaotic thinking. However, the majority of people are used to rational and linear thinking. Problems are solved like mathematical equations. Although this procedure has many advantages, one thing is clear: this does not bring new ideas! Creativity unfolds more easily in a relaxed manner. However, it is important that there is no congestion so that the creativity does not become blocked again due to boredom, hustle and bustle, unnecessary noise, etc. For the majority of the creativity methods, it is worth following the given rules. Creativity is not exhausted in fantasies, but in the creation of new value. We carry the solution inside us during the ideation process, often without even knowing it. The aim of creativity techniques is to find a new way of linking thoughts and to break out of the usual pattern of thinking. Develop creative ideas by combining and organising existing knowledge and experiences in a new, previously unknown way. Creativity tech- 213 Chapter 11: Ideation niques do not produce creativity; creativity techniques support creativity. In conclusion, creativity is of paramount importance to support new links between the desired and current situation. Purposeful innovation is similar to creating different solutions to existing problems. For those problems to be solved, new ways of thinking are necessary. As mentioned before, diversity (in terms of background, knowledge, experience and values) tends to create more creative solutions than very homogeneous groups, as they are less limited in terms of idea creation. However, in order for creative teams or innovation workshops to be successful, the generation of wild ideas is not enough. In the early stages of creativity workshops, ideas need to diverge, meaning to go in all sorts of wild directions. Later, however, ideas need to be collected and grouped in order to come to a solution to the problem, which is to converge. These teams and workshops strive to generate creative collisions, where very diverse ideas collide and create valuable answers to the problems at hand. Groups of creativity techniques Creative-intuitive methods Analytical-systematic methods Brainstorming methods - Classical brainstorming - Brain writing (pool) - Method 635 Methods of creative confrontation - Synectics - Semantic intuition - Reversal technique - Bionics - Morphological boxes - Morphological matrix - Problem-solving tree - Sequential morphology - Osborn checklist - Function analysis - TILMAG method - TRIZ (theory of inventive problem solving) 214 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation The analytical-systematic methods are only mentioned briefly here. As we focus on creative-intuitive methods, we are devoting our full attention to these. 11.2 creative-Intuitive Methods Association techniques The idea of the association techniques25 is to let the thoughts flow freely and to think in every direction. By linking thoughts and perceptions in new combinations, you get numerous ideas that can be processed into solution possibilities. A differentiation is made between brainstorming and brain writing. Brainstorming Brainstorming was developed by an American called Alex Osborn in the 1930s. It is the best known of all the creativity methods. It is easy to learn, simple to use and has a high good idea success rate (Alex Osborn 1939). Research since the 1950s suggests that brainstorming kills creativity due to social desirability, reinforcing ideas and people not willing to speak up. It can work, but only after people have INDIVIDUALLY thought about the problem before. Brainstorming is primarily about generating as many new ideas as possible. The focus is on the quantity and not the quality. Brainstorming takes place in a group of maximum 12 people, optimally 7 people. There are various modifications of brainstorming. 25 Association: automatic thought process; a learnt relationship between two cognitive elements, usually an impulse of a rewarded (or punished) reaction (Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon). 215 Chapter 11: Ideation Procedure • Groups of between 6 and 8 participants with different previous knowledge or expertise • The problem is clearly defined • Participants have the task of generating and introducing as many ideas as possible, quickly and without restrictions. • Every idea is voiced immediately • Team leader or moderator ensures that all the ideas are written down • Appraisal of any one of the ideas as strictly forbidden • Duration about 20-30 minutes • At the end, the ideas are inspected, sorted out and further processed Advantage Disadvantages - is especially suitable for group processes and solutions of a clearly defined problem - is not suitable for very shy participants - is less suitable for extensive problem statements. Variations on classical brainstorming Brainwriting for the individual: Create a three-column table; write your basic ideas in the first row. In the next row, write all the possible modifications of the basic idea, in the last row, a modification possibility of the first alteration. Evaluate your ideas: which is new, which is unique, which is sensible, which is useful, which can be realised? Anonymous brainstorming Before the session, the moderator collects the first approaches, which the group participants prepared individually in advance. These are further developed in the subsequent group session. The advantages are the intensive preparation and its greater suitability for larg- 216 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation er groups, as well as its suitability if conflict is expected within the group. Disadvantages can occur if participants have already very closely identified themselves with their own approaches. Crawford slip writing All participants have a seat in a circle and get a certain number of sheets. • The participants write each idea on a single sheet for several minutes. • At the end of the first writing interval participants pass their pages with ideas to the next person in the group. • Each person reads the ideas of the preceding person in silence and adds new ideas to the list without speaking to anyone else. After reading they pass the sheets with ideas to the next person in line. • The process is repeated several more times until one of the participants gets one of his sheets. Then the ideas are handed in to the group leader. Brainwriting pool Brainwriting builds upon the idea of brainstorming. The brain writing pool was developed by the German Battelle-Institute in Frankfurt (1999). With this technique, every participant writes four ideas on a piece of paper, which he or she then places in the centre of the table. The participant is not required to show his paper to the others. Should a participant run out of ideas, there is the possibility to exchange ideas for concepts from the centre of the table. At the end, every participant should have exchanged his or her own paper at least once for one from the centre. Like with brainstorming, the duration of the session is expected to be around 30 minutes for 6 to 8 persons. 217 Chapter 11: Ideation The purpose here is to see an exchange of ideas taking place between the participants if they cannot progress further with their own ideas and solution suggestions. Through stimulation from the centre, i.e. the ideas of the others, new suggestions or combination possibilities are produced. Thus, the own ideas can be extended quietly using the resources of the other participants. Procedure • Topic is specified • A group is formed of between 4 and 8 participants • Everyone writes six to ten ideas or proposals on the topic onto a blank A4 sheet and then places the sheet in the centre of the table • Anyone can take from this pool and offer amendments and expansions • Finally, all the ideas are transferred to a group poster and repetitions are removed Method 6-3-5 Method 6-3-5 serves as a means of ideation. For this, the creativity potential of one group of specialists from a specific area is used. The brainstorming method 6-3-5 undoubtedly requires all the participants to function as a team. An attempt is made here to avoid the disadvantages of brainstorming (many digressive ideas) by setting the ideas in writing. Like brainstorming, time pressure is used with Method 6-3-5. The first three ideas are created in only three to four minutes. In the following rounds, one to two minutes are added on, as there is more to read and the ideas are often more detailed. Speed is a factor, which contributes to better use of the brain, particularly the short-term memory. 218 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation Procedure At the start, 6 people define an exact problem and develop 3 ideas that are each passed on 5 times (duration approximately 30 minutes). • Problem is defined by the participants • 6 people write down 3 ideas for the problem in 3-5 minutes • After a break of 3-5 minutes, the slips of paper are passed to the neighbour, e.g. moving clockwise • The neighbour reads through the ideas of the previous person and supplements them, and stimulated by the previous ideas, adds 3 new proposals to the sheet • This process continues until one round has been completed • At the end, everyone has their original sheet of paper in front of them • All the ideas are transferred as examples to a group poster, repetitions are removed Advantage Disadvantages - No moderator is required - There are already 108 (6 x 3 x 6) solution proposals after approx. 30 minutes - Proposals are usually more useful than with brainstorming - Systematic supplementation and extrapolation - Initiator recognisable (e.g. for patents) - Everyone’s ideas follow the ideas of the previous persons - No group work, in contrast to brainstorming - The stimulus and spontaneous reactions are missing - Results are generally less original 219 Chapter 11: Ideation Methods of systematic confrontation (Analogy techniques) The methods of systematic confrontation are based on the observation that original ideas do not always arise from conscious problem solving, but rather as a reaction to the confrontation by elements remote to the problem (events, structures, etc.). In this way, for example, Newton recognised the theory of gravitation when observing the falling apple. The method of creative confrontation aims to imitate this natural creative process. For this purpose, those methods try to create analogies to solve even complex problems. Analogies are similarities. Even things that at first glance perhaps do not fit to the problem could contain a solution. Synectics Synectics belongs to the most difficult of the creativity techniques and is suitable primarily for complex problems – due to the level of complexity and involvement, if nothing else. The important element of synectics is the disassociation, i.e. analogies are made, in order to reach the solution approaches. Procedure Synectics is performed in the form of a group session. This may last between 2 to 3 hours, to several days. • Goal definition and problem presentation by the client (analysis and explanation of the problem through discussion by the participant with the client). • The problem is newly defined and visually presented for everybody. • Search for an initial direct analogy using brainstorming: If the problem is technical, then an analogy is made, for example, from nature; it must be completely disassociated. 220 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation • Formation of personal analogies: The most promising of the direct analogies found in Step 4 are selected and personal analogies to these are formed. 10-20 lines beginning with the words “I feel like...” are written down in order to unearth and understand the direct analogies. • Formation of symbolic analogies with the aid of the most interesting personal analogies from Step 5: “Book titles” are formulated, which should be made up of a noun and an adjective (e.g. “moving limits” or “limited movement” are made from “entwined”). • Formation of a second, direct analogy: Proceed as in Step 4, but in a different area (e.g. instead of “nature”, now “art”) and taking into consideration the “book title”. • Every participant selects a second, direct analogy and describes it simply but in detail. The description must be made in a way a six-year old child would understand. • From the presentation in Step 8, the participants should produce a thought association to Step 3. These thoughts are made public and thereby, new approaches are developed. • Establishment and evaluation of the approaches. Semantic intuition Semantics teaches the importance of linguistic phrases. The operating principle is that, when listening to or reading a phrase, an image representation is formed intuitively and at the same time. Even if the terms are new; new meanings are formed from coincidental combinations of phrases from one or more subject areas, and these can be expanded to form concrete ideas. Semantic intuition takes the process of thinking of an invention (naming it), and turns it around to be the process of taking a name (identifying fields for invention). In doing so, random names are collected, which then serve as springboard words for the intuition of the problem-solver leading to a possible invention. The names can be produced through a combination of typical elements “close to 221 Chapter 11: Ideation the problem”. For this, nouns, verbs and adjectives can be combined. The number of combined words can also be more than two. For example, when looking for a new kitchen appliance, from a list of randomly itemised terms, such as pot, spoon, onion, stir, oven, ... the terms “pot” and “stir” are selected. From this, an idea is developed that could stir the contents of a pot automatically during cooking, e.g. using a motor-driven beater in the lid. TILMAG method The TILMAG method replaces the disassociation process of synectics through a “rational” procedure, which aims to provide fruitful structures as springboard words for the problem. Procedure TILMAG should be practised by a group, if possible, according to the following steps: • Analysis and definition of the problem • Determination of all the requirements, which should be sufficient for a solution. They are derived from the solution target. • Consolidation of these requirements in the most concise terms • Formation of associations from the paired connection of the different elements and presentation in matrix form. • Deduction of solutions from the associated springboards. • Paired confrontation of the associated springboards, determination of the common elements of the terms from each pairing, and presentation in matrix form. • The identified similarities are springboards for a second ideation phase. Deduction of further solutions. 222 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation 11.3 analytical-systematic Methods Systematic idea generation concentrates on structure and systematisation, which means that the problem is highlighted from different points of view using various checklists. The Osborn method For this method, Osborn (1959) developed a question catalogue for problem analysis, which can be used both in the professional and private areas of life, and is made up of nine question complexes: • What can I still use it for? Can I use it differently? • Does the problem point towards different ideas? Is it similar to something else? • What can be changed? Which properties can be redesigned? • Can it be made larger, added to, duplicated? • Can it be made smaller, taken from, reduced? • What can be replaced? Which conditions can be changed? • Can the sequence or structure be changed? • Can the idea be reversed? Can the procedure be reversed? • Can ideas be combined or people linked? (cf. Morphological methods Morphological methods are related to the systematic-analytical methods. Here, idea generation does not take place according to a random process, but rather one in which intuition is stimulated and supported through systematic creativity methodology. Morphological methods can also be combined with phases of creativity-promoting methods. Concerning the type of problem, morphological methods are primarily suitable for analysis problems (examining existing structures). 223 Chapter 11: Ideation Morphological boxes The best-known morphological technique is the morphological box, developed by the Swiss Physicist F. Zwicky (1925). It can be either two- or three-dimensional. With morphological boxes, solutions are sought for every problem and combined in a matrix. Finally, the most suitable combination is sought. The method can be performed either individually or in small groups. As better understanding of the problem area is required, particularly for the determination of the important parameters, the problemsolving group should predominantly be composed of experts. The method takes between several hours or several days. Procedure • Description, definition and, if necessary, appropriate generalisations of the problem (functions and expected solution properties). • Breakdown of the problem to its important parameters, if possible independent from each other, and organisation of the parameters/characteristics in the initial column of the matrix. • Determination of all the imaginable specifications for the individual parameters/characteristics and organisation of these to the row of the corresponding characteristic. • Analysis of the alternatives that result from the combination of the individual characteristics: each possible combination for each specification from every row represents a solution in the morphological box. • Connection of the alternative functions and selection of the most suitable solutions by marking using zigzag lines – result: solution proposal. 224 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation Table 11.1: Example – Packaging of detergent Characteristic Specification 1 Specification 2 Specification 3 Specification 4 Shape Cube Cylinder Tetrahedron Sphere Material Cardboard Plastic Foil Wood Paint Colour B/W Gold Rainbow Carrying aid Handle Recessed grip Strap Belt Closure Lid Cork Pourer Valve Portioning Beaker Balance Spoon Tablets Additional use Toy Treasure chest Container Bucket Source: Zell 2014. The procedure follows the heuristic principles of systematic breakdown of complex issues into limited parts (Steps 1 and 2), the systematic design variation of individual elements (Step 3), and the systematic combination of individual elements to new whole solutions (Steps 4 and 5). Advantage Disadvantages - Treatment of very complex problems is possible - Incorporation of a lot of information in a compact form - Flexible adaptation to different problems - Clear and complete representation of the problem area - Method combines creativity and systematics. - Very work- and time intensive (in parts several days) - Requires professional knowledge about the problem area - Determination of the correct parameters is both difficult and essential for success - Selection of the best solution from the almost unmanageable number of possible solutions, particularly with complex problems, is difficult. 225 Chapter 11: Ideation 11.4 What should be used when? The following tables provide a guideline to which creativity techniques are most suitable, given the different areas of application. Areas of application New products New services Improvements Brainstorming ++ ++ + Brainwriting/ 6-3-5 ++ ++ + Semantic intuition ++ + + Osborn method - - ++ Areas of application Naming Technical construction Organisational topics Brainstorming ++ ++ ++ Brainwriting/ 6-3-5 ++ ++ ++ Semantic intuition - - - Osborn method - ++ ++ 226 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation 11.5 sustainable innovation workshops Innovation workshops are a common tool to develop innovative solutions for sustainability problems and to foster sustainability within a company are. Within a limited time-frame the participants define their challenge and develop numerous ideas on how to deal with that problem or challenge. Innovation workshops help companies to channel and structure the knowledge of a group of experts so that new solutions can be created. Thus, innovation workshops function as a catalyst for the creative process of a company or an organisation. In doing so, sustainable innovation workshops are used in a group process to develop targeted ideas for sustainable products or services. Possible aims of a sustainable innovation workshop are: • Sustainable product vision • Sustainable product ideas • Create a more sustainable solution for a problem • Saving resources • Expansion of business areas • Sustainable process optimisation Course of a sustainable innovation workshop: Step 1: Pre-organisation • Determination of a moderator • Invitation to participants The participants should be at least 6 persons, ideally 12 persons, with an upper limit of 20 persons. The participants of an innovation workshop should be selected so that there is very diverse point of view, expertise and experience. “Ensure that there is a homogeneous social but heterogeneous professional combination. The participants should be motivated in the topic and preferably generalists rather than 227 Chapter 11: Ideation complete laypersons or specialised experts. It is advantageous if there is a balanced mix, e.g. active, imaginative persons combined with deliberate thinkers” (Geschka 1986, p. 49). • Provision of information and the major goal of the workshop There is possibly need for preparation, which the participants must be informed about. Furthermore, the agenda should be available to the participants in advance, as well as additional information, which the participants need for completing the task. Step 2: Opening • Presentation of the participants and their tasks • Presentation of the procedure and rules of the game Here there should be a short introduction to the workshop. It is equally important that the search fields are extremely limited (Meyer, 2010), and strategically predefined guidelines are provided. “Such specifications direct the thoughts in the desired direction; they encourage bold thoughts from which basic ideas and larger innovation projects will emerge” (Geschka 2010). • Presentation of available techniques. Step 3: Information phase (Awareness) • General information level Here is the opportunity to formulate the priorities, such as the number vs. the quality of the ideas, short-term vs. long-term feasibility stepwise vs. radical, existing vs. new technology, low vs. high risk tolerance, etc. (Solid Creativity 2014). • Expert presentations (if necessary) 228 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation Step 4: Target phase (Problem identification) • Prepare participants for a target. Demand the impossible to achieve the possible. The participants should be stimulated (here stimulation methods are helpful) and not perceive the impossible as pressure. “Great ideas have never been achieved with average targets. (…) When President John F. Kennedy declared that NASA wanted to fly to the moon, the target was considered technically impossible. (…), however, Kennedy demanded the impossible …” (Meyer 2010). • Define the problem. • The results documentation should also be named here. Should it be a result or experience protocol, which media can be used, flipcharts, objects, models, photo protocols, audio protocols, written protocols (Solid Creativity 2014). Step 5: Ideation phase • Using creativity techniques Depending on the question, the moderator can use the appropriate creativity technique. Typically, this begins with brainstorming. • Gathering of ideas and affinity grouping • Thinning out of the presented ideas to a controllable amount. Step 6: Post-workshop planning • Are more decisions needed? • Is more information needed? • What are the next steps? 229 Chapter 11: Ideation The most important success factors for a successful innovation workshop are: • Sense of urgency! • A common vision • Joy! Motivation! Engagement! Ideation must be fun. Thus, the innovation workshop should be an experience in itself. Training questions: 1. Name advantages and disadvantages of Brainstorming. 2. What is the aim of the method “Brainwriting pool”? 3. Name three questions of the question catalogue for problem analysis (Osborn method). 4. What are the different methods for Ideation? Recommended literature Diehl, Michael/Stroebe, Wolfgang (1991): Productivity loss in ideagenerating groups : Tracking down the blocking effect. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1991, Nr. 61, S. 392-403. Geschka, Horst (1986): Creativity workshops in Product Innovation, in: The Journal of Product Innovation Management Vol. 3, Nr. 1 Geschka, Horst (2010): Führen Sie einen Kreativ-Workshop durch! In: Ideenmanagement, Vol. 36, 4/2010 Guntern, Gottlieb (Hrsg.) (1991): Der kreative Weg, Zürich. 230 Pastoors · Scholz · Becker · van Dun: Towards Sustainable Innovation Hartschen, Michael/Scherer, Jiri/Brügger, Chris (2009): Innovationsmanagement: Die 6 Phasen von der Idee zur Umsetzung, Offenbach. Nöllke, Mathias (2010): Kreativitätstechniken, München. Osborn, Alex F. (1953): Applied imagination, Oxford. Silverstein, David/Samuel, Philip/DeCarlo, Neil (2012): The Innovator’s Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth, Hoboken (NJ). Internet resources: Meyer, Jens-Uwe (2010): Ideenfindung mit System. Online: www., last access on 18.06.2014. SolidCreativity (2014), online: Zell, Helmut (2014): Lern- und Lehrseiten. Online: techniken/3-3.htm

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With sustainability having gained a lot of momentum over the last years and companies implementing strategies to create corporate sustainability, there are lots of opportunities for innovation. Thus, the two concepts of sustainability and innovation should not be considered separately – they are closely interlinked with one another. The main goal of sustainable innovation is to develop new products and technologies that have a positive impact on the company’s triple-bottom-line. To meet this aim, they have to be ecologically and economically beneficial as well as socially balanced.

In order to help companies to improve their sustainable innovation process practically, this book is structured into five possible phases of a sustainable innovation process:

Awareness of a sustainability problem

Identification & Definition of the problem

Ideation & Evaluation of the solutions

Testing & Enrichment of the solutions

Implementation of the solutions & Green Marketing