Compiled by Hanlie Wentzel on 18 May 2018.


Definition of ideation in English:

NOUN {mass noun}
The formation of ideas or concepts.

(Sourced from:

What is Ideation – and How to Prepare for Ideation Sessions

(Sourced from:

Ideation is the process where you generate ideas and solutions through sessions such as Sketching, Prototyping, Brainstorming, Brainwriting, Worst Possible Idea, and a wealth of other ideation techniques. Ideation is also the third stage in the Design Thinking process. Although many people might have experienced a “brainstorming” session before, it is not easy to facilitate a truly fruitful ideation session. In this article, we’ll teach you some processes and guidelines which will help you facilitate and prepare for productive, effective, innovative and fun ideation sessions.

Ideation is often the most exciting stage in a Design Thinking project, because during Ideation, the aim is to generate a large quantity of ideas that the team can then filter and cut down into the best, most practical or most innovative ones in order to inspire new and better design solutions and products.

“Ideation is the mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of ‘going wide’ in terms of concepts and outcomes.

Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.”
–, An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE

Ideation Will Help You:

  • Ask the right questions and innovate with a strong focus on your users, their needs, and your insights about them.
  • Step beyond the obvious solutions and therefore increase the innovation potential of your solution.
  • Bring together perspectives and strengths of your team members.
  • Uncover unexpected areas of innovation.
  • Create volume and variety in your innovation options.
  • Get obvious solutions out of your heads, and drive your team beyond them.

Why do We Need Ideation in Design Thinking?

We’ll let Grand Old Man of User Experience, Don Norman, answer this important question in a down-to-earth and very relevant way. Don Norman helps us take one step back and reflect upon why we need to challenge assumptions, ask stupid questions and provoke our current understanding, which is—in fact—what Ideation methods such as Challenge Assumptions, SCAMPER, and Provocations help us do:

“One of my concerns has been design education, where the focus has been centered too much upon craft skills and too little on gaining a deeper understanding of design principles, of human psychology, technology and society. As a result, designers often attempt to solve problems about which they know nothing. I have also come to believe that in such ignorance lies great power: The ability to ask stupid questions. What is a stupid question? It is one which questions the obvious. ‘Duh,’ thinks the audience, ‘this person is clueless.’ Well, guess what, the obvious is often not so obvious. Usually it refers to some common belief or practice that has been around for so long that it has not been questioned. Once questioned, people stammer to explain: sometimes they fail. It is by questioning the obvious that we make great progress.

This is where breakthroughs come from. We need to question the obvious, to reformulate our beliefs, and to redefine existing solutions, approaches, and beliefs. That is design thinking. Ask the stupid question. People who know a lot about a field seldom think to question the fundamentals of their knowledge. People from outside the discipline do question it. Many times their questions simply reveal a lack of knowledge, but that is OK, that is how to acquire the knowledge. And every so often, the question sparks a basic and important reconsideration. Hurrah for Design Thinking.”
– Don Norman, in Rethinking Design Thinking

According to Don Norman, asking stupid questions is not stupid at all. However, Ideation and Design Thinking is not only about challenging assumptions and asking so-called stupid questions. It’s also about going from researching and defining your users and their needs in the Empathise and Define phases and moving on into starting to come up with the right solutions for the users via Ideation methods:

“You ideate in order to transition from identifying problems to creating solutions for your users. Ideation is your chance to combine the understanding you have of the problem space and people you are designing for with your imagination to generate solution concepts. Particularly early in a design project, ideation is about pushing for a widest possible range of ideas from which you can select, not simply finding a single, best solution.”
–, An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE

The celebrates Design Thinking, and provides one of the most – if not the most – celebrated and recognised resources on Design Thinking and ideation techniques. D-school is a design school based at Stanford University in cooperation with the German Hasso Plattner Institute of the University of Potsdam. Here, we’ll introduce you to how you can prepare for Ideation Sessions based on and the international design and consulting firm IDEO’s best practices.

Click to access ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf

d-school, Bootcamp Bootleg, 2010:

Click to access BootcampBootleg2010v2SLIM.pdf

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Change by Design, 2009

Don Norman. Rethinking Design Thinking, 2013:

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