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What is Idea Generation? - Definition, Process & Techniques

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  • 0:00 What Is Idea Generation?
  • 0:35 How It Works
  • 2:25 Idea Generation Techniques
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rana Abourizk

Rana has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and is pursuing a Doctorial Degree. She has been teaching online for over a year. She has a strong business background.

Businesses all have different ways of working. Some use a process called, 'idea generation' to figure out what works for them. Watch this lesson to explore what idea generation is and examine its processes as well as some techniques.

What is Idea Generation?

Idea generation is the creative process or procedure that a company uses in order to figure out solutions to any number of difficult challenges. It involves coming up with many ideas in a group discussion, selecting the best idea or ideas, working to create a plan to implement the idea, and then actually taking that idea and putting it into practice. The idea can be tangible, something you can touch or see, or intangible, something symbolic or cultural.

How it Works

Sam is a marketing manager for a shoe company, and he has about eight people who work for him. Sam is a big fan of using idea generation with his team whenever they need to tackle a new challenge. The team has a new project this month. They have to come up with a brand new way of marketing the newest line of shoes to a previously unaddressed target audience. Sam puts his group to work into pairs.

Each pair tackles the task by first thinking of many ideas, far more than they would ever use. The pair will eventually rejoin the team, and the team will select the best idea or ideas before assessing the ideas' worth on a focus group of potential customers at a later date. After feedback from the focus group, the team will adjust their approach and build on the idea using the focus group feedback before putting their plan through real testing or trials. Finally, when the team is confident in their idea, the idea will be passed on for actual business implementation. In our example with Sam and his team, their marketing plan will be employed by the company to target their new customer demographic.

This general process structure is used across many types of businesses for many types of decisions. There is no rule saying that a company must follow this exactly, so don't be surprised if you encounter variation. If it seems like a long process, that is because it is. Some aspects require ample time, like conducting research, gathering opinions, learning about competitors, testing the idea, and improving on the idea after testing. Individual teams or companies will also find that some techniques work better for them than others, and that's just fine. Knowing a wide range of idea generation techniques allows for flexibility in a decision making process.

Idea Generation Techniques

There are many excellent and creative techniques that marketing researchers use for idea generation. It isn't required to use them all, but having a vast arsenal of possible techniques makes the process of idea generation easier.

One technique involves getting into groups and coming up with ideas, known as brainstorming, and this is a tried and true method. This technique has many variations. Some teams use a traditional brainstorming approach and simply let their minds wander while they speak up whenever something promising occurs to them or by passing papers with ideas written so that others can physically add to the group thinking. Other teams may utilize a modified approach where they think of ideas that achieve the opposite of their desired outcome to get thinking out of the box.

Another possible technique is to save discussion for later, where members of the team would be presented with the problem to solve and then sent back to work on other tasks while allowing the new problem and possible ideas to develop in the back of their minds for a given amount of time.

Story boarding, or making picture illustrations to help develop new ideas and find solutions, is a valuable visual technique. New insights can be reached when thinking about a task in this image-based format.

To encourage active participation and thinking, role playing, or having employees act out roles in a specific scenario, can be employed for idea generation. Shy team members may be more encouraged to participate and role-specific ideas or points of view might come to light.

It is also important to build on theory, by starting with an existing theory or concept and then creating a new approach to the theory. By doing so, great ideas can form. A team, for example, could state existing ideas about customer service and then volunteer modifications to the existing model that would ultimately help shape a new approach to customer service.

Finally, another hugely useful technique is questioning assumptions, which forces a group to really consider the assumptions made every day by the business and ask pointed questions that can guide where research should happen and sometimes can change a business' approach. All questions should eventually be answered.

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