Idea generation workshop

Running a workshop to generate ideas is a fantastic way to come up with innovative and new solutions to a problem / new addition to a product or a whole new product itself. These are not new or ground braking ways to generate ideas however they are very effective. The benefits to this is it takes place after we fully understand our users and also what our problem is.

It gets the clients and stakeholders involved in the idea generation and gets them involved and on board early. Everyone will have a input and come up with ideas which creates ownership. No need to go away for weeks and then present findings, its starting a collaborative and fruitful relationship.

What we need

To conduct an effective session we need to have several things to get started.

  • A solid problem statement.
  • How Might We statements.
  • Story and personas.
  • Large room away from anyone who is not involved in the workshop.
  • White boards, flip charts, areas to stick post-its and sketches.
  • Pens, pencils and sharpies
  • A group of people - clients, other team members etc.

The rules

To conduct a constructive session we need to stick to a few rules.

  1. We should refrain from using the word no, always say yes.
  2. Go for quantity
  3. Encourage wild ideas
  4. Defer judgement till the extend
  5. Build on ideas
  6. No ideas are wrong
  7. Everyone is at the same level

Start with

Make sure everyone is aware of the problem statement / point of view statement, write it down along with the How Might We questions and make sure they are always visible. If its a big problem we can break these down into smaller chunks to tackle.

Then start to get some ideas flowing.

Brain write

This is often a good place to start as it gets people to start looking into ideas and building on each others ideas.


  1. 3-5mins initial idea.
  2. 6-10 mins build on idea.
  3. Silent session.
  4. Push them for more ideas.


Everyone starts off by writing down an idea, then the pass the idea to the person to their right. The idea of this session is to build on ideas. Let everyone add something to every idea. Then present each person has to present their idea to the group.


Stick your ideas on the wall and start to create a mood board of ideas.

Brain storming

This is a collaborative exercise where we want to aim for quantity of ideas.


  1. Sketch ideas as they are called out.
  2. Listen to each idea and build upon it before moving to the next.
  3. Use the word ‘and’ instead of ‘but’.
  4. Push them for more ideas.


Start of by asking for ideas, then listen to each idea individually and get people to build upon the idea. Sketch or write down the ideas on the flip chart or add them to post-its.


Add it to the mood board of ideas.


Brain dump

We can mix this in with the brain storming session as you see fit or ff ideas are not for coming or they dry up.


  1. 6-10 mins build on ideas.
  2. Silent session.
  3. Push them for more ideas.


Get people to write down 2 ideas and then present to the group.


Add it to the mood board of ideas.

Worst idea

This is another exercise we can use to get ideas flowing when we have hit a wall, or we can use it at the start of the day to get people thinking creatively.


We want to get peoples creative brain working and again its all about quantity. These can be stupid, impractical or even illegal. The list the attributes which make them a bad idea. Then flip the ideas over to make them good ideas so the opposite of the idea.


Add good ideas to mood board of ideas.

Narrowing down to the best ideas

Once we have reached a point where we have all the ideas that we can generate. Its time to start reviewing our ideas and find ones that we can start to progress with.

Post-it voting

Everyone gets 3 votes and we run over the ideas and vote for the ones they like. They write these down on a post-it. Then everyone gets two further votes to put a dot on the chosen ideas.

Four categories

This is split into 4 categories.

  1. Most rational
  2. Most delightful
  3. Most darling
  4. Long shot

Affinity digram

Group similar ideas together and try to build up connections and uncover patterns and themes

Idea selection criteria

The idea selection part is next we need to compare all our selected ideas against the following questions.

  • Does it fit with people’s needs? Is there demand?
  • Does it really meet the goals set initially?
  • Does it meet the requirements in our problem statement/Point Of View?
  • Does it answer our “How Might We” questions in a satisfying way?
  • Is it different enough from what exists to add additional value?
  • Do we have access to the budget—enough to implement even partially?
  • Is the technology available?
  • Will we be able to roll it out with the available resources?
  • Can we get approval from decision makers?

Thanks to for the list of questions.


NOW are ideas that we can implement now but lack originality. WOW are ideas that are innovative and can be implement now. HOW are ideas that we can implement in the future.

Things we need to ban from the workshop, run through these before you begin.

  • Yes, but…
  • It already exists!
  • Our customers won’t like that!
  • We don’t have time.
  • NO!
  • It’s not possible.
  • It’s too expensive!
  • Let’s be realistic.
  • That’s not logical.
  • We need to do more research.
  • There’s no budget.
  • I’m not creative.
  • We don’t want to make mistakes.
  • The management won’t agree.
  • Get real.
  • It’s not my responsibility.
  • It’s too difficult to master.
  • That’s too big a chance.
  • The market is not ready yet.
  • Let’s keep it under consideration.
  • It is just like __.
  • The older generation will not use it.
  • We are too small for that.
  • It might work in other places but not here.
  • Since when are you the expert?
  • That’s for the future.
  • There are no staff members available.
  • It is not suitable for our clients.

Thanks to for the list of things to ban.

What next?

Its time to take our selected ideas and prototype and test.