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App Development
8 minutes read

Everything You Need to Know About Ideation Workshops

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
8 minutes read

Ideation workshops are essential to the custom app development process. It can be difficult to generate new ideas, especially innovative ideas that address key issues and align with the business strategies your organization has identified. Project managers that want to tap into the creative juices of their teams can benefit from hosting an ideation workshop. 

This post will explain what ideation workshops are, the most effective way to conduct a successful ideation workshop and some of the top ideation techniques. 

What Is an Ideation Workshop?

An ideation workshop is a dedicated session for generating new and innovative ideas. The primary goal of an ideation session is to encourage creative thinking and develop new ideas. To get the best results, workshop participants must feel as if the session is a safe place where they can openly share and discuss their thoughts without fear of generating negative ideas. You want to establish a collaborative environment free from judgment. 

Try to refrain from analyzing or exploring the plausibility of new ideas generated by an ideation workshop until the session is over. You don’t want your workshop participants to self-edit their thoughts or ideas. During an ideation workshop, attempt to generate as many new ideas as possible. Focus on quantity over quality. Once the ideation session is over, you can begin to analyze the feasibility of the new ideas that were generated. 

How to Run an Effective Ideation Workshop

An ideation session is all about creatively and freely brainstorming new ideas. However, your ideation workshop won’t produce the results your organization wants without a little direction or focus. Before you begin an ideation workshop, ensure that you have a clear challenge in mind. This should be based on extensive user research. If you haven’t yet conducted user research or have a problem statement, you are not ready to host an ideation session

Here are a few things you can do to create the right conditions for a successful ideation workshop:

  • Invite the right team members 
  • Choose a leader
  • Pick a location 
  • Prepare guidelines 

Invite the Right Team Members 

The first step to creating the right conditions for a positive ideation workshop is to invite the right people. It can be tempting to invite the app designers for design issues or the web development team for web issues, but the best practice is to invite a diverse group of team members. A diverse group of team members will ensure that you get a mix of perspectives in your ideation session.  

A good way to think about the people to invite to the workshop is to consider who will be working on the project. For example, if developers, designers, business analysts, writers, etc., work on the project, you should try to include at least one team member from each discipline. In addition, you should invite team members who understand your target audience well. 

While content writers and marketing team members might not be well-versed in the design or development process, they might have valuable insight into your target audience. When creating an invite list, ensure you include any team member who can add fresh perspectives to the process. However, you don’t want to invite too many people. Ideation workshops with more than ten people tend to be less effective. 

Choose a Leader 

If you want the ideation workshop to be effective, you must designate a leader. The leader will ensure that the workshop stays on task and doesn’t stray too far from the problem. The leader of the ideation session is responsible for introducing the team members to the issue at hand and promoting a safe collaboration space free from judgment. In addition to facilitating the workshop, the leader must also ensure that they take notes, so no good ideas are lost or forgotten in the process. 

If you decide to be the leader of the ideation workshop, be sure to invite another person to take your place in the session. You will still be able to contribute new ideas, but you will also need to focus on recording ideas and taking notes on the session. 

Pick a Location 

Choosing a suitable location is an essential part of a successful ideation workshop. The best practice is to take your ideation group out of their familiar settings, but you want to be sure that the location you choose is comfortable, private, and quiet. It can be hard to let go of judgment and freely ideate and collaborate if your session is regularly interrupted or in a crowded space. 

You can get creative when choosing a location. Many people like to have ideation sessions outdoors or in a unique location like a museum or library. Of course, you will need a private space, but museums, libraries, and other places often have private spaces that can be used or rented. 

Prepare Guidelines 

The purpose of the ideation workshop is to generate new ideas. However, while you want to brainstorm as many new ideas as possible, you still need guidelines to keep the session focused on the problem. A great way to focus the ideation session on the important issues is to create a problem statement. A problem statement outlines the issue your organization is trying to solve. 

For example, your problem statement could be something like, “Users need a simple way to connect with one another and share fitness goals.” It doesn’t matter what your problem statement is, but you need to have one. Once you have a well-defined problem statement, prepare some questions to spark creativity. Using the example from above, you could prepare some ideation questions that look like this:

  1. How do we attract fitness-minded users to our app?
  2. What design elements are most essential to our target audience?
  3. How can we encourage users to build communities within the app?
  4. How do we decide what constitutes valid fitness or nutritional advice?
  5. How do we recommend groups or communities to current users?

The questions we used in the example above don’t overly constrain the ideation workshop, but they also provide some guidelines to keep the session focused on generating innovative ideas for the product at hand. 

Popular Ideation Techniques 

There are several great ideation techniques that you can use in your workshop. You can even try multiple different techniques during your workshop to keep things fresh and exciting for your participants. Some of the more popular and fun ideation techniques are:

  • Invert the problem 
  • Crazy 8’s
  • Be the CEO 
  • Worst idea

Invert the Problem 

To do this ideation technique, take your problem statement and flip it. For example, if your problem is to improve the user retention rate of your application, the inverse would be how to increase the bounce rate. Generate negative ideas on how to make the bounce rate even higher than it already is. Then take all of the negative ideas you generated and try to invert them to solve your original problem. You would be surprised at how effective this ideation technique can be. 

Crazy 8’s

Crazy 8’s is a great ideation technique for generating a lot of fresh ideas. Provide participants with a paper or virtual board broken into eight equal parts. Give participants eight minutes (one minute per square) to sketch new ideas. At the conclusion of the eight minutes, you can either review the results or, for even more fun, you can instruct participants to pass their ideas left or right and then run an additional eight minutes and let participants try to improve on the ideas of their team members. 

Be the CEO 

“Be the CEO” is a fun and simple way to ideate. Instruct participants to choose a popular company, like Google, Facebook, Tesla, etc. Participants will then try to ideate as if they were the CEO of the company they have chosen. You can either allow the entire group to think as one company, or you can allow each participant to be a different CEO and then compare results at the end of the round. 

Worst Idea 

You won’t actually want to use any of these ideas. However, the worst idea might be one of the most entertaining ways to ideate. It is a simple ideation technique. Invite participants to solve the target problem with the worst, most outlandish, illegal solutions. The challenge is then for the group to try and use elements of these ideas, invert them, etc., to find workable solutions. You might be surprised at how many good ideas can be borne out of terrible, horrible ideas. 

Final Thoughts 

Generating fresh ideas can be a real challenge for businesses and startups. However, ideation sessions can be extremely helpful and a lot of fun. There are any number of different ideation techniques you can use to inspire your team. We have covered a few in this post, but these are far from all of the options you have. If you are interested in learning more about ideation workshops and how they can benefit your organization, reach out to an app development partner.

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