Ideation : summing up



Ideation  (^)

Ideation refers to the production of new ideas that have a bearing on the identification and resolution of a Problem.


Four main methods are examined as assisting towards Ideation:

  • Brainstorming  (free-association)

  • Synectics  (analogical association)

  • Challenging  (fruitful opposition)

  • Morphological Approach  (decomposition/composition)



Brainstorming  (^)

Brainstorming is a way of generating ideas, in a group, on a specific theme, by free-association.

Association can be triggered by:

  • contiguity (e.g. next to, before and after, cause and effect, etc.)

  • similarity (e.g. same as, common to, etc.)

  • contrast (e.g. unlike what, different from, opposite to, etc.)

Brainstorming is characterized by three main aspects:

1) elicitation/production of ideas by free-association (free-wheeling)

2) circulation/acceptance of any idea by positive attitude (free-playing, deferment of judgement)

3) selection/combination of ideas (parts, whole) for refinement and with a view to further generation of ideas



Synectics  (^)

Synectics is based on the systematic use of analogies for the generation of ideas.

Analogies can be:

  • Personal (identify yourself with the elements of the problem)

  • Direct (apply solutions taken from other fields, e.g. natural world)

  • Symbolic (play with images, e.g. metaphors)

  • Fantastic (express wishes, desires, fantasies in pursuit of a solution)

Synectics is characterized by two contrasting dynamics:

    a) Making the strange familiar : compare/associate strange phenomena to familiar ones

    b) Making the familiar strange : see/approach common phenomena under a new light and from an unusual perspective



Challenging  (^)

Challenging (Why? Why? Why?) is a way of pushing towards a reformulation of an idea by subjecting it to strong opposing views with the aim of either reinforcing or replacing the original idea.

Challenging can refer to:

  • assumptions (counter-views)

  • specifications (counter-requirements)

  • solutions (counter-proposals)


For challenging to be carried out effectively, an Idea Log Book should be kept at hand for jotting down hunches, hints, alternatives, unconventional thoughts, etc.



Morphological Approach  (^)

A Morphological Approach ('mince and mix') is a way of generating ideas by decomposing a problem into sub-problems and listing, in a matrix, all the factors pertaining to it [mince].

Each possible combination (of factors in a sub-problem; of sub- problems in a problem) represents the basis for the generation of new ideas [mix].


  • Break the problem down into independent sub-problems

  • Break the sub-problem down into factors

  • Combine factors for possible solutions to each sub-problem

  • Give a score to each sub-problem solution

  • Construct general/total solutions from combinable sub-solutions

  • Give a score to each total solution

  • Select the total solution with the highest score



Ideation : summing up  (^)

Ideation is a process of:

  • Deriving ideas through free-association and analogies

  • Challenging conventional ideas

  • Combining  simple elements into new ideas

The Generation of ideas is strictly linked (before and after) with the Visualization of ideas.

Before : a good visualization allows for the neat formulation of a Problem and could lead to its solution.

After : the solution of a Problem, in order to circulate and be widely shared, needs good visualization.

All this is the task of Visualizing.


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