We hear it repeatedly: “As an organization, we are great at generating ideas but we struggle to convert these ideas into product concepts.”
Even research bears this out. According to a MIT study (as reported in MIT Sloan Management Review), “most companies are sufficiently good at generating ideas, the bottleneck in the innovation process actually occurs further down the pipeline.”
Later in the same summary, the authors detail common pitfalls to ideation, particularly the process of scoring and sorting the vast number of ideas generated as well as lost team momentum following ideation workshops.
Done properly, ideation is a divergent process where the outcome is quantity of ideas over quality. In one recent ideation workshop, we generated more than 300 unique ideas between an internal and customer ideation team. In many cases, the next step would be a scoring and sorting process by a large team. There is a problem to this approach. Cramming too many raw ideas into the top of your funnel (so to speak) can be daunting for any organization. Important momentum can be lost on good ideas allowed to float around in this soup.
We argue that most companies are missing an important step immediately following ideation.
Within a week of the ideation workshop, organize a co-creation session with a small team of key contributors from the internal ideation and customer ideation groups. Together, this team can go through the process of sorting ideas and assembling the raw material into preliminary product concepts. Involving some of the same participants ensures continuity of insights from one step to another. More importantly, the real-time customer feedback ensures more complete and relevant product concepts.
After this refinement, it then makes sense to share idea buckets and preliminary concepts with the larger team. Your original ideation participants will see some of their thoughts come to life thereby building more momentum to push these concepts to the next stage.