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The How-to of an Ideation Workshop

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The How-to of an Ideation Workshop

Ideation workshop & innovation

Innovation is all about finding creative ways to solve real-world problems. It may sound simple enough, but good ideas don’t just come out of nowhere. We often need to facilitate the process of innovation actively — and that’s when ideation comes into play. Most large companies have a two-fold problem regarding innovation: they either don’t know how to develop innovative ideas or lack the willingness to launch them as-is.

First and foremost, companies lacking the culture that fuels innovation cannot generate new ideas and innovations. It is unlikely that someone who makes trains run on time will develop a flay­ing solution. The second problem is that you need to execute a concept version that resembles it enough.

Idea generation is generating as many ideas as possible on a given topic without attempting to judge or evaluate them for their merit. In other words, you should take advantage of every opportunity to explore all sorts of off-the-wall and seemingly crazy ideas. You don’t have to judge the thoughts to ensure that more ideas exist.

It is a crucial step in both the Design and Design Thinking Processes, but it can be used by anyone who wants to improve their creativity. Any team can benefit from an ideation workshop, and it will encourage collaboration and innovation among different departments.

What is an ideation workshop?

A brainstorming session is a dedicated session for generating new ideas. Unlike traditional brainstorming sessions, ideation workshops are different because they take place in unconventional settings and introduce new stimuli.

User research usually occurs after conducting enough market research and having a clear problem statement. A design challenge that needs to be solved. You’ll use various ideation techniques (both individually and as a team) to develop a wide variety of ideas. You will document these ideas as they occur, ready for analysis in the next session.

The main goal of a brainstorming session is to spark new ideas. Lateral thinking is crucial, and the emphasis is on quantity rather than on the quality of concepts and solutions. Participants are allowed to explore new ideas without getting hung up about whether or not they are feasible. The idea generation component of an ideation workshop is best done without judgment.

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In brief:

  • It’s essential to select an environment outside your usual working space when conducting ideation workshops.
  • It would help if you came up with as many ideas for your product as possible. It doesn’t matter at this point if they’re feasible or not.
  • Participants must be allowed to explore and share their ideas without fear of criticism freely.

Some brainstorming sessions are instrumental for developing ideas and for quickly generating learning and insights. An ideation workshop involves facilitating participants in brainstorming, problem identification, and rapid prototyping of ideas.

What are the benefits of running an ideation workshop?

Ideation sessions are highly beneficial to any step of the innovation process, whether they are design-based, product-focused, app-/ experience-driven, or business model-driven.

Many companies decide to leverage ideations because it keeps people focused exclusively on their users; rather than focusing on what’s technologically feasible, they can focus solely on the user experience and how they might improve it.

Group thought it could be beneficial for creativity. An ideation workshop allows for creating new ideas by bringing people together from different teams and different parts of the company. By leveraging a diverse range of perspectives, the ideator is more likely to think out of the box and explore new ways.

Ideation allows external experts to join the process, pollute the mainstream perspective, and bring an edge in terms of insights and expertise. Those could be channel experts, customers, and partners.

One of the most significant advantages of an ideation workshop would be the lack of judgment-based aspects. Removing judgment encourages people to take risks and think freely. The focus on quantity over quality promotes freedom and creativity, leaving participants open to more adventurous ideas. In the end, it’s about real innovation.

Three success factors for a successful ideation workshop

1. Invite the right kind of people

It can be tempting for the core project team members to keep things within their domain of expertise, but practical ideation benefits from a diverse mix of perspectives and ideas. When planning a workshop, consider who will work on the project (designer, marketers, sales) and who knows your target audience: channel experts, market researchers, and former client employees. The rule of thumb is to produce high-quality content. Too many alphas will cause the meeting to become polarized and prevent most from participating.

It’s essential to keep the size of your group within reason. It is recommended that the number of ideators is between eight and ten. If the group is too large, people may not feel comfortable sharing their ideas.


2. Be obsessive about the structure.

You will need to ensure that the session runs smoothly by having a structure and a facilitat­or. The facilitator is responsible for leading the workshop and keeping everyone on track. They will begin the session by offering a brief opening statement, which explains what the workshop is for and provides a quick overview of the schedule. It’s your job to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and emphasizes that no judgments will be made during the workshop.

The facilitator’s primary objective is to ensure that people stuck in corners during the process have an easily accessible exit. A traditional ideation workshop is a mixture of plenary sessions and smaller team sessions. 

Structure means:

  • Planning the day’s activities
  • Identify plenary sessions versus team sessions (and even pauses).
  • Warm-ups, exercises, stimuli, and deliverables (to document the ideas).
  • Ranking criteria (no judgment, does not mean any rankings and no discussion about the concept)

Those steps require a clear timeline. Otherwise, the risk is creating a cumbersome and frustrating process.


3. Location, Location, Location

Location is everything when planning an ideation workshop. It would be best to introduce new stimuli into the group’s usual environment. At the same time, your workshop participants must feel comfortable; make sure you choose a location with plenty of natural lighting, space, comfortable seating, and ideally, somewhere you won’t be disturbed. You could visit a local museum, an art gallery, or a restaurant. Many locations are suitable, and none of those are windowless hotel conference rooms.

The room set-up is also essential. It needs to be comfortable. It needs not have a business setting/ office setting. And also needs to avoid the impression that more senior people have better seating than others!


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