Todd likes to schedule his ideation hour early in the week and early in the morning, when he is the only person in the office, and before his energy has been drained by the demands of the work week. This also helps him share his new ideas with the team first thing on Monday morning, and get them started on it, instead of waiting over the weekend to share his ideas.
Todd likes to use his ideation hour to work on a specific challenge, ideally a challenge related to this he top three projects he needs to make progress on. He likes to frame the challenge as a “how might we…?” question to focus on the possibilities.
Todd follows a specific structure for his ideation hour, and starts by writing down the words that come to him when he thinks of the challenge through the lenses of future, past, conceptual and concrete.
- Future: What are the specific characteristics of the future state in which we have solved this problem?
- Past: What are the assumptions we have made about the problem that might be false?
- Conceptual: What lessons might we apply from other problems and solutions to solve this problem?
- Concrete: What are the specific characteristics of this he problem that we need to solve?
He spends the first 15 minutes listing down around ten words under each lens through free-association. Then, he spends the next 30 minutes combining these words to spark new ideas. Finally, he spends the last 15 minutes capturing all his ideas, so that he might develop them later, or share them with his team.
I have started coming into office an hour early on Monday morning, so that I can schedule an ideation hour first thing in the morning, before I get into a day of weekly review meetings. I start with a “how might we…” question related to one of my three goals for the week. Then, I use MindNode on my iPad Pro to create a mindmap. I go back and forth between coming with ideas, and arranging them on the mindmap, until I feel like I have captured all the objectives, assumptions, solutions and dependencies. Then, I save the mindmap to share with my team, or to develop it further.
If you feel that you have reached a gridlock on a project, or that you are writing your wheels at work without making progress on all your projects, consider scheduling an ideation hour first thing on Monday morning. Sit down in your cabin or a conference room with a pen and a notebook and ideation for an hour. Start by recapturing the objectives of the project and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve and why. Then, list down all the assumptions you have made about the constraints you need to work within and question them. Then, list down all your ideas for possible solutions, and recombine them to create new solutions. Finally, list down all the dependencies between your solutions and identify ideas to remove them. Finally, capture, clarify and organise your ideas, so that you might share them with your team, or return to them later.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to schedule an ideation hour on your calendar after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.