Defining  Ideation

Shifting from what to why

Most leaders define ideation as something along the lines of ” generating ideas to solve a problem.” While true, it’s a limiting way of looking at ideation.

When you broaden your perspective and start thinking of ideation from someone else’s point of view, the definition expands because the “why” associated with ideation changes.

Consider the following four roles within an enterprise. What is ideation to each of these roles?

  • Individuals: “Ideation is often a moment in time when I get to share my thoughts and ideas associated with a problem or opportunity. I feel seen and valued by my managers and leaders who not only gave me permission to participate but also encouraged active participation. I am engaged because it provides me with a new way of working that is fun and collaborative, and I feel like I’m getting better at ideation with practice. I feel energized when ideas I helped co-create are selected for action.”
  • Managers: “Ideation is a great way of engaging my team on a topic that matters to the business. I believe it creates opportunities to work more efficiently and cohesively as a team. And based on the actions taken by the Individuals, it also helps me identify the creative ideators, helpful collaborators, and energizing cheerleaders on my team — as well as those who may be somewhat less engaged in the work we are doing.”
  • Sponsors: “Ideation is a process that clearly focuses a group of individuals on a problem or opportunity area aligned to our business strategy. Our ideation program incorporates workshops and challenges to surface a greater quantity and higher quality ideas from a diverse set of participants upon which I can act. I find these validated project opportunities to have a greater chance of successful implementation and realization of business value.”
  • Leaders: “Ideation is an active way to create a culture of co-creation, curiosity, and collaboration in all parts of the organization. Ideation is a capability we are building that allows us to take advantage of the collective intelligence and diverse backgrounds of our workforce to find novel solutions. Ideation drives direct financial value for our organization through innovation, cost saving initiatives, and efficiency and productivity enhancements, as well as indirect financial value associated with building an empowered and committed workforce that wants to be a part of our team.”

Because the “why” of ideation for each role is different, we can acknowledge and embrace a broader, more inclusive definition of the term: 

Ideation is a scalable program, process, and capability aligned with co-creating ideas and solutions to drive direct financial value, improve culture, and build a more committed workforce across the organization. 

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