DEFINITION of 'Ideation'

Ideation is the process of forming and relating ideas, oftentimes in a business setting. It is used to describe the sequence of thought, from idea generation to idea implementation, which is the result of mental activity that can be based on past or present knowledge, thoughts, opinions, convictions or principles. Ideation is meant to conceptualize an idea and is the thought processes involved in apprehending and expressing a new concept, sometimes in a graphical or other similar depiction.

BREAKING DOWN 'Ideation'

Simply put, ideation is the literal action of forming ideas. It is made up of each and every process used by a person to take an idea from its moment of conception to its real-world application and implementation. Ideas and the act of ideating can come from anyone within a business or organization. These people include employees, managers, customers, partners and stakeholders, and the actual ideation can come from brainstorming sessions, online forums, collaboration tools, surveys and social media.

Ideation is a key component to any successful business. Companies such as Google, for example, allow employees to spend as much as 20% of their work hours thinking and coming up with new ideas that excite them while simultaneously solving a very real problem. This focus on ideation allows companies to become or remain innovative, increasing the chances for new products, customer acquisition and increased financial performance.

The General Ideation Process

The ideation process is not a hard rule. However, there are general guidelines people follow to help them maximize the effectiveness of ideation and the solutions it generates. First and foremost, ideation does not necessarily start with an idea. Typically, it starts with a problem that needs to be solved. Therefore, it is important to first clearly define the problem and understand its underlying factors, such as the industry, business environment, customer needs, budget constraints, and more.

From there, brainstorming sessions and other collaborative efforts are initiated to crowdsource potential ideas and solutions to the problem being posed. This collaboration should be a blend of right brain and left brain thinking, since many problems require both creative ideas and a pragmatic approach to find a solution. The idea is not to limit the person or group participating in the ideating process. Instead, all ideas, both wild and analytical, should be treated with fairness.

The slew of ideas generated during collaboration are then paired down into one main idea that drives the future actions of the group. The main idea is tested against the problem and adjusted as needed, only to be retested and repeated until a potential solution is found. The solution is then implemented in the real world, and if successful, the ideation process closes.

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