What is Ideation?

Ideation is one of those “fluffy” made up words that designers use to hide what they are doing – right?

Wrong. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Ideation as “the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas”.

So how are ideas formed? A lot of people think that ideas just pop into a person’s mind and that creative people are born this way. While this may happen for some lucky people, the rest of us have to sweat it out. There are a number of techniques and tools available to assist in the creation of ideas.

Wikipedia list 9 methods of innovation and this is only the start. Here are some examples:

Derivative idea

This involves taking something that already exists and changing it.

Symbiotic idea

A symbiotic method of idea creation is when multiple ideas are combined, using different elements of each to make a whole.

Serendipitous discovery

Serendipitous solutions are ideas which have been coincidentally developed without the intention of the inventor. For example, the discovery of penicillin.

Targeted innovation

Creating a targeted innovation deals with a direct path of discovery. This is often accompanied by intensive research in order to have a distinct and almost expected resolution.


Whichever method you choose, it is important to realize that we are all constrained by our accumulated experiences and learning – our personal world view. New ideas come when we stretch our boundaries to explore new concepts even if they may not appear relevant at first. We can then synthesise our new knowledge into new ideas.

So, Ideation is a word that describes the process through which we challenge our beliefs, expand our horizons and use new knowledge to create ideas.

Not so scary – give it a try sometime and you may be surprised at what you find.

Some useful reading on how one company became adept at creating and evaluating new ideas can be found here.

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