When looking at a problem, some ideation techniques can help. These exercises can make the process productive and fun. 

Ideation techniques are often used to create a list of as many solutions as possible, which a team can then narrow to the most viable options.

Often teams major on well-used techniques such as brainstorming, mind-mapping, etc., but there are other exercises which perhaps are less well known:

Reverse thinking or worst ideas

This technique flips the logic of ideation upside down: instead of thinking of the best way to solve the problem, we think of the way to worsen the problem, a way to create more problems, and so on.

This technique removes that fear because it welcomes bad ideas. It often provides a more fun environment, as participants try to entertain one another and use their creativity to create ridiculous ideas.

Once your team pitches their worst ideas, list the attributes that make those ideas bad. Now the participants must think about the opposites of those negative attributes to find what would turn those bad ideas into possible solutions. Even just discussing the worst ideas can lead to connections or sources of inspiration that can lead to positive solutions, demonstrating their unexpected value.

Use the power of analogies

Finding similarities in different things and differences in similarities.

First of all, you have to phrase the situation that you are working on. Secondly, we come up with an analogy, an example from a different sphere where the situation is somehow similar. When we have found a good analogy, we focus on it and stop thinking about the initial issue for a while.

Team members think of ways to solve the new situation. The ideas are collected and later applied to the initial problem. Some of them might not be applicable, whilst others can bring a completely new solution.


Mixing two unrelated things to come up with new ideas.

Where do we find these unrelated things? First of all, we have to make a problem statement or the question (by the way, defining the problem properly is crucial for the other ideation techniques as well). The question should start with “How might we”. For example, “How might we make our customers order their medicines for delivery?”.

After that, we pick two categories. One of them should be related to our topic, another — not related at all. Let’s say it can be “pharmacies” and “Disneyland”. Give your team a few minutes to create a list of all the things that come to mind under each category.

Then take one item from each category and combine them in an unexpected way: for example, “painkillers sold by Mickey Mouse”. Don’t expect each combination to be a potential answer to the initial question. The objective is to generate new ideas, and only then evaluate them and see if there is something real.

Strange Child

What if one organization involved in the problem had a strange child with another organization, taking taking the unique things that they both do to create something strange but unique?

Start by thinking of an organization or initiative operating in the problem area i.e. ACEs e.g. schools, parenting classes, health service, etc. Then think of a business with a unique proposition or business model and think of all the things that make it unique. For example, Netflix have (or had) things that make them unique; monthly subscription model, creation of their own content in-house or personalized recommendations using your data.

Strange child asks one fundamental question; 'What if we took these unique factors and combined them with the services of the organisation operating in the problem area?'.

By smashing the offerings of businesses together you can create something that is often more than the sum of its parts.


There are many more such techniques but I hope these give you ways to think about the problem in a new way!

Happy ideating