Try this Ideation Method – The Ideas Exchange

by Paul Sloane

Try this Ideation Method - The Ideas Exchange

The Ideas Exchange is a brainstorm method which works well for larger groups.   It is easy to run, quick and effective.  This is the procedure:

  1. The problem is clearly stated.
  2. Everyone is given two colored cards (or post-it notes). Say one white and one pink.
  3. Working silently and individually they write down a sensible idea to solve the problem on the white card and a bizarre, crazy idea on the pink card.
  4. People then mill around and swap cards (without reading them) so that they end up with a white card and a pink card from two different people.
  5. Each person now has to combine the two ideas they have received. They ‘force fit’ them together or adapt them in some way so that they now have a creative idea.
  6. People now work together in teams of 4 or 5. They share their new ideas and everyone is encouraged to support and build upon the ideas they hear.
  7. Each team selects its one best idea. At this stage they can adapt or improve the idea in any way they see fit. They then present this idea back to the whole group.
  8. The whole group votes for the best ideas using agreed criteria – e.g. we want a solution which is effective, novel and appealing to customers.

A key consideration is that the bizarre ideas have to be really bizarre in order to provoke and stimulate the people who receive them.  Tame ideas will lead to bland suggestions so ensure that participants understand that their bizarre ideas must be outrageous.  Say we are a charity looking for new ways to reach donors.  You receive a white card with the idea of running a Facebook campaign to promote the work of the charity.  Your pink card says, ‘Shoot anyone who refuses to donate.’  You have to come up with a combination.  You might suggest that you shoot videos of the stories of people you have helped and post the videos on Facebook and Youtube.  Or you might suggest that you target known wealthy philanthropists and shoot them a message via social media, email or direct mail.  In either case it is the outlandish concept of shooting which stimulates the fresh ideas.

There is a variant of this technique where everyone gets three cards.  On each card they write just one different word.   The cards are then shuffled and dealt out so that everyone receives three cards.  Each individual has to construct a proposition based on the three words they have received.


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Paul-Sloane-780812Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation, and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane

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