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The basic idea

Once a firm has identified the general area on which it wants to concentrate its new product development efforts, the next step is to come up with ideas. Sometimes this is done by technical specialists, such as food technologists and engineers. However, in other situations it is done using ideation. When market researchers are involved this ideation tends to involve consumers, but the same basic method can be used with stakeholders and other employees of the company. Ideation is short for idea generation. Ideation itself is just an application of brainstorming.


The basic logic of brainstorming is this: the best way of coming up with a good idea is to come up with lots and lots of ideas. A team that creates 50 ideas and chooses the best will, in general, end up with a much better idea than a team that that comes up with only 20 ideas. A way of coming up with lots of ideas is as follows:[1]

  1. Get a group of people together, but get each to initially work on their own. The widespread belief that people get ideas by bouncing off each other is not supported by evidence.
  2. Give people a specific target in terms of the number of ideas to come up with. For example, give them a target of 10 new ideas in 10 minutes. The trick is to make the target hard – the harder the target, the more ideas people will create. Furthermore, the specific goal is to come up with lots of ideas, not a small number of good ideas, and people should be instructed that quantity, not quality, counts.
  3. Then, as a group, review the ideas to identify winners.

Encouraging creativity

Ideation projects usually contain a couple of twists on traditional brainstorming. One of the twists is to give people a warm up task to encourage their creativity. The other is to give them tasks designed to guide them towards better ideas, as is done in SCAMPER below.

Example of a warm up task[2]

  • Generate two lists each of four random words (e.g., by randomly opening pages of a dictionary). For example:
	toast			runway	
	prophet			formula
	chip			lollipop
	tail			pyramid
  • On some basis, pair words in each of the lists
  • Define the basis for the pairing. For example:
“toast” and “prophet” are both edible
“tail and formula” can be very long
“profit” and “runway” suggest departure for the future


SCAMPER is a checklist of activities designed to spur creative thinking, all of which start by thinking about how to modify an existing product or service:

  • Substitute something
  • Combine it with something else
  • Adapt something to it
  • Modify or Magnify it
  • Put it to some other use
  • Eliminate something
  • Reverse or Rearrange it


  1. Rossiter, John R. and Gary L. Lilien (1994), "New 'Brainstorming' Principles," Australian Journal of Management, 19 (June), 61-72.
  2. Bono, Edward de (2008), Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas. Berkeley: Ulysses Press, page 30-31.
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