How do we get a great idea?

Well, finding the answer to that question is probably worth a fortune, but after our first course – design thinking- of the SID Laurea programme I have a much better picture of how to facilitate and enhance idea creation. In a few days a group of strangers became not merely acquainted with principles of innovation process and design thinking, – but also with one another. Simultaneously, we all co-created little innovation projects ourselves, – with the help of design thinking tools, naturally. As design thinking and innovation are complex processes, next I will present only some of the most inspirational methods for innovation and idea creation for me from this course.

The tools are there to help you

We started with a faint idea of a new service for learning and through an iterative process ended up with a new innovation. We learned the basics of design thinking – by applying them in practice. With the help of e.g. observation, collaboration and visualization we got our heads working, minds flowing and ideas running. For example with mind mapping and especially opportunity mapping our initial thoughts both expanded and narrowed. By making forceful combination of opposing subjects, our minds were forced to think differently – resulting in new, surprising outcomes. Opposites attract it seems, – better ideas that is!

Accept, or even embrace failures

Design thinking is an experimental, iterative and essentially human-centered process – needless to say, failures are inevitable. Moreover, failures can indeed facilitate learning. After all, isn’t one method in design thinking, not observing ideas, but in fact observing the challenges and problems? Observation can be used to examine challenges and thus in fact creating ideas. (In another context observation can be used as a method to learn with and from the users).

Ideas do not come when called upon

Ideas, unfortunately, cannot be ordered like a pizza. Often ideas appear in the most unlikely of places – rarely at the surroundings where we are trying to innovate.  I noticed that I started to gain new insights to our project several days after the course, in unrelated places. Hence, taking distance from your ideas and innovation project can help.

Co-creation enhances the outcome

Design thinking is essentially multidisciplinary and depends on co-creation. As the course work was done in groups, we were already co-creating. We also interviewed people in the college, to facilitate creating with the users, not merely to the users. Collaboration and feedback from the other groups was also vital in understanding the shortages of our idea. To raise (and visualize) our ideas we used for example brain writing and mood boards, which would not have been as fruitful if not done in a group.

Visualisation & Prototyping Fuels the Design Thinking Engine

Using visualization throughout the project helped both understand our challenges and ideas. It assisted in understanding the concrete aspects of our innovation and it gave us completely new reflection to the process. It enabled to see relations, differences, similarities, patterns and shortages that were not evident before visualization and prototyping. Yet again, it sort of challenged our innovation.

Are we there yet?

Finally, it was eye-opening to understand that design thinking is an iterative process. At some point it felt like we were stuck on  the same problem or phase but it was only later realized that our innovation route meandered between idea stages and gates.


Tschimmel, K. 2012. Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona. ISBN 978-952-265-243-0.

Lockwood, T. 2009. Design Thinking. Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience and Brand Value. Allworth Press, New York. ISBN 978-1-58115-668-3.

Written by Roosa Kallio SID MBA student

2 thoughts on “How do we get a great idea?

  1. You write about embracing failures. We do sometimes fail whether we use design thinking tools or not. Without desing thinking approach the reaction from failing is to become more cautious and thus less creative in the future. As I see it, design thinking process has failing as one option, which takes away the negative affect of a failure. As they say, we need to fail fast in order to succeed sooner. One colleague of mine says that if we don’t get negative comments, we haven’t been creative enough.

  2. Your title “How do we get a great idea?” is a really good one – made me instantly curious and wanted to read. Although you didn’t have an instant answer to the question you did reveal many points and discribed the process that leads to the goal i.e. to a great (business) idea. I agree with the previous commentator that failing and failures are quite essential in the process of service innovation development. Actually if failing and failures would be more acceptable in our society there would be more creativity at many levels – people would be more brave and would try more. We learn from our failures and get new ideas… and maybe finally THE Great Idea (innovation) that you wrote in your title 🙂

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