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Ideation vs. Development in X-IDEA: How to move beyond conventional ideas in an innovation project?

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X-IDEA is an awards-winning innovation process method enabling organisations to reliably produce meaningful deliverables in innovation projects. One key distinguishing feature of X-IDEA is its separation of the creative phase into two distinct stages, Ideation and Development. I structure my paper into five parts. Part 1 establishes the desire of organisations moving beyond conventional ideas. The second part reviews the literature on how selected innovation process methods approach the creative process phase. After briefly discussing the chosen research approach for this paper in part 3, I explain the creative stages of X-IDEA in detail in the fourth part, thereby describing how the two creative stages Ideation and Development distinctly differ and build upon each other to enable more novel, original, and meaningful idea outputs. The final part discusses how X-IDEA's approach of two separate creative process stages may inspire business practitioners and researchers alike.
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Ideation vs. Development in X-IDEA:
How to move beyond conventional ideas in an innovation project?
Detlef Reis1
Thinkergy Limited
Suites 1001-2, Albion Plaza
2-6 Granville Road
Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
E-mail: dr.d@thinkergy.com
Abstract: X-IDEA is an awards-winning innovation process method enabling organisations to reliably
produce meaningful deliverables in innovation projects. One key distinguishing feature of X-IDEA is its
separation of the creative phase into two distinct stages, Ideation and Development.
I structure my paper into five parts. Part 1 establishes the desire of organisations moving beyond conven-
tional ideas. The second part reviews the literature on how selected innovation process methods ap-
proach the creative process phase. After briefly discussing the chosen research approach for this paper in
part 3, I explain the creative stages of X-IDEA in detail in the fourth part, thereby describing how the
two creative stages Ideation and Development distinctly differ and build upon each other to enable more
novel, original, and meaningful idea outputs. The final part discusses how X-IDEA’s approach of two
separate creative process stages may inspire business practitioners and researchers alike.
Keywords: innovation method, creative process, design thinking, creativity techniques, systematic inno-
vation, ideation, creative thinking, creative laws, ideation ground rules
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
1
1 Dr Detlef Reis is the Founder and Chief Ideator of Thinkergy Limited, the Innovation and Ideation Company in Asia
(http://www.thinkergy.com). He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University and an adjunct faculty at the
College of Management, Mahidol University.
He is also the creator of four proprietary innovation methods used by Thinkergy: The innovation process method X-IDEA; the innovation
people profiling method TIPS; the innovation culture transformation method CooL - Creativity UnLimited; and the creative leadership
method Genius Journey.
At the ISPIM Asia-Pacific Innovation Forum 2014 in Singapore, Dr. Reis' paper titled “X-IDEA: The Structured Magic of Systematic Inno-
vation” won the “Best Paper on Practical Implications for Technology” Award sponsored by Nokia.
Dr Reis has written his first two creativity books titled “X-IDEA: The Structured Magic of Playful Innovation” and "Genius Journey. Devel-
oping Authentic Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy", both of which are currently under review with Wiley UK (and targeted for
publication in Q4.2016 and 1H.2017). He can be contacted by e-mail at: dr.d@thinkergy.com.
® Thinkergy, X-IDEA, TIPS, CooL-Creativity Unlimited, and Genius Journey are trademarks and registered trademarks of Thinkergy.
© The X-IDEA Innovation Method and Toolbox is a registered copyright of Dr. Detlef Reis / Thinkergy 2009-16.
1 Introduction: The need for a more effective creativity in innovation process methods
In this paper, I introduce how the Asian innovation company Thinkergy encourages innovation teams undergo-
ing an innovation project to go beyond conventional ideas, i.e. obvious ideas that everyone else in the industry is
also likely to come up with. Thinkergy guides innovation participants towards truly novel, original and mean-
ingful ideas with the help of X-IDEA (Reis, 2014b; 2016b), Thinkergy’s proprietary innovation process method
that I developed. X-IDEA differs from many other innovation methods insofar as it uses two distinct creative
process stages, which tends to produce better, more original ideas.
Organisations conduct innovation projects with the intent to generate ideas for outstanding new value propo-
sitions, business models or strategies (Keeley, 2013). Unfortunately, innovation teams undergoing an innovation
project deliver often dissatisfactory idea results (Girotra, 2010). This is problematic for three reasons:
1. It’s not resourceful. Corporations invest money and the time of their managers and workforce for the
innovation projects to get the same obvious ideas that they may end up with after an internal one hour
brainstorming session.
2. It discredits the viability of creativity and innovation initiatives. Because the innovation team ends up
with the same obvious ideas, many managers in particular consider innovation projects a waste of time.
3. It’s a lost opportunity for the organisation to generate ideas that are truly novel, original and meaning-
ful and which can make a difference.
The last point is especially important, as nowadays, many organisations crave extraordinary ideas to counter
stagnating or even declining revenues and profitability (Peters, 2003) as well as disruption by more agile, inno-
vative new market entrants (Yu & Hang, 2010).
Who is to blame? The employees participating in an innovation project because they don’t come up with
better ideas? Certainly not. The innovation facilitators because they select the wrong creativity techniques?
Maybe partially yes. But the real reason why most innovation projects end up with conventional ideas is that the
facilitators use an ineffective innovation process method with only one creative process stage.
In this paper, I make a case for the necessity of using an innovation process method with two distinct crea-
tive process stages. Using the example of the X-IDEA innovation method that I created (Reis, 2014b), I explain
how these two creative phases noticeably differ from each other in their essential nature, and argue why the sug-
gested separation of the creative process phase is imperative to move beyond conventional ideas in innovation
projects.
This paper investigates six research-guiding questions, most of which the author also considered while creat-
ing the X-IDEA innovation process method, and here in particular the creative process stages Ideation and De-
velopment: (1) Why do most innovation process methods tend to produce only ordinary and not extraordinary
ideas? (2) How do popular innovation process methods approach the creative phase? (3) What is problematic
about using only one creative process stage? (4) What are the process stages Ideation and Development of the
X-IDEA method all about? (5) What are distinct differences between this two creative stages? (6) How does X-
IDEA enable innovation teams to move beyond conventional ideas by separating the creative phase into two
distinct process stages, Ideation and Development?
The first three research-guiding questions are addressed in the following review of the pertinent literature on
innovation process methods Questions four to six are tackled in the main findings of this paper (part 4), where I
introduce the overall methodological design of X-IDEA’s two creative process stages (Ideation and Develop-
ment) and explain to what extent this separation of the creative phases into two distinct stages addresses and
resolves the identified problems of methods with only one creative stage. Finally, I discuss the relevance of the
findings to other innovation practitioners and suggest directions for further research studies related to the testing
the efficacy of this methodological approach.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
2
2 The creative phase in innovation process methods and related creativity tools: A literature review
An overview of existing innovation process methods
The literature on problem solving, creativity, innovation and design offers various process models of structured
creative thinking. While all models emphasise the need of following a systematic thinking process, the number
of stages that one needs to pass through differs noticeably. For example, the classic Creative Problem Solving
(CPS) Model developed by Osborn (1963 [1953]) and Parnes (1967) suggest thinkers to follow a six-stage proc-
ess of objective finding, fact finding, problem finding, idea finding, solution finding, and acceptance finding.
Other authors advocate a four-stage approach (for example, see von Oech, 1986; Clegg & Birch, 2002; Bragg &
Bragg, 2005).
The professional experience of the current author, gained in real-life innovation projects with his innovation
company Thinkergy, suggests a five-stage approach that has proven to successfully guide innovation teams to
produce meaningful innovation outputs. Other successful innovation companies, such as the industrial design
company IDEO and the Swiss idea factory BrainStore AG, also have developed their own proprietary systematic
creative processes (Kelley & Littman, 2002, 2005; Moggridge 2007; Schnetzler, 2005).
The design of the creative phase in a selection of existing innovation process methods
In the following, I investigate the common process stages of selected innovation process method, thereby plac-
ing an emphasis on how the creative phase is designed and organised (see also Table 1):
The classic Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Model developed by Osborn (1963 [1953]) and Parnes (1967)
suggest thinkers to follow a six-stage process of objective finding, fact finding, problem finding, idea find-
ing, solution finding, and acceptance finding, with idea finding being the sole creative phase.
Many four-stage process framework lean on and acknowledge being conceptual variations of the classic
CPS. Examples of such frameworks that also use only one creative stage include Birch & Clegg’s (2002)
Idea Development Framework (with the creative stage called “generating new ideas”), Bragg & Bragg’s
(2005) Idea Development Process (one creative phase also labelled “generating new ideas”) or VanGundy’s
(2007) “Getting to innovation”-approach (using again one creative stage only, Idea Generation).
In recent years, the innovation method of the Silicon Valley-based industrial design and innovation com-
pany IDEO has gained widespread popularity. Also known under its broader category name “Design Think-
ing” (a term used by the IDEO’s educational spin-off, the D-School at Stanford University), the method
draws upon the three process stages “inspiration”, “ideation” and “implementation”. While the design
thinking method foresees backward loops in the process in case an innovation team notices unsatisfactory
results of an earlier stage, design thinking also proposes to use one creative phase (ideation) only.
The “Idea Machine” of the Swiss innovation company Brainstore introduced by Schnetzler (2005) is a no-
ticeable exception to the “one creative phase” only approach of most other innovation process methods. The
first two process stages of the method called “Amassing” and “Extraction” are each largely creative in na-
ture. The Amassing-stage is geared towards generating insights and ideas, and has a creativity workshop
called “Creative team” as main creative activity (apart from other, more explorative steps like expert inter-
views, netscouting or trendscouting). In contrast, the second creative stage Extraction has three sub-steps
called idea city, think tank and idea design. Schnetzler’s explanations of each creative stage illustrate that
the cognitive creative activities differ noticeably from each other here; for example, the thinking direction
in the Amassing-phase is broadly divergent, while in the Extraction phase, its first convergent in the idea
city-step and then narrowly divergent in the subsequent steps.
Finally, the X-IDEA innovation method created by the author of this paper is a five stage process with two
distinct creative stages, and will be introduced in greater detail in the fourth part of this paper.
In summary, the review of the literature on innovation process methods reveals that most methods first aim
to investigate and frame the innovation challenge, followed by a creative phase used to generate ideas, which
will then get evaluated before selecting some ideas for implementation. With the exception of Brainstore’s Idea
Machine and Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method, all other innovation process methods suffice with only one creative
process stage. In the following, I discuss why this limitation to one creative phase is problematic, and often
leads to suboptimal idea output.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
3
Table 1 Process Flow of selected Innovation Process Methods (with the creative phases highlighted in bold)
Name of Innovation
Process Method
Creative Problem-Solving
(CPS) Model
Design Thinking
(IDEO Method)
Idea Development
Process
Creator / Source
Osborn & Parnes
IDEO
(Stanford D-School)
Bragg & Bragg
No. of process stages:
1. First process stage
2.Second stage
3.Creative process stage
highlighted in bold
4.Etc.
6 Stages:
1.Objective finding
2.Fact Finding
3.Problem finding
4.Idea finding
5.Solution finding
6.Acceptance finding
3 Stages:
1.Inspiration
2.Ideation
3.Implementation
4 Stages:
1.Seeking and shaping oppor-
tunities
2.Generating new ideas
3.Evaluating & selecting ideas
4.Planning for implementation
Idea Development Framework
Getting to innovation
Idea Machine
X-IDEA
Birch & Clegg
VanGundy
Schnetzler
(Brainstore)
Thinkergy
(Reis)
4 Stages:
1.Understand the problem.
2.Generating the ideas
3.Select from the ideas and
refine them.
4.Prepare for selling and im-
plementing ideas
4 Stages:
1.Innovation framing
2.Idea generation
3.Evaluation and selection
4.Implementation
4 Stages:
1.Amassing
2.Extraction
3.Selection
4.Preparation
5 Stages:
1.Xploration
2.Ideation
3.Development
4.Evaluation
5.Action
Source: Own table based on: Osborn (1963 [1953]) and Parnes (1963); Brown (2008); Bragg & Bragg
(2005); Birch & Clegg (2002); VanGundy (2007) and Schnetzler (2005).
Problems of using only one creative process stage in an innovation method
Most problems of innovation process methods which use only one creative process stage relate to making it dif-
ficult for participants of an innovation project to comply with to procedural ground rules of idea generation (as
already suggested by Osborn (1963 [1953]). These ground rules mandate idea-generating participants to not
judge and kill any idea, and defer judgment to a later stage (rule #1), to go for idea quantity as it breeds quality
(rule #2), to shoot for wild, crazy, funny off the wall ideas (rule #3), and to combine and improve on ideas (rule
#4). Typical issues that surface when innovation project participants and their facilitators use an innovation
process method with only one creative process stage include the following:
During idea generation efforts, most participants tend to internally judge ideas on their practicality, which in
particular happens if they think any wild ideas (Diehl and Strobe, 1991). As such, they tend to ignore the
postulate “the wilder the better” (in violation of the third ground rule) and tend to favour suggesting only
“normal”, “safe” and “realistic” (or in other words: “conventional”) ideas.
This internal judgment of wild ideas disobeys Osborn’s first ground rule and also automatically reduces the
overall number of ideas (thus defying ground rule #2). However, as von Oech (1998) notes, wild ideas are
often the seedling of a truly outstanding idea.
The problem is amplified if the idea generation is mostly conducted in the form of a Brainstorming. Johans-
son (2008) notes that over 25 studies confirmed the inefficacy of Brainstorming over other idea-generation
methods (such as brain writing) with regards to achieving the main objective of ideation: coming up with a
large number of ideas. Diehl and Strobe (1987 and 1991) not only found that brainstorming is inferior to
other techniques in churning out a lot of ideas, but also investigated the why. One of the significant negative
factors they extracted was labelled “evaluation apprehension.” It describes the common phenomenon that in
violation of rule #3, brainstormers tend to refrain from suggesting more unusual ideas out of fear of being
privately judged by other members of the group.
According to the author’s experiences in real-life innovation projects in Asia, the phenomenon of evaluation
apprehension is exaggerated in collectivistic cultures where people are afraid of “losing face” in front of
senior superiors and peers (Kainzbauer, 2013). This is especially problematic against the background that
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
4
almost all innovation process methods have been developed in Western cultures and tend to neglect the ex-
istence of cross-cultural barriers towards certain procedural mechanisms.
A final problem of using only one creative process stage is that all creativity techniques are only used for
idea generation without further discrimination (e.g., De Bono, 1992; Michalko; 1991 and 2001; Clegg and
Birch; 2002; Hudson, 2007). However, in his practical work with innovation project teams, the current
author discovered that some creativity techniques work well for generating fresh ideas, while others focus
more on improving on already existing ideas (such as Osborn’s (1963 [1953]) SCAMPER questions or
VanGundy’s (2005) Pass The Buck). These nuances can unfold their value once the creative phase is split
into two distinct stages, but tend to lead to confusion and inefficacies in the case of only one creative stage.
When starting on facilitating the first innovation projects using a standard four-stage process in line with the
CPS method, the current author noticed these shortcomings of using only one creative process stage leading to
suboptimal idea generation outputs (i.e., a smaller pool of more conventional ideas). After experimenting with
alternative creative process sequences and after seeing Brainstore’s more expansive creative approach in its Idea
Machine (Schnetzler, 2005), I realised that the solution to resolve the aforementioned shortcomings lies in sepa-
rating the creative process phase into two distinct phases that I will introduce in part 4 of this paper.
3 Research design
This paper follows a descriptive research design against the background that it reports a recent, more effective
methodological development in the conceptual design of the creative phase of innovation process methods. This
research approach is deemed appropriate as the paper largely follows a diagnostic approach (Zigmund (2003),
Ticehurst and Veal (2000) by investigating what-, why- and how-related research questions (i.e., What new con-
ceptual aspects have been designed into the creative phase of X-IDEA? Why is this new approach useful? How
does this new approach differ from earlier concepts? How does it work in a nutshell?).
Supported by a team of colleagues from the Asian innovation company Thinkergy, the author has created,
tested and systematically refined X-IDEA and its two creative process stages Ideation and Development while
working on over 150 innovation projects with multicultural audiences largely in the Asia-Pacific region.
Thereby, X-IDEA evolved in phases over a 10-year time period by (a) first adopting a well-established process
method based on the CPS model, (b) noticing that the model doesn’t deliver the desired results and in par-
ticular falls short on outstanding idea outputs, (c) experimenting with alternative process steps, (d) realising that
a second creative stage ((i.e., the Development-stage) is needed to produce more extraordinary (i.e., more novel,
unique and meaningful) idea concepts, (e) linking tools to the identified workable flow of stages and steps, and
finally (f) integrating the X-IDEA inputs, outputs, roles and traps to the method (Reis, 2014b). Hence, the author
followed the notion of rapid prototyping (Kelley, 2002; Lidwell et. al, 2010) in the development of X-IDEA.
4 Findings: The process stages and features of X-IDEA
This section briefly introduces the overall process flow of X-IDEA in general before discussing in detail how
the design of its two creative process stages is used to rectify some of the aforementioned shortcomings of most
other innovation methods (as discussed above in the literature review section). Thereby, I discuss how the two
creative stages differ from each other, and how the interplay of both stages leads to better idea outputs.
The five main process stages of X-IDEA
X-IDEA comprises a five-stage process model that innovation facilitators use to guide innovation teams system-
atically through an innovation project towards meaningful innovation deliverables. The five process stages of
the X-IDEA Innovation Method are Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation, and Action.
X-IDEA provides structure to innovation project facilitators and participants alike by specifying a range of pro-
cedural parameters for each stage: stage objectives; suggested mental roles or mindsets to adopt; required cogni-
tive activities; common cognitive biases and procedural traps; and the specific target output. The overall flow of
the five main process stages of X-IDEA as well as the aforementioned methodological design parameters are
described in detail in another paper (Reis, 2014b).
In contrast, this paper focuses on detailing out how X-IDEA separates the creative phase into two distinctly dif-
ferent creative process stages, and how following this approach can lead innovation teams to better idea outputs
in both the Ideation- and Development-stage.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
5
Distinct differences in the design of the two creative stages Ideation and Development
X-IDEA splits the creative process phase into two distinct creative stages, Ideation and Development. Below, I
explain key differences between these two creative process stages by going through each of the aforementioned
methodological design parameters (see also Table 2):
Objectives: In X-IDEA, the two creative stages Ideation and Development differ from one another insofar
as the former aims for high idea quantity (i.e., generate as many raw ideas as possible), while the latter tar-
gets high idea quality (by designing and developing realistic and meaningful idea concepts).
Roles: To overcome cross-cultural barriers towards ideation and innovation, X-IDEA adopted and evolved
the concept of special mindsets or mental roles for creative thinking proposed by Koestler (1989 [1964])
and von Oech (1986).
In the Ideation-stage, participants of an innovation project step into the role of a child, thus adopting an
imaginative, naive , playful, fun-oriented, wild, and “anything goes” mindset that is helpful to generate a
large pool of ideas. Introducing the role of the child also helps address the intercultural dimension of losing
face and the problem of evaluation apprehension as discussed before (therefore, the innovation facilitator
says “Now it’s not you suggesting a wild idea, but you acting out the role of a child”).
In contrast, the second creative process stage Development invites participants to become an alchemist,
who follows a more qualitative creative work style that is more heuristic and experimental as well as highly
intuitive in nature. Alchemists engage in combinatory play with promising ideas that they feel do somehow
connect, and have the curiosity and courage to tinker, twist and tweak wild ideas into meaningful concepts.
Subordinated steps and cognitive activities: In each stage of X-IDEA, the innovation teams take three steps
and pursue three specific activities, each of which represents a particular cognitive activity that takes place
while using certain thinking tools.
In the Ideation-stage, the three cognitive activities Ideate-Imagine-Incubate stand laterally next to each
other, thus acknowledging de Bono’s (1990) notion of lateral thinking. This allows innovation facilitators to
flexibly jump back and forth between using creativity tools that play on these cognitive creative principles,
and it frees innovation project participants to simply “play for ideas” while staying in the role of a child.
In the Development-stage, however, the three cognitive activities Discover > Design > Develop unfold in
sequence: First, the innovation project participants turned alchemists discover intriguing (i.e., interesting or
wild) ideas within the large pool of raw ideas generated during Ideation. Then, they design some of those
discovered intriguing ideas into realistic idea concepts. Finally, they develop those further by looking for
ways to make the designed concepts even more meaningful.
Process Traps: Both in the Ideation- and the Development-stage, innovation project participants are likely
to fall prey to common procedural traps (unless an innovation facilitator alerts them of these traps prior of
the start of the creative work activities).
In the Ideation-stage, these procedural traps equate to asking the idea generators to strictly comply with the
four ground rules of ideation (that were already discussed earlier in the literature review section).
For the Development-stage, the current author formulated similar ground rules of idea development (Reis,
2014a) as follows: Rule #1: No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. Rule #2: Go for quality, and take your
time. Rule #3. The more meaningful, the better. Shoot for valuable, useful, realistic, meaningful idea con-
cepts. Rule #4: Combine and improve on ideas. As such, while ground rules #1 and #4 remain from the
Ideation-stage, ground rules #2 and #3 change their emphasis in the Development-stage from quantity to
quality and from being wild to being meaningful, respectively.
Thinking Direction: One of the distinctive aspects of a process stage or step within an innovation process is
the thinking direction; thereby, the literature distinguishes between divergent thinking and convergent
thinking (e.g., Cropley, 2006; Brown, 2009). Within the process flow of an innovation method, the thinking
typically keeps on changing between divergent and convergent thinking (Bragg and Bragg, 2005).
When innovation teams generate ideas in a creative process stage, the thinking typically diverges broadly,
indicating that the aim is a wide range of diverse ideas. The same holds true for the Ideation-stage of X-
IDEA.
But as we enter the Development-stage of X-IDEA, we initially engage in convergent thinking in the first
step (idea discovery), and then shift back to divergent thinking in the subsequent two steps (idea design and
idea development). Compared to the Ideation-stage, however, the scope of divergent thinking here is more
narrow and focused, reflecting the aim for producing realistic, meaningful idea concepts.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
6
Table 2 Synopsis of key conceptual differences between the two creative process stages of the X-IDEA innovation method
Criteria
Stage I-IDEATION
Stage D-DEVELOPMENT
Stage Objective
Generate as many raw ideas as possible
in the given amount of time
Transform idea quantity into quality by
designing a portfolio of realistic, mean-
ingful idea concepts
Mental Role
(Mindset)
The Child
(imaginative, naive, playful, fun-
oriented, wild, anything goes)
The Alchemist
(intuitive, heuristic, experimental, com-
binatory play, twist and turn around)
Cognitive Activities
Ideate - Imagine - Incubate
(laterally next to each other; in parallel)
1. Discover
2. Design
3. Develop
(executed in sequential order)
Procedural Guidelines
(Process Traps)
Ground Rules of Ideation:
#1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment.
#2. Go for quantity.
#3. The wilder the better.
#4. Combine and improve on ideas.
Ground Rules of Development:
#1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment.
#2. Go for quality.
#3. The more meaningful the better.
#4. Combine and improve on ideas.
Thinking Direction
Broadly divergent only
1. Convergent
2. Narrowly divergent
3. Divergent
Thinking Tools
(Creativity techniques)
I Tools
(e.g., Brainstorming, What If, Morpho-
logical Matrix, Metaphors, Reversal)
D Tools
(e.g., Idea Designer, Idea Circles, Get
Real, Pass The Buck, SCAMPER)
Work pace and energy level
(Tempo)
Speedy to fast and furious
Allegro (ca. 120-168 bpm) and at times
even Vivace (168-176 bpm)
Moderate
Adagio (ca. 66-76 bpm) to
Andante (ca. 76-108 bpm)
Target outputs
Raw ideas
Ca. 500-1,000 (time-dependant)
Ca. 5-20 words
Anything goes as long it’s a real idea
Idea concepts
Ca. 20-50 (time-dependant)
Ca. 50-200 words + idea sketch
Meaningful, realistic concepts only
Creative Laws
1. Creative law of stimuli
2. Creative law of knowledge
3. Creative law of elaboration
4. Creative Law of the Vital Few
5. Creative Law of the Intersection
6. Creative Law of X Steps Removed
Source: Own table based on: Reis, 2016b.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
7
Work pace and energy level: One of the things that most observers of an X-IDEA innovation project notice
is the huge difference in the work pace and energy levels of the two creative process stages. Ideation is full
of cognitive and physical movement and at times even happens at a fast and furious pace (such as when the
participants engage in the idea race), and both the noise and energy levels are high.
In contrast, the work pace in the Development stage is moderate, as the project participants here take their
time to leisurely but concentratedly design and develop realistic, meaningful idea concepts (which is typi-
cally done solitarily or bilaterally with a buddy).
At Thinkergy, we influence the mood and pace for the two stages also with the choice of background music
played at each stage: in Italian tempo markings, the music played during Ideation is allegro or vivace (re-
corded at 120 to 176 beats per minute (bpm)), while in the Development-stage, we slow the tempo down to
adagio or andante (set between 66 to 108 bpm).
Creativity tools: X-IDEA is linked to a toolbox comprising a range of currently 150 analytical thinking
tools and creativity tools. From the creative thinking tools, 45 relate to the Ideation-stage and 18 to the De-
velopment. The major difference between I- and D-Tools (as we call them at Thinkergy) is that the former
tend to contain triggers that make it easy to come up with completely fresh ideas, while the latter build upon
a number of already generated, existing ideas through elaboration, combination and transposition. For ex-
ample, the D Tool Idea Designer flashes out an idea in all its details (elaboration), while the D Tools Idea
Circles and Yin And Yang connect related ideas with each other into more mature concepts (combination),
and the D Tools Pass The Buck, Get Real or Ding Dong all help to effectively tame a wild idea (transposi-
tion).
Target outputs: The output-feature ensures that at the end of an innovation project, a team has produced
meaningful innovation results. This is done by specifying —and tracking and measuring!— the target out-
puts that an innovation team needs to produce in each process stage, as well as by checking on the quality
of the outputs at each step of the way.
Once again, we target different types of outputs in the two creative stages of X-IDEA: We want to get a
huge number of raw ideas (ca. 500-1,000, dependant on the time at hand and the number of heads in an
innovation project team). Raw ideas typically have between 5 to 25 words, and anything goes for as long as
it complies to the general characteristics of an idea (i.e., a sentence with an action element (or verb)).
In contrast, our target output for the Development-stage is a much smaller (i.e., ca. 20-40) portfolio of idea
concepts that cater to the innovation challenge in a realistic and meaningful way. With ca. 100-250 words,
an idea concept is much more elaborated compared to a raw idea; it describes the value proposition, the
target user, the rationale of why the concept makes meaning for this user, a short title and —true to the ad-
age that a picture is worth a thousand words— an idea sketch.
How the process flow of X-IDEA’s two creative stages Ideation and Development leads to better idea outputs
In the initial process stage of X-IDEA, Xploration, an innovation project team first explores the given innova-
tion case to gain novel insights and —most importantly— find out what’s their real innovation challenge.
Framed as an action question starting with the words “How to”, this final challenge is the key input into the sub-
sequent two creative stages Ideation and Development and gives focus to the creative thinking efforts of the
teams. In the following bullets, I describe in detail what happens during the Ideation- and Development-stage,
and why moving from one to two creative stages leads to better idea outputs by the end of the creative phase:
Ideation is the second stage of the X-IDEA Innovation Method.
The objective of this stage for an innovation team is to produce as many raw ideas as possible within the
given amount of time available. To achieve this objective, the project facilitators ask all participants to step
into the role of a child and play for ideas, thereby using three cognitive creative activities Ideate-Imagine-
Incubate that —only in this stage— stand laterally next to each other.
To make it easier for project participants to Ideate, Imagine or Incubate, an innovation facilitator exposes
the project teams to a range of —depending on the time available— six to twelve Ideation Tools (I Tools). I
Tools are special creativity techniques that can reliably take the thinking of the project participants outside
of the tunnel of their domain expertise and conventional ways of thinking (Clegg and Birch, 2002).
These I Tools use a particular trigger (e.g., associations, images, questions, formal schemes, among others)
to propel participants’ thinking to a new starting point from where they can get a fresh look at the innova-
tion challenge and can come up with fresh and at times also bold or wild ideas. Thereby, as the UK-based
innovation company ?What If! (2002) outlines, the quality and originality of the innovation stimulus di-
rectly impacts the quality and originality of the ideas out.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
8
While playing for raw ideas with the help of respective I Tools, participants need to make an effort to com-
ply with the four ground rules of Ideation (which constitute the procedural traps in the Ideation stage that
lead to poor outputs as outlined before). Here, it is especially important that participants strictly observe the
first ground rule (“No killing of ideas”), as it also impacts the other three rules. Moreover, the innovation
facilitator is advised to set an ambitious yet realistic idea quota for every Ideation session to support com-
pliance to the four ground rules.
Finally, the target outputs that the innovation project teams want to get out of this stage are raw ideas. Raw
ideas are imperfect ideas that can be normal, interesting or wild. However, it is important that the partici-
pants ensure that all raw ideas are real ideas and not just simple thoughts or associations. A real idea must
be a sentence with a verb as action element that allows us later to take action on the idea. In the subse-
quently following second creative stage, Development, the teams will work on processing these raw ideas
further into full-fledged idea concepts.
Development is the third stage of X-IDEA and the second creative phase within the process flow.
The objective of this second creative stage is to turn idea quantity (from the Ideation-stage) into quality, and
to design and develop a portfolio of realistic, meaningful idea concepts for the final challenge using all gen-
erated raw ideas from Ideation as main work input. The participants purse this stage objective by adopting
the mindset of an alchemist and turning common raw ideas into special idea concepts and solutions.
Therefore, the innovation teams engage into three cognitive activities in a sequential order: first, they Dis-
cover intriguing ideas in line with Reis’ (2014A; 2016a) creative law of the vital few, which states that
“80% of the value of Ideation is contained in only 20% of the ideas.”
Then, they Design realistic idea concepts by combining intriguing ideas with each other (following the
creative law of the intersection (Johansson, 2006), which is also known as the creative law of connecting
the dots (Reis, 2014A; 2016a) and postulates that: “The most powerful ideas can often be found in the in-
tersection between seemingly unrelated ideas, concepts or disciplines. Design meaningful idea concepts by
combining interesting ideas.” Another way to arrive at novel, original and meaningful idea concepts is by
taming wild ideas following Reis’ (2014a; 2016a) creative law of X steps removed, which states: “The most
powerful idea concepts are often not your first creative thoughts, but those that are ‘X steps removed’ from
the original idea.”
Finally, the participants Develop the designed idea concepts further by creatively looking for ways to add
even more value and utility to them.
Idea discovery, design and development requires a different type of creativity techniques compared to the
ones used for the generation of fresh ideas. True to the work style of an Alchemist, these D Tools encourage
a more intuitive, experimental and heuristic approach and focus more on refining, connecting and twisting
existing ideas (rather than creating completely new ones).
While engaging in the cognitive activities Discover, Design and Develop, the innovation project partici-
pants need to beware of a different type of process traps. Taking the new stage objective into account, these
D Traps differ in two instances from the ones used during Ideation, thereby emphasising the importance of
pushing for a high idea quality and for making meaning. Once again, innovation facilitators are advised to
also set an idea concept quota for a Development-session that is comfortable but at the same time discour-
ages participants from being idle.
The target output for the Development-stage is a portfolio of roughly two to three dozen idea concepts. Idea
concepts are fully fleshed out ideas that clearly describe what exactly you want to do, why you think this
makes meaning, and who specifically you target with a concept. You also add a simple sketch to each con-
cept.
The resulting portfolio of idea concepts is entered into the critical Evaluation-stage, where the teams evalu-
ate all concepts, then enhance and rapidly prototype promising concepts before finally electing their top idea
concepts. In in the final Action-stage of X-IDEA, the project team pitches these top concepts to critical idea
supporters and, once securing support and funding, start an top idea activation project that turns a top idea into a
new value-adding innovation deliverable to be released into the market.
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
9
5 Discussion
Conclusion: X-IDEA: Better idea outputs by splitting the creative phase into two distinct stages
X-IDEA is a new development in the domain of structured thinking processes for innovation, creative problem
solving and design thinking. This paper has focused on showing how X-IDEA enables innovation project teams
to move beyond conventional ideas that “everyone in an industry thinks”. While the vast majority of innovation
process methods suffices with one creative phase, X-IDEA suggests the use of two distinct creative process
stages, Ideation and Development. Based on practical observations in over 150 innovation projects facilitated
using the X-IDEA innovation method, the current author observed that X-IDEA’s approach of separating the
creative process phase into two distinct stages delivers better (i.e., more novel, original and meaningful) idea
outputs. Innovation teams can produce better creative results in each creative stage by:
1. Pursuing different stage objectives (Stage I: idea quantity; stage D: idea quality).
2. Adopting different roles (I: the playfully imaginative mindset of a Child; D: the heuristic, experimental
and intuitive mindset of an Alchemist).
3. Engaging in different creative cognitive activities (I: Ideate | Imagine | Incubate; D: Design > Design >
Develop) that are processed in different ways (I: laterally in parallel; D: sequential flow of activities).
4. Distinguishing differences in procedural traps that commonly occur in the creative phase (i.e., while
ground rules #1 and #4 are identical in both stages, the ground rules #2. and #3. differ in Ideation vis-
a-vis Development).
5. Using different types of creativity techniques catering to distinct creative cognitive activities and types
of ideas (I: generating of fresh ideas; D: furthering existing, already generated ideas through elabora-
tion, combination and transmutation).
6. Following different thinking directions (I: broadly divergent only; D: first convergent, then (narrowly)
divergent).
7. Producing different types of target outputs in specific quantities (I: ca. 500-1,000 raw ideas per team;
D: ca. 20-40 realistic, meaningful idea concepts).
Moving beyond one creative process stage allows innovation facilitators to circumvent the problem of
evaluation apprehension and encourages innovation process participants to think more freely. This is because
participants are less likely to judge their ideas during Ideation if they know they have a second creative stage to
make sense and meaning out of the generated ideas. Consequently, they tend to suggest more ideas in general
and more bold and wild ideas in particular, both of which increases the likelihood of the team ending up with a
range of truly novel, original and meaningful top concepts that go beyond the conventional “me too”-ideas that
typically flood an industry.
Recommendations for future research
Future research projects may investigate differences in the quality of ideas entered into an evaluation-stage fol-
lowing a creative phase with only one (i.e., most innovation process methods) vs. two distinct creative process
stages (as X-IDEA does). Thereby, independent reviewers may evaluate the idea outputs of both approaches by
judging qualitative criteria such as originality, novelty, meaningfulness, feasibility and level of elaboration of
the resulting ideas at the end of the creative phase. In this context, it should also be assessed how the idea quan-
tity is impacted by moving from one to two creative process stages, and whether expert evaluators deem the
additional time investment worth the return in idea quality.
Finally, it would be desirable to investigate if and how these results change in different cultural environ-
ments (such as comparing a Western innovation project team with an Asian team).
This paper was presented at the XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal on 19-22 June 2016.
The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org.
10
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11
... Then, they work with this much smaller pool of interesting, original and-at times-wild raw ideas to design and develop these into meaningful idea concepts. This is done by applying the creative principles of elaboration, combination and transmutation and by using special design tools such as Yin And Yang or Get Real (Reis 2016a(Reis , 2017. • Stage E-Evaluation: The fourth stage of X-IDEA, Evaluation, balances the creativity of the previous two stages with realism and pragmatism. ...
... The teams came up with over 7000 raw ideas for their challenges. In the afternoon, the teams entered the powerful second creative stage of X-IDEA, Development (Reis 2016a). Here, the teams first Discovered the most intriguing raw ideas and then Designed and Developed them into over 250 realistic, meaningful idea concepts. ...
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1. publ. Repr
Developing New Business Ideas
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