Finding the optimal solution isn’t straightforward or necessarily easy. This is where ideation comes into the design thinking process. It’s an essential part of the journey towards innovation.

Let’s start with a definition from the Nielsen Norman Group: “Ideation is the process of generating a broad set of ideas on a given topic, with no attempt to judge or evaluate them.” In other words, ideation strives to come up with as many different ideas as possible to approach the central problem from different angles – even if they are strange and don’t make sense!

The ideation phase is focused on improving the user experience, rather than a solution that makes sense for the business, or one that’s technically possible. You will deal with these aspects later in the design thinking process.

These ideas are created and developed in ideation workshops. But that’s only part of it. Ideation also involves bringing these generated ideas together, evaluating them, and selecting the best possible solutions to use for the next phase.

Divergent and convergent thinking in ideation

Design thinking uses both divergent and convergent thinking throughout the entire process. In other words, it explores as many avenues as possible, before refining and synthesising what has been learned.

In the same way, ideation can be seen as a small microcosm of the overall process.

You use divergent thinking when exploring many different angles of the design problem, and you use convergent thinking when evaluating generated ideas and selecting the best one based on a certain criteria.

The ideation phase is unique in that it uses both convergent and divergent thinking. This is called lateral thinking. This isn’t anything new, but rather a different approach to creatively solving a problem.

Of course, there‘s a lot more to design thinking than lateral thinking and ideation. Download our guide below to read more about patterns of thinking and learn how to implement design thinking tools.

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