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Ideation: How to develop ideas more creatively and collaboratively

Livia Thimotheo
Reading Time:
4 minutes

When people say that there is no creativity in finance or that it is boring, I smile. As Jarbas Agnelli said in his TEDx talk, “it’s possible to see poetry everywhere, it only depends on the way we look at things”.

Fortunately, I’ve worked with design teams that demanded new ideas on every feature, even when the traditional design had been the same for literally decades and the answer was obvious. The original idea might not get the sign off (ok, it’s true clients are often traditionalists), but there are some elements of it that can still be used in that context or even in a completely different scenario. That is part of the creative process. 

Chakib Labidi, organiser of UX Playground, gave a more thorough and didactic insight into the creative process on his presentation “Ideation - How to develop ideas more creatively and collaboratively”. I attended his workshop in Southwark in an effort to keep up to date and learn more techniques to create more innovative ideas for our clients.

Ideation pic 1

He started identifying what things could hinder our creativity, such as our creative insecurity, striving for perfection and even thinking work shouldn’t be fun. There are times to be serious and think of what could go wrong but that is definitely not helpful when trying to come up with original ideas. 


In order to break away from those thought patterns, he shared with us a quote from Mark Twain:
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

 In the words of Kirby Ferguson  "Creativity is a remix"

Even Apple are not as innovative as you might think, Labidi pointed out the similarities between Apple's ipod and Braun’s radio
Ideation pic2

Other barriers to creativity pointed out by the audience were: a dominant personality during ideation, bureaucracy and too much experience (surprisingly!) It was argued that someone with less experience could approach a problem with a fresh pair of eyes and come up with a more original idea than the tried and tested cliches. 

There are also environmental factors that could be in the way too, such as sitting at a desk all day, a busy office and external demands on the design. 

So how to be more creative?

  • Breaking the routine
  • Getting it down on paper first, “you can’t be creative just staring at the screen
  • Stepping away from your desk
  • Putting some fun in the office
  • Talking to others about problems

He also mentions rituals, like having a time when the whole team has tea together. At Dock9 we already have coffee/tea together every Monday morning and I can assure you that is a great way to understand the interests, empathise and bond with our colleagues. All of which certainly helps collaboration.

In fact, Dock9 are already doing a lot of things on the list: beer o’clock every Friday, monthly out of office drinks. There’s always some special day someone says as a joke and then you realise it’s on the calendar. Like The Great Dock9 Bake Off and our Office Olympics. I'd also be interested to go and kick off a sketching session away from the desk.

Back to the workshop, there were also hands on exercises to flex the creative muscles. In one activity we had to get three post-it notes with different colours. Write a noun on one, a verb on the other and an adjective on the third. We exchanged them amongst ourselves and our team decided to tell a story about it. 

Here’s my sketch:
Ideation pic3

I got the words slimy, house and raced. As you can see, on the first square there’s a slimy house running. On the second, there’s a snail with a human house and a runner running on the roof. Finally, the race is between the runner and the snail, the runner is carrying the house but the poor slug is still losing the race...

In summary, it’s good to challenge yourself creatively and there are always opportunities to learn, this session certainly opened my eyes to some interesting ideas. Plus it’s good to know you work somewhere that’s already getting a lot of it right!

Livia Thimotheo

Livia is a UX Designer at Dock9. She's worked in digital products in the financial sector including applications, websites and chatbots. The Design of Everyday Things was her first design book and it completely changed the way she sees the world.