How to Find the Ideas that Give You “Goosebumps”

Generating ideas can be relatively easy but finding great ideas is not. Brainstorming and ideation needs to be focused and purposeful to produce ideas that take you beyond a wall of post-its. And identifying the best ideas of all your ideas is important for success.

In our hangout “Finding Ideas That Are Meaningful”, our insightful panelists included:

GE – Ann Marie Dumais, Open Innovation Leader & Design Strategist

EF Education First – Nate Cameron, VP, Executive Creative Director

Biogen – Heather Saforrian, Director, Strategic Innovation

The panel defined “meaningful ideas” as ideas that address the problem statement, meet your objectives and resonate with the target. Nate offered a visual queue to take the temperature of a room: “…use the ‘silent nod, goose bump test’ where you look around the room and see the nods where everybody feels it. ‘Meaningful ideas’ are something you feel. Trust your instincts.”

Ann Marie shared that it’s important to have a clearly articulated problem statement from the start, and to think about the end state before gathering ideas. Heather added the importance of “exploring a wide variety of paths to get to the most meaningful ideas.”

To help put this in perspective, Altitude uses a framework that assesses three areas to vet ideas and innovation before they move forward: desirability, feasibility, viability. It’s a checklist we encourage you to borrow and make your own!

A checklist is only as good at the team using it though, and that depends largely on your company’s culture.

Creating the right culture to vet ideas

The panelists agreed on five criteria that are needed for effectively gathering and vetting ideas. These are:

  • Create a safe place where people are fully comfortable sharing even the “weird ideas,” as Nate put it.
  • Have open acceptance to pivot off an idea or path quickly if it is clear you are going down the wrong path.
  • Be open to all ideas from all departments so silos are reduced and a wider network of idea gathering happens. Great ideas often come from unexpected places.
  • Do not start out feeling that you know the solution or you may miss the big opportunity. Jarden’s Margaritaville Frozen Drink Maker is a perfect example of this.
  • Be ready to discuss how to get in the way of a problem or how to break it, versus only how to solve it.

Personalities you want on the team

For team leadership, Nate cautions to “not be a permission-based leader. And no egos (‘no jerk rule’).” The people on the innovation team should have a high bar for what constitutes “great” and a sense of what works and what just doesn’t. Leaders should be able to guide the conversation productively. Ann Marie added that people need to be able to, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Also, all three panelists discussed the importance of being a good storyteller. Ann Marie shared that stories “should have specific customer examples with results that resonate with executives for internal buy in. And, it is important to be sure to include what inspired the stories.” Then Heather added that “stories can be used to share a vision of the future.” Nate agreed and suggested the listeners check out How Louis C.K. Tells a Story. It offers a step-by-step dissection and helps the listener understand and execute storytelling that moves barriers.

Involve the customer

Customer feedback is critical to knowing if ideas are truly great ideas. You may use (and should seriously consider using) prototypes as stimuli for probing and getting better answers to the “WHY?”. It’s important not to ask “Yes/No” questions though, as that will box in answers. Altitude uses an iterative process and continually asks “why?” to ensure the best ideas and solutions for a customer get discovered and evolve. Use these tips to create something great that will give your customers – and you – the “goosebumps” as Nate visualized so well.

To hear more from our panel of experts from GE, EF and Biogen, check out our recorded hangout, “Finding Ideas That Are Meaningful”.



Gretchen Hoffman

Posted By: 

Gretchen Hoffman

VP Marketing