In our projects we focus on generating lots and lots of ideas before we begin the process of selecting and developing concepts. There are a few reasons we do this, one being that if you have more ideas to choose from, there is a better chance that there are good ones in the mix. For more on this, check out my colleague Shari’s article, in which she interviews innovation and new products researcher Dr. Laura Kornish. In this post, I am going to talk about why I think generating more ideas leads to better ideas.

So, what do we get when we generate more ideas?

We get riskier, more controversial, further out, and more emotional ideas.

During ideation, we ban the exact repetition of an idea that has already been shared. This means that after the first 20 minutes or so, all of the top-of-mind ideas are out there—so participants have to start stretching into new areas. The participants also become more comfortable with each other and the process as the day progresses, giving them the courage to bring up the ideas they may have worried would be unpopular.

We get more ways to express each idea or theme.

Any time a group of people is tasked with coming up with ideas, there will be duplication. In this duplication is the semi-hidden benefit of nuance. Each time an idea is expressed, the author of the idea uses language different from that used in a similar idea. These different expressions of a similar theme may resonate differently for each person in the group, sparking their own thinking or bringing to light a compelling benefit.

We get more building blocks to use in developing concepts.

When we create concepts, we pull insights, benefits and attributes from a collection of ideas. Rarely is an idea generated in the ideation session complete and compelling enough to make it all the way into a concept untouched. As my colleague Adam Hansen likes to say, the ideas generated during the first day of a project are organ donors to the concepts. 

We get a wider range of ideas from which to choose.

On one hand, this allows our clients to hedge a bit when they take their final concepts into testing. If their ideas are too close together, consumers may ignore the differences between the concepts, and react poorly to the shared attributes. On the other hand, a diverse set of ideas helps us approach an issue from multiple perspectives—possibly uncovering new opportunities or ways of talking about a subject.

Because we emphasize generating a large number of ideas during the first stage of any project, we have a pool with a wide range of ideas—spanning from close in to way far out—from which we can pull themes, language, benefits, and inspiration when we are developing our final product. Through the process, we pull the best options from the pool and refine them. In this way, the initial rough ideas become the final polished concepts that lead to clean, beneficial consumer feedback in testing. So don’t be afraid to start with lots of ideas—we find that quantity leads to quality. 


Greg Cobb is an Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

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Greg Cobb

Greg Cobb is a Creative Process Designer and Facilitator as well as the creator of Ideas To Go’s Inspire® visual survey platform. Greg has a BA in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to joining Ideas To Go in 2011, Greg led the US consumer division at a leading global market research firm.  Facilitating innovation sessions and moderating consumer interviews and groups since 2007, Greg has worked extensively in most consumer categories as well as pharma, B2B, and automotive.