Fast idea generator


The fast idea generator prompts you to think up as many answers as you can by looking at an existing concept, problem or opportunity, and then, using prompts, compare what happens now with what would happen if you changed the rules.

Do not worry whether your idea seems silly because the more ideas you can think of the better, and that ‘silly’ idea just might turn out to be the most creative solution to your problem.

Also known as

The tool

Why use it

The Fast Idea Generator Tool is designed to help you, either individually or as part of a team, to generate new ideas by looking at a problem, challenge, or opportunity from a range of perspectives. It is structured to make you think about things from different angles and is designed to encourage creativity.

If the problem you are looking at is one you or others have tried to tackle in the past it can be difficult to prevent your ideas from being constrained by past experiences and familiarity with the issue. The Fast Idea Generator Tool provides prompts to help you to consider options beyond.

When to use it

As the Fast Idea Generator is designed to help you identify solutions to your problem, you should use this tool in the develop phase of service design.

How to use it

  1. Ensure that participants know they are in a comfortable and safe activity space where there is no risk of criticism and where they do not need to worry about being judged.
  2. To begin with, do not look for ‘good’ or ‘right’ answers. Instead look for any answers that are not constrained by convention, even though some of these will turn out to be unworkable.
  3. Complete the template starting from an existing concept, problem or opportunity, and then, using the prompts, compare what happens now (the normal rule) with what would happen if you changed the rules (bending, breaking and stretching the rule). Some prompts will feel easier to compete than others.
  4. When you have completed the template, review the ideas and select the best ones to explore in greater detail and potentially develop into workable innovations.
  5. If you are facilitating a workshop
    • You may wish for all participants to work individually and then combine all your ideas at the review stage. Alternatively, you may wish to generate ideas as a group.
    • To manage the process, you may wish to challenge the group to think of five ideas for each prompt or ask everyone to come up with a suggestion for each prompt.
  6. However you chose to run the exercise, apply a time limit after which you will stop and review the ideas that have been generated. Having a time limit will reduce the pressure of either not being able to think of any ideas at all or coming up with so many that the process becomes unworkable.
  7. To decide which ideas are most attractive / promising, you may wish to use affinity mapping techniques to gauge the popularity of ideas within the group.

Other criteria you may wish to use for choosing which ideas to develop in more detail include:

  • Identifying the idea that creates or adds the most obvious value for your partners, customers, beneficiaries or colleagues.
  • Identifying the idea that addresses the most urgent part of the problem. (This may be an effective way of tackling a crisis problem, but it may be less effective when looking for long-term strategic gains.)
  • Asking experts to evaluate the merits of competing ideas. Experts could be people already in the activity group, in your wider stakeholder group, or your critical friend.
  • Experimenting, if there are ideas that you can test or prototype, then try them out.
  • Combining ideas, you may find you can join several different ideas together.

At this point, your ideas are just that: ideas. They are not fully formed solutions. You will need to develop them in more detail so that they can be turned into something usable. For example, you may wish to follow up by service blueprinting.

Template prompts

  • Can you add something new to your service?
  • Instead of offering the same service to everyone, can you segment your offering to cater for different groups?
  • Can you widen the service to offer to include other things?
  • What would happen if you changed thing in the most extreme way you can imagine?
  • Can you take part of what happens elsewhere and combine it with your service?
  • Can you combine your service with others?
  • What would your service look like if you tried to do the opposite of what you do now (e.g. instead of having cashiers, you use self-service checkouts)?
  • Can you take something away from the service you currently offer?
  • Can you learn from a different area of activity and apply practices used elsewhere to your service?



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