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Beyond Brainstorming: An IDEO UX Ideation Technique

by
Suzanne Gibbs Howard
Suzanne Gibbs Howard

Ever wondered about how our designers at IDEO help overcome creative block when designing new products and services?

The Mash-up method is a fast and fun ideation technique that brings odd or unexpected things together to spark fresh ideas. We use it in our everyday client work, and also teach it as a technique as part of IDEO U (our online school for learning creative problem-solving).

The Mash-up method (45-60 minutes total) emphasizes quantity, which is the heart of divergent thinking. The more ideas you come up with, the better chance you have to zero in on a the right solution. Perhaps most importantly, it helps us start down the path from the ridiculous to the radical solution.

We’ll walk through all the steps below quickly in the video and instructions. All you need are pens, Post-Its, and paper.

Step 1: Frame

Articulate the challenge as a “How Might We” statement. For example, “How might we design a better patient portal experience?”

Step 2: Narrow

Pick two broad, unrelated categories, for example healthcare dashboards and Kayak.com. The categories should be unrelated to each other, but at least one should tie in to your “How Might We” statement. Think outside your industry.

Step 3: Generate

Starting with one category at a time, list as many elements of these two experiences as you can in two minutes.

Step 4: Mash-up

Combine items from the two lists to ideate as many new products, services, or experiences as you can. Try putting together items that seem the most different, and see if you can communicate the value of your inventions in ways that are relevant to your challenge.

Next steps

Remember this is just another tool in the ideation process. New ideas are great, but don’t forget to also invest the necessary time to understand your users and frame a challenge first before ideating.

To try out the exercise yourself, go ahead and download this worksheet.

Suzanne Gibbs Howard

by Suzanne Gibbs Howard

Suzanne Gibbs Howard is a Partner at IDEO as well as the founder and Dean of IDEO U. IDEO U is a learning platform where anyone can learn to solve anything creatively. Suzanne’s work focuses on transforming individuals and organizations through teaching and sharing thought leadership. Obsessed with understanding culture and human motivation, Suzanne arrived at IDEO via a crooked path involving anthropology, teaching English, museum-exhibit design and working in tech start-ups.As one of IDEO’s senior thought leaders, she has led the Systems and Organizational Design Studio, a business unit focusing on influencing change in public, private and social sectors. She has designed award winning online learning experiences and corporate innovation labs. She also led IDEO’s global Insights capability, pioneering many of the techniques now at the forefront of practice today. Suzanne has written and spoken about designing social movements, scaling innovation, and design for education.Suzanne has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, where she studied Archaeology and African studies, and a master’s from the University of Chicago, where she focused on Anthropology. She has worked in Zimbabwe, Israel, China, and India. She is a passionate traveler, educator, research geek, climber, sailor, and mom.

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