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Beyond Brainstorming: An IDEO UX Ideation Technique

Suzanne Gibbs Howard
By Suzanne Gibbs Howard on 31st March, 2017

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 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.