I have run many innovation sessions in research organizations over years, whether in Defense Industry Research circles or as a CTO in Silicon Valley. Recently, I have started these sessions by asking people to ideate on things they really have strong negative emotions about, i.e. things they hate. As my dad always said, where there is a problem there is opportunity.
Firstly, you don't need to be in the same room to have this kind of innovation session. A few good tools can enable a great virtual innovation session. We like Google Docs for multi-edit and GotoMeeting for Voice/Video. We have done this very effectively remotely using a shared Google presentation and virtual stickies (squares of different colors with text). Here is a simple process to get you started chasing hate:
- 5 min / independent: Have everyone create pink "hate" stickies on things they really hate.
- 10 min / together: Have everyone talk about their pink "hate" stickies while you affinity diagram them. Affinity diagramming just groups like stickies under themes. This will give you some pain points to think about.
- 5 min / independent: Have everyone ideate on better ways of doing things on green "idea" stickies.
- 10 min / together: Affinity diagram the green "idea" stickies into themes.
- 5 min / independent: Vote on the best ideas! Everyone gets three votes.
What you end up with is a couple good ideas to transform pain into delight. Hey making the world a better place can be a lot of fun! Better yet, you don't have to do any copying off whiteboards and digitization of results. By using the right tools your ideas are born digital / shareable.
So in your next innovation session start with the things you have a strong emotion towards, i.e. start chasing hate. Don't forget to have another session on how to best form experiments for your ideas and test market fit, but that's another post. For some excellent resources on innovation see LUMA's Listen Understand Make process and Ideo's Human Centered Design Toolkit.