Ideation 2.0: Two Fun Activities to Digitize with 2×2’s

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Brainstorming, a 75-year old analog technique, has spawned dozens of other gamified activities over the years. Many of these have been designed to correct for some of the brainstorming’s shortcomings, not least of which include a lack of scalable feedback, minimal data collection, and a lack of focus without a well-trained facilitator to manage the process.

There is no “one best” way to ideate. In my own experience, teams that explore a diverse collection of exercises are more likely to stay fresh and intellectually curious during their discussions. The last thing you want to do with a group of creative thinkers is bog them down repeatedly with a singular process.

And of course, data generation is only as good as the insights revealed by that data. One tool I find to be extremely effective in assessing and quickly filtering large amount of free form feedback is the classic 2X2 matrix. Combining fun, gamified exercises with efficient real-time visualisations is a great way to stimulate spontaneous creativity while also adding just enough structure to maintain focus on key priorities.

Here are a couple of activities that I have found to be fun, motivating ways to get team members to develop qualified ideas at high speed by measuring them in a 2X2 format.

Worst and Best:

It might seem surprising to see a technique that starts with “worst” leading to anything constructive. But this is a great way to break down communication barriers that can sometimes arise in groups where may not be very familiar with one another, or may have challenges working together. The idea is to get team members to come up with one or two of the worst ideas they can on a particular topic or challenge, then change gears to look at the ‘best’ counter version of those ideas.

By bringing the silliest ideas to the table, people step outside the competitive pressure of having to sound smart in front of their teammates. They can bring humor to the discussion and not worry in the least about the constraints of realistic execution. It is also a good technique for exposing underlying challenges that a team would otherwise not identify as an issue.

Digital suggestion: Try entering all the worst ideas in a 2×2 chart and rating the ideas by two relevant dimensions like ‘implementation difficulty’ and ‘positive impact.’ Then flip those bad ideas on their head and populate the 2×2 with the opposite ‘best’ ideas. This can be a really powerful exercise if you have an easy way to digitally interact with your 2×2 chart in real-time while your team continues to revise a terrible idea piece by piece until it ends up squarely in your ‘magic quadrant.’

Mission Impossible:

Tom Cruise aside, this is a fun activity that immediately gets people thinking outside their normal lanes. One version of the activity starts with the session leader stating an impossible or extreme version of a realistic objective. For instance, a new client has hired you to conduct a workshop to stimulate ideas around operational efficiency on the floor of a manufacturing plant. Starting this type of collaborative session with a traditional brainstorm is very likely to end up with regurgitated, incremental ideas, few of which will be game-changers.

However, by raising the bar and saying ‘our mission today is to design a zero-waste manufacturing process’ the team is immediately forced outside their normal reality field. While the team probably won’t get all the way to a zero-waste solution, they’ll get much farther by starting with the ‘moon shot’ than they would have by iterating on existing processes.

Digital suggestion: This is a scalable exercise that works well with large numbers of remote participants. Try sending an impossible challenge out to a wide audience and ask them to contribute solutions that they rate based on relevant metrics. In this case it might be ‘waste saved’ and ‘cost impact.’ Doing the activity real-time in a way where all participants can see ideas populating in the 2×2 matrix will stimulate an enormous amount of constructive conversation quickly.

2×2 matrices are just one of many digital visualization tools you can introduce into your next ideation session to get large amounts of feedback that simulates real-time conversation. Unlike a traditional open-ended whiteboarding session, introducing real-time digital visualizations can help your teams remain more focused on the prime objective. They will spend less time filtering through piles of feedback, and more time revising the ideas that very quickly rise to the top based on your stated goals.

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