Friday, October 12, 2012

What is Ideation ?

This is a new term that has come in vogue over the past several years and one fairly closely aligned with the notion of Innovation engineering. I thought it might be worthwhile to do some comparison and contrast between the two concepts (with the obvious disclaimer up front that I don't believe them to be the same thing).

Ideation and Innovation tend to work as a combined process

First let's assess the definitions:

1 - Ideation: and this my take on it, as I somewhat doubt that there is any industry standard view as to what it is just yet. Ideation represents the front-end portion of concept and product development efforts. It is somewhat synonymous with brainstorming but more comprehensive than that. It is an attempt to standardize the creative process early in the initiative stage in order to produce more consistent or agreeable results. It is sometimes loosely coupled with follow-on product development efforts but seldom fully integrated with them. The connection though is why many PLM (product lifecycle management) vendors refer to ideation.

2 - Innovation Engineering: This represents an undercurrent or element within a larger set of lifecycle processes. While there is always a focus on innovation at the front of any endeavor that is not where innovation ends. There is a bit of a dual meaning at play here as well, when we talk of innovation engineering were not only referring to the application of innovative thinking to other problem sets, we are also discussing how to manage the creative process of innovation itself to make it more predictable.

So, we can see that there are some obvious overlaps here, including:

1 - The focus on creative problem solving
2 - The ability to produce more predictable results
3 - The emphasis on applying creative perspectives at the initiation of projects

The differences could be characterized this way:

1 - Ideation is more front-loaded whereas innovation engineering seeks cradle to grave improvements
2 - Innovation engineering is meant to have more of an applied focus
3 - Ultimately, ideation will never provide substantial metrics to determine its effectiveness given its esoteric and usually disconnected nature (i.e. lack of integration into the follow-through efforts).

So how does one exercise Ideation? There are a number of specific toolsets available, some of which are focused on capturing ideas and others focused upon presenting those ideas throughout some type of collaborative forum. In many cases, Ideation is facilitated through the use of mind-mapping and / or concept mapping but it can also employ a variety of other design paradigms (using ERDs or UML for example to begin characterizing design issues at the highest level). We will explore the use of mindmaps, concept maps and other design approaches in coming posts.

Copyright 2012, Semantech Inc. All rights Reserved 


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