Design thinking- ideation as a skill

Ideation is crucial for design thinking, and its a skill you can learn.

Sam Altman, founder of YCombinator, recently wrote about how idea generation is an essential skill for founders.

Ideation requires some creativity, which does not come naturally for many people. Its another one of those things you don’t learn in school.

But don’t worry. Ideation is something you can grow and cultivate. It's a skill, and you need to practice it like anything else. It should become a routine. I’ll explain how.   

First, you need to keep a journal. Paper or digital, doesn't matter. Just do it every day or every week, depending on how often you want to keep it. (Note, if it helps enforce some consistency, you could include this practice in your daily routine)

Then come up with an interesting question that you’re trying to answer. It could be something you read in the news, or it could be a question you’ve had for a while. But it shouldn't be “What are some ideas for doing X ?”.

Instead, try “ Why doesn't anyone do X ?” or “ What could I have for dinner when I’m starving and no restaurants are open ?”, or “ How could I reduce homelessness in NYC ?”.

After jotting the question down, generate as many ideas as possible for solving that question and write them down. If the idea is really bad, don’t write it down. But as you play around with it, it might lead to something good. This is a skill and it takes practice.

The reason you're writing them down is because you don't want to get attached to any of these early ideas. Your mind will find ways to tell you 'No' because you don't feel like risk being rejected or called ridiculous if you tell others about it. Writing them down ensures that you won't be as affected by this fear. Write down all the stupid ideas, so you realize that most ideas are pretty stupid when you first hear them.

 You should also avoid shying away from coming up with new ideas. Many fail to come up with more than a few possibilities just because they're criticized early on. Don't be afraid. Even if 10% of the initial ideas you come up with are good, that’s alright . Anything can happen from there.