This is part two in our product design series exploring the phases of digital product design from initial understanding to final delivery.

This week, we’re looking at the Ideation phase where cross-discipline teams work together to generate a wide range of ideas and solutions to form the basis of a prototype.

  1. Understand
  2. Ideate
  3. Prototype & test
  4. Visual & motion design
  5. Measure impact

Step 2: Ideate

Making the session informative, interactive and enjoyable is the key to keeping participants engaged. It's an opportunity for the group to explore their thoughts and ideas without limitation and enjoy the creative process of problem solving.


Ideation workshops typically kick off with:

  • Workshop aims
  • Customer research insights
  • Data insights
  • Business goals and KPIs

The most successful ideation workshops are those with well-informed, enthusiastic participants, free to express their ideas.

Workshop energisers

Starting a workshop with an energiser activity is a fun way to encourage participation and excitement for the session.


  • Break the ice, especially if working with unfamiliar colleagues
  • Introduce cross-discipline teamwork
  • Stimulate mental activity
  • Encourage freedom to express ideas

Here are some of my favourites.

1. Paper creations

Appropriate for any size group - a great ice breaker if you're low on time.


Materials and requirements:

  • 5 minutes
  • A4 paper for each participant

Running the activity:

  1. Introduce the activity including timings and expectations
  2. Ask the participants to take a piece of paper and hold it with two hands behind their backs
  3. Task them with creating an object (animals and landmarks often work well) within a 2 minute time box
  4. Ask the participants to show their creations to the rest of the group
  5. Finish with a group photo

2. Find your pair

Works well with medium-sized groups (max 12). Be sure there are an even number of participants.

Materials and requirements:

  • 10 minutes
  • An even number of participants
  • One note for each participant with the name of an animal (eg lion, cow). Each animal must be written on two separate notes.
  • Space for your participants to walk around the room

Running the activity:

  1. Introduce the activity to the group including timings and expectations
  2. Hand one note to each participant, asking them to check their animal but keep it concealed
  3. Ask the participants to cover their eyes and make the noise of their animal, while walking the room searching for their animal pair
  4. Stop when each participant has successfully found their pair

3. Collaborative face drawing

Great for smaller groups getting to know one another. This one has had participants rolling around the floor with laughter.


Materials and requirements:

  • 15 minutes
  • A4 paper
  • Pens

Running the activity:

  1. Introduce the activity to the group including timings and expectations
  2. Give each participant a piece of A4 paper and a pen
  3. Ask participants to walk around the room until you say the word stop
  4. Each participant should pair up with someone near by
  5. Each participant should draw the other person's eyes (time box to 2 minutes)
  6. Repeat steps 3, 4 & 5 for all face parts (eyes, nose, ears, chin, hair, facial hair and accessories)
  7. Ask participants to pin their drawings on the wall and present to the group

Ideation exercises

Following an energiser and an effective introduction to the workshop, the group should be well-informed, enthusiastic and be ready to begin.

During the session, no ideas should be off limits. The more diverse the ideas, the better.

Ideation sessions tend to be more effective when attendees work individually in a creative, collective space. This encourages equal input and avoids influence.

Any feedback should be saved for after the ideation, allowing participants to express their ideas with freedom. The session can be concluded with group discussion and a voting session to decide which ideas to take forward to the next stage.

Mind maps and note-taking

Mind maps are an effective way for participants to gather and record their thoughts in a logical format that can be easily discussed. (10 minutes)

Idea sketching

This is an opportunity for attendees to sketch as many thoughts and ideas as possible without restriction. Encouraging an open mind will help participants to generate new ideas and solutions. (10 minutes)

Crazy eights

Taken from Google Design Sprints, this method allows participants to define and condense their best ideas. Ask each member of the group to fold an A4 sheet of paper to create 8 frames. They can then spend one minute to add each idea into a frame. (8 minutes)

Facilitation techniques

Your job as a facilitator is to outline clear goals, define a session structure and ensure the session stays focussed, productive and enjoyable.

Here are some tips to help make sure your workshops run smoothly and on time.


Having a clear, detailed plan will help to keep the session focussed and on track.

  • Select attendees carefully - ensure a range of specialisms and perspectives
  • Be mindful of attendees' availability - plan accordingly
  • Ensure your aims, research insights and business goals are clearly defined
  • Ensure spaces are booked and ready
  • Run through the session in your head considering alternative dynamics and consider how you might react in different scenarios


A clear, concise introduction to the workshop will help attendees to feel comfortable, well-informed and confident.

  • Provide sufficient background
  • Be clear with goals and objectives
  • Give clear instructions and be ready to offer support

Keeping the session on-track & enjoyable

Sticking to time boxes and making the session fun is the key to a successful workshop.

  • Define appropriate time boundaries - time-boxing ensures efficiency and structure
  • Assign a decider - someone to make the final call if the group is struggling to reach a decision
  • Be visual - using colour, sketches and the physical space encourages attention and engagement
  • Be reactive - be sensitive to the group dynamic and be prepared to adapt the session direction if necessary
  • Be reflective - help the group to summarise and record discussions, reach a definitive outcome and define next steps

We're confident that following these steps will help your workshops produce high quality output. Try them out and let us know how you get on.

Big thanks to Caroline Smith, Lena Sarp , Rimas Albert, Robbin Staack and Paul Befort and the rest of the team at ImmobilienScout24 for the workshops we've enjoyed together over the past few months.