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Ideation Sprint

Ideation is not equal to creativity

Shark tank is a wonderful television program and seems to be inspiring a lot of corporates to emulate it. But as things go, its absolutely the wrong way to drive innovation in an organization.


Shark tank is the best example of a linear approach to ideation and innovation. You evaluate a number of ideas and select one of them or a few of them based on the "sharks" judgement of the value. Unfortunately, in most organizations, there are very few with an entrepreneurial approach sitting on such decision-making forum. They usually tend to be managers, who approach this from their existing paradigms. the result is projects facing issues such as bloated, late, adversities beyond repair and habitual concepts.

Innovation ideas, when they come up, are never perfect. It requires collaboration within the organization to collect feedback, suggestions and refinement to make them a great idea. This calls for a non-linear approach of open innovation.

Ideation sprints have two important components, generating ideas and selecting ideas. We call them alpha and gamma sprints. The challenges of the two sprints are significantly different.

Source: Innovation 360 Group

In the alpha sprint the challenge is one of generating ideas that are relevant and aligned to the strategy and ensuring that a very large group contributes to ideas. The focus here is simple - no one person is lilekly to come up with a great idea on his own

How do ensure that ideas become great ideas?

The alpha sprint is designed to ensure that. The key to making this happen are three important things of ideation

Direction: Set out clear direction for ideation. What do we want the new ideas to help us achieve? This requires to clearly articulate the strategic goals. Once the goals are identified, the second is to define the ideation topics. The third task is to define ca,mpaigns that drive ideation topics.

Generate ideas: One of the biggest limitations of creativity workshops is that great ideas aren't limited to office timings. We realize that ideas keep coming to employees 24/7 and digital platforms provide a great opportunity to capture ideas anytime in the day. We also find that employees detest secrecy about ideas. They want to know what are the areas that the organization is focusing on for ideas. They want to know who has read their ideas, what is the feedback, who likes them and what is happening to the ideas.

To achieve this Innovation 360 Group created Ideation360®, a SaaS platform for capturing ideas. This is an app that can be accessed through mobile, tablet or from a computer. It lets employees see the ideation campaigns that are important for the organization and understand the strategic direction. Employees can see other ideas that have already been contributed, the trending ideas and their own ideas. They can like ideas, give feedback, read feedback on their ideas and build on other ideas by refining them or contribute their own inputs to those ideas.

The organization can make the app available to a large number of employees and stakeholders to generate vast number of ideas, by tapping their creative potential. Participants are sure to build on each others ideas to come up with great suggestions.

Cluster Ideas: Making good ideas become great ones is achieved through clustering. Ideation360 platform is AI enabled and uses cognitive clustering. The facilitators of the ideation process can utilize this capability to create clusters of ideas based on similarities. Clustering enables the users to generate new insights and come up with even better ideas. Once clusters are created, engage employees, key stakeholders in a workshop to evaluate the idea clusters, develop hypothesis and generate big ideas.

What you have at the end of a well run alpha sprint is a number of great ideas along with hypothesis on what the idea is built on. One of the golden rule of an alpha sprint is that every idea is associated with a hypothesis and they are eliminated based on evaluation of the hypothesis and nothing else.

How to convert selected ideas to innovation

The gamma sprint does the enviable task of converting great ideas to innovation projects. This is a convergence process prior to the development stage. In the gamma sprint we go through 3 stages of screening

Evaluation of idea clusters and the hypothesis:

In the first stage the clustered ideas and the initial hypothesis are reviewed by internal and external experts. The hypothesis is further refined and new ideas/inputs are incorporated. The team prepares testable hypothesis using hypothesis cards and develops a test plan.

A key component of the evaluation is the assessment of uncertainty, does the idea fit into horizon 1, 2 or 3?

Design of experiments: The design of appropriate experiments is an important aspect of testing ideas. The nature of the experiment is decided by the output that we seek.

  1. Is the hypothesis about discovering the customer problem or opportunity?

  2. Is the hypothesis focussed on discovering the scale of opportunity?

  3. Is the hypothesis focussed on validating the problem and opportunity?

  4. Is the hypothesis focussed on validating the solution concept?

Based on these factors, we could develop experiments to generate answers to the hypothesis fast and at low cost.

Running test in tiers: The test strategy depends on the horizon in which the idea falls in.

Is the idea a horizon 1 idea? That might suggest the need for field testing or market testing of the idea.

Is the idea a horizon 2 idea? A horizon 2 idea would require field testing or near testing an alpha version.

Is the idea still to be validated? In this case the idea may require development of an MVP and evaluation of the business model.

However, in each of the cases testing an learning cards play a huge role in generating organization learning.

If you found this interesting reach out to us for more details.

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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