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Generate and Select Ideas

“The way to get a good idea is to have lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.” Linus Pauling

  • The aim of this stage is to generate potentially novel and useful options. At the end of this stage, these ideas will not be fully elaborated – they will still need more work, so don’t worry that they are not yet completely persuasive.
  • Remember to separate the generating from the focusing. Do not evaluate the pros and cons of ideas at this stage. Use the generating guidelines: defer judgement, seek quantity, freewheel and combine.
  • Encourage novelty. Generally, it is easier to make a very novel idea into one that is also feasible, then to turn a feasible idea into something also novel.
  • Consider different aspects of novelty:
    • Fluency – where the emphasis is on many options.
    • Flexibility – where the emphasis is on different types of options.
    • Originality – where the emphasis is on novelty or unusual options.
    • Elaboration – where the focus is on detail, making options richer and more expanded.

Lotus blossom

Watch this short video where Dr Seema Srivastava, Associate Medical Director, talks through how North Bristol NHS Trust used the lotus blossom tool as part of the planning to launch and manage the Trust’s vaccination centre  in Bristol:

This tool can be useful if you are trapped in a way of thinking, or need the seeds of others, or simply to generate many initial ideas quickly. It stimulates idea fluency and flexibility.

Click the links for more information:

Pictures as prompts

This tool allows people to remove themselves from the immediate problem, and develop ideas from distant, unconnected sources. By distancing themselves and then re-connecting with the real problem, people are more likely to develop unusual ideas.

Click the links for more information:

Idea Selection – the main principles

• Choose to focus when you have generated enough ideas. This is usually a subjective judgement. The aim of this stage is to select potentially novel and useful options for further development when you are planning for the next phase of the innovation and improvement journey.

• When you are focusing, use the focusing guidelines: affirmative judgement, be deliberate, consider novelty and stay on course. What we are doing here is ‘light-focusing’. Think of this as being careful to nurture promising, intriguing, novel ideas, while also removing any ideas that don’t interest you. Do not be concerned that all the details of implementation are not finalised – that stage comes later.

• A classic problem in the focusing stage is that novelty is removed, and groups choose safer options. Ensure that you build in novelty and choose ideas that contain an element of promise or intrigue.

The Facilitator role

• Allocate more time for focusing than generating ideas: say 60% focusing time to 40% generating time. In practice, the focusing time is often squeezed, resulting in too many ideas and a sense of frustration: “what do we do next, with all these ideas…?”

• As with generating ideas, choose the right tools to suit the situation. Details of a broader range of idea selection tools are included in the full Creative Problem Solving Toolkit.

Watch this video (also available via this link) for more information about idea selection:

You can view all the videos available as part of the Creative Problem Solving Toolkit here.

Download the full Creative Problem Solving Toolkit

More detail on the theory of creative problem solving and information on a range of tools that can be used in the three elements of the framework are included within the full toolkit, which can be downloaded as a PDF: Creative Problem Solving Toolkit


Continue to Step three: Plan for Implementation (Development and testing)

Return to Step one: Clarify the challenge (tools to support problem exploration and definition)