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Guidance notes: facilitating a picture as prompts session

Purpose – use this tool to

• Produce highly original ideas that go beyond the boundaries of how the challenge is currently solved.
• To bring new energy when the group is ‘stuck’.
• Energise people who are open to visual stimuli, or if you have been using mainly ‘verbal’ stimuli so far.
• Give a quiet and more reflective approach to idea generation.


• The facilitator reminds the group of the task: the challenge or problem for which they need ideas. Make the problem statement visible. Give the group time to ask clarifying questions to the client, if needed.

• Remind the group of the generating idea guidelines: defer judgement, go for quantity, make connections and seek novelty. Maybe agree a target number of ideas.

• Without describing all the steps of the tool, broadly explain what this tool is used for. Answer any questions.

• Encourage the group to relax – for example, by showing them a picture or two and encouraging them to clear their minds.

• Point the group to 3-5 pictures you’ve already placed around the room. Give them the Pictures as prompts template worksheet and ask people to write their observations, thoughts, impressions as they look at each picture in turn.

• Ask people not to share these impressions with each other.

• When people have looked at each picture, ask them to make connections between their observations, thoughts, etc. and the real problem they are considering.

• Ensure that people record these ideas individually on post-its or paper.

• Ask people to share their connections with each other, and to record any other ideas that emerge, while they share ideas.

Resources needed

• 3-5 different pictures.
Pictures as prompts template worksheet
• Post-its or paper for recording ideas.

Facilitator tips

• Use interesting and unusual pictures that are unconnected with the problem.
• Use a variety of pictures unrelated to each other.
• Avoid brand names, celebrities and pictures that suggest anger, aggression, despair, disgust as these tend to narrow down thinking.

Source: Geschka H., von Reibnitz U., and Storvik, K. (1981), Idea Generation Methods: Creative Solutions and Technical Problems. Columbus, Ohio, Batelle Memorial Institute.