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The Innovation Process
Activity 4.2 D

Expand and combine ideas

The exercises in this activity will help you start building on your initial ideas and try recombining different ideas and solutions in order to strengthen them.

Many breakthrough ideas are developed through building on others’ ideas or recombining different ideas and solutions. But it’s not always easy to build on initial ideas, or to work out which ideas might be combined into something more potent, and what this would look like. This activity area provides a number of activities to get you started.

Yes, And

Yes, And is a simple and powerful tool for building on initial ideas generated in the previous activities. It aims to encourage participants to assess their ideas, providing feedback in order to build on them rather than finding fault. When discussing an idea, each participant looks at the idea or listens to it, verbally agrees to it  (saying ‘yes’) and then contributes their own additional thought to improve on the original idea (‘and…’).

This exercise requires careful facilitation as participants can say “yes, and” followed by either a completely unrelated idea, or worse, by disagreeing with the original idea. It requires clear instruction and commitment from participants to contribute in a positive way. Stanford D.School’s Design Thinking Bootleg toolkit provides some further guidance on conducting a ‘Yes, And’ brainstorm on p35.

Idea Remix

Idea Remix is a way to see if there are potentially powerful solutions that could emerge from combining your existing ideas together. The aim is to make combinations out of the ideas you have generated using different techniques, either matching similar ideas or putting very different ideas together. Frog Design’s Collective Action Toolkit provides further guidance on p47.


The SCAMPER methodology is a very powerful, systematic approach to thinking through ideas. Using either an analogous solution or an idea you have developed so far as your starting point, work through the following seven questions:

  • Substitute: What can be replaced? (eg, components, materials, people)
  • Combine: What can be combined? (eg, other features, devices)
  • Adapt: What can be added? (eg, new elements or functions)
  • Modify: What can be modified? (eg, change the size, shape colour or other attribute)
  • Put to other use: Could you put the product to a different use, or use it in another industry?
  • Eliminate: What can be removed or simplified?
  • Reverse: What would happen if you reversed the product’s production process? What can be swapped or flipped?

This exercise can be used at the start of the ideation process, but it is also a useful method to use at this stage to really push thinking on the best ideas.