Skip to content
The Innovation Process
Activity 4.2 A

Get inspiration for ideas

This activity will help you gain inspiration from areas outside of their everyday experience in order to develop fresh thinking.

While participants might have the potential to contribute great ideas for ways to solve your problem, sometimes they might be too constrained in their thinking or might feel that they lack inspiration. The tools in this activity provide ways of helping people gain inspiration from areas outside of their everyday experience and to encourage fresh thinking on a given subject.

There are a number of research methods used for gaining inspiration ways in which users are already responding to a problem. In the Search stage, we provide guidance on approaches such as Positive Deviance, Appreciative Inquiry and the Lead User methodology. You may have found solutions that did not fit your problem well enough to be adopted and adapted, but did have good features that might be part of a potential solution. We encourage you to use insights and examples found through your search process to provide inspiration idea generation.

Innovation has frequently been inspired by experiences and observations made in one context or industry that have been re-imagined to solve a similar problem in a very different environment. In an article for Hype Innovation, John Bessant outlines the power of ‘recombinant innovation’ as a way to drive impactful innovations by gaining inspiration from others. The following exercises provide further options for sparking inspiration.

Analogous Inspiration

Analogous Inspiration is a way of seeking inspiration from examples of solutions to problems that have been solved elsewhere, but that have some similar characteristics to your own problem. There are five steps to this process.

  1. Gather examples from research carried out in the Search stage or get participants to brainstorm analogous situations to the problem you are trying to address.
  2. Before the session, ask participants to produce short case studies for each analogous situation. These should be no more than one A4 page, and should include information on the problem, the problem holder and the solution, including photos, diagrams and other visual cues to enable understanding.
  3. As a group, discuss each case study, paying particular attention to aspects of the solution that could be transferable to your situation and listing these on paper.
  4. As a group, go through the list of potential transferable aspects, identifying how you might transfer each.
  5. Finally, assess whether those aspects that you feel can be transferred are realistically feasible, and whether they pose any significant risks in humanitarian environments that might not be present in other contexts.

IDEO’s Design Kit provides a similar exercise and some useful further guidance. If you use this tool, you should ensure that you add in step 5 above.

Lotus Blossom

Lotus Blossom is another tool that can be used as a structured and visual way of finding inspiration from other innovations or solutions. The tool encourages you to map out the design criteria you developed in the Search stage, and to identify inspirational examples that relate to each criteria. It provides a diffferent approach by prompting participants to break down the characteristics of the inspirational example in a structured way. Download the template provided and follow the simple instructions.