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Ideation Inspiration: How to get better ideas by playing with cards

Have you ever had the feeling of being stuck, when trying to come up with innovative ideas? Maybe, you felt that your brain was empty? No matter how hard you tried, only the most obvious ideas came to your mind?

Most probably this is due to one of the following two reasons:

1. Lack of inspiration

Coming up with ideas can be fun, but it also requires a good amount of work. In order to have innovative ideas, you should do your research first… and by research, I do not mean calculating anything or proving any hypothesis. By research, I mean inspiration! In order to come up with great ideas, you need to get inspired. Getting inspired is not an easy task, but it is a constant effort. “To become personally inspired, the best you can do is set up the optimal circumstances for inspiration”, writes Scott Bary Kaufmann, the scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. For most people, inspiration comes from stories rather than numbers, from personal experiences rather than second-hand reports. You can find some more tricks on how to seek constant inspiration for your work here.

2. Lack of methodology

Ideation is a process that can be greatly improved by designing it deliberately. If you are into creative problem solving, you might have heard of the concept of divergent and convergent thinking. Distinguishing between these two thinking styles bears many benefits. The whole concept of “brainstorming” is based on the methodology of divergent thinking and there are many tools and methods which can help you during a brainstorming session.

CSA Ideation cards

We created a set of cards that can help teams during the process of ideation. The cards contain a set of inspiring concepts, ideas, or trends, which can be used by a team during brainstorming.

During the workshop in Delhi, the cards helped the teams by inspiring more ideas and offering different perspectives. We were working with the concept of personas. Personas are fictional characters which are grounded in empathy research. They can function as focal points for synthesizing the research and starting points for creative solutions.

First, the teams familiarized themselves with the personas and formulated specific questions which then ignited the process of ideation. 10-15 minutes into the ideation session the facilitators of the workshop handed the teams the ideation cards. They could flip through them and see if the concepts sparked any additional ideas.

Since then, these ideation cards have been part of many more ideation processes during our training and innovation workshops. They have been successfully tested by our CSA team as well as some of our partners.

These cards are available as a free resource. To download, please click here.


Further reading for creative problem solving:


David and Tom Kelley: Creative Confidence. Unleashing the creative potential within us all, Crown Business: New York, 2013. []

Marc Stickdorn, Adam Lawrence, Markus Hormess and Jakob Schneider (Eds.): This is Service Design Doing, O’Reilly: Sebastopol, 2018.

Moritz Gekeler: A practical guide to Design Thinking. A collection of methods to re-think social change, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: India, 2019. []

About the Author:

Moritz Gekeler is an innovation facilitator and leadership coach. With his company dolaborate GmbH he helps organizations from the social sector as well as the business world in collaborating better and becoming more innovative. He is convinced that curiosity and compassion as well as creativity and constructiveness are the key factors for a more prosperous and just world. His mission is therefore to promote these values around the world. He also is an enthusiast of innovation methodologies and innovation games. He lives and works in Berlin.

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