I have the StrengthsFinder theme of Ideation. Ideas have always fascinated me. From the time I was young, I was often the one coming up with a new idea, or taking someone else’s ideas to an original place. Others would count on me to brainstorm something new for whatever project we were working on.
This wasn’t always generative, as sometimes I could get lost in the act of brainstorm to the detriment of getting anything done. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I came to understand this as my ideation strength at work.
The Gallup StrengthsFinder definition of ideation says, “People especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.” In my experience, ideas are the heartbeat of life.
Finding new and creative ways to accomplish a goal is what drives me. Knowing how to focus these ideas is the key to success.
Ideation as a Funnel
Think of a funnel. Funnel up ideation is taking lots of input (new ideas), and concentrating them into a few specific new ideas. These seemingly disconnected ideas get focused into the few best ideas on any given subject. Depending on what was at the top, these focused ideas tend to be sharp, with clear lines of distinction.
Funnel down ideation is taking one (or a few) idea, and generating many connected ideas. This use of ideation only requires a few simple inputs to come up with lots, and lots of possible outputs. They might not all be very good, but among those dozens of new ideas, exists a jewel.
Ideation can be a problem if it is left to wander around your organization unchecked. Generative ideation uses a series of filters to add clarity around a specific topic or end goal. For me, my ideation and communication strengths are tightly connected. When I have greater understanding of the topic or issue at hand, I’m better able to come up with new ideas to solve it.
Like a muscle, you need to exercise your strengths in order for them to grow. The more you can learn how to use your strengths, the more effective they become. Here are some activities you can use if you have the strengths of ideation, or work with someone who does.
- Capture Ideation. You may forget your new ideas and move on to the next one before you’ve been able to make sense of it. Find a way to capture these ideas so you can come back to them later. An easy way to do this is simply write them down (or have someone else do it for you).
- Clarifying Ideation. Others may not be able to follow where your ideation is going. Articulate your ideas well, and look for feedback from others that they are tracking. Be careful not to write someone with ideation off too early, for they might just have that million dollar idea stuck in their head.
- Nourish Ideation. An ideation person may have trouble focusing on the most important ideas. Make sure that the inputs in your life (in whatever form) are feeding your ideation in the ways you want it to grow. If you are leading someone with ideation, make sure you give them the right information for them to ideate on.
Ideation is a powerful addition to any team. They are catalytic because they can come up with creative ways to solve problems that otherwise seemed impossible. They can also get lost in their own world, so make sure you work to understand how this strength works in that person.