Rapid idea generation
Idea speed dating is a great way for a group to quickly come up with many ideas, and to have people build off of other’s ideas. It accomplishes three key things: it generates many different ideas, it helps build on and select directions for the best ideas and helps building a connection between participants. Finally, the end result is often a beautiful, rich, colourful mural of thoughts that can be used as inspiration throughout events now and in the future.
This all makes idea speed dating a very powerful and useful exercise during live or remote events with teams.
Five Structural Elements for Idea speed dating
Idea speed dating is a really simple exercise and helps generate many ideas quickly. As a facilitator, the key challenge is in time keeping, making sure everyone moves in the right direction at the right time and making sure people stay engaged.
Five structural elements
How to read the instructions
This is a rather easy structure for people to understand. There are -however- several things you will need to weave into your invitation:
- Purpose of this session of idea speed dating. Invite people to generate ideas around a specific subject. It does not really matter what it is, but make sure everyone is on the same page – if there is too much unclarity, people will feel confused when adding upon other people’s ideas. Explain that the purpose is to generate many ideas, to build upon other people’s ideas and/or make other people’s ideas even better. Ideas do not have to be perfect, it is an exercise to generate volume, not perfection.
- Make clear what you are asking from the participants. They will start with their own idea. After writing that down, they will move clockwise or counter clockwise to the idea of their neighbour to build upon that. This will repeat until they are back at their own ‘starting’ idea. Make sure it is clear how they will be moving to the next idea (clockwise/counterclockwise) and how you will be keeping and announcing time (simple timer on your iPhone will work).
- Ask people to stay open and positive during the idea generation and to not judge ideas during the idea generation (let alone write negative comments or cross things out).
Tailor your invitation to what is needed in that exact moment.
How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed
There are three main ways to conduct the exercise of idea speed dating:
- With a large piece of paper. In this case, you will be working towards a large mural.
- Ask participants to be creative with how they present their ideas.
- Drawings and prototypes are encouraged. The bigger the better.
- If you choose this option, make sure the paper is large enough, that everybody has access to the paper.
- Allow for a bit more time for people to generate ideas (2 minutes per round).
- With post-its. In this case, people will build on other people’s ideas on post-its.
- What helps is to have the initial idea in a different colour/format than the others.
- Keeping the time to generate ideas short (1 minute) will help people react instinctively and pure.
- Make sure there is enough space around the initial idea for people to add their own post-its.
- You can either ask people to walk around a table or to move horizontally.
- Remotely, using an online collaboration/whiteboarding tool (like Miro). In this case, you will be -by definition- be somewhat restricted to the post-it style of idea generation (it is more difficult for people to really sketch ideas remotely).
Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
- Prepare the space – make sure everyone has a pen. Make sure everyone can access the paper/post-its and/or has space on the table.
- Ask people to write down their own idea within the agreed time frame (1 or 2 minutes, depending on the form).
- After writing that down, they will move clockwise or counter clockwise to the idea of their neighbour to build upon that (another 1 or 2 minutes).
- After that, they move again to the next idea to build upon that.
- They keep repeating these 1/2 minute bursts of idea generation until they are back at their starting position.
- When people have closed the circle and have arrived back at their idea, ask people to reflect on how their initial idea evolved during the rounds and which additional ideas they like and dislike. Depending on the time, allow some time for the group to discuss.
How Groups Are Configured
No special configuration needed.
Make sure everybody has access to the ideas.
How Participation Is Distributed
Everyone participates and has equal value.
Participants move in the same direction (either clock-wise or counter-clock-wise) to make sure they have built on every idea by the time they have finished the ‘circle’ and return to their own idea.
Additional tips and pointers
- As a facilitator, the key challenge is in time keeping, making sure everyone moves in the right direction at the right time and making sure people stay engaged.
- Some facilitators will indicate time by starting and/or stopping music.
- Some additional notes when facilitating this exercise remotely:
- You will need to select an appropriate tool (for example Miro, as pictured on the left) to host the brainstorm.
- Keep an eye on the participants, is everybody still adding ideas or are some of them struggling with the tool?
- When keeping time, and especially in the later rounds, make sure participants have enough time to read the previous entries, so cut in some extra slack before restarting the timer.
- Make sure to keep track of the progress of the round so you know when people have returned to their “own” idea.
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