5 Creative Ideas Your Product Team Can Run with, from Design Giant IDEO

Here at the ProductPlan blog, we’re always looking for great ideas we can share with you. Which means we read a lot more than we write. One of our favorite sources of great ideas—for products, for businesses, for leadership, you name it—is the blog of design consulting firm IDEO. (Respect!)

You’ll find all sorts of gems on that site, so we highly recommend you visit it regularly (after you bookmark the ProductPlan blog, of course). But to give you an idea of the thought-provoking, creativity-unleashing insights you’ll find there, here’s a brief list of our favorite takeaways from our favorite recent IDEO posts.

1. Escape Your Filter Bubble

This post uses the 2016 presidential election to make the point that most of us tend to notice primarily (if not only) those things that reinforce our existing belief system or worldview. As IDEO explains it, this is our “filter bubble.”

At ProductPlan, we’ve warned in previous posts about building a narrative—because once you have one in place, you’re likely to discount and possibly even completely fail to see anything that contradicts that narrative. This is why judges and lawyers warn juries not to develop an opinion as to guilt or innocence until the trial is over; if they make a determination prematurely, those jurors could miss evidence that cuts the other way.

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“Step outside your filter bubble to make sure you’re truly seeing the big picture when you strategize about your products and your company.”

You almost certainly have your own filter bubbles—around your products, your market, your company, your competitors, your user persona, and maybe a few others. Which means that you need to step outside that filter bubble to make sure you’re truly seeing the big picture when you strategize about your products and your company. You might discover insights that had been there all along.

So what does IDEO blogger Neil Stevenson suggest for getting out of your filter bubble? He’s got lots of practical suggestions: talking to different types of people, intentionally avoiding groups and conversations with people who think like you, etc. Read the full post.

2. Use Boredom to Unlock Your Creativity

You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it’s always worth revisiting. In this post—called 3 Ways Boredom Can Unlock Your Creativity—IDEO blogger Katie Kirsch makes the counterintuitive case that the last thing you should expect to flood you with great ideas is the nonstop stream of information, entertainment, and communication coming at you through your devices.

Nope. What all of that noise is actually doing is keeping your subconscious mind from pushing great insights and ideas into your consciousness. Those insights can’t surface in your mind because the channel is already blocked with a constant series of external inputs.

Katie’s advice, then, is to just sit there. Literally. Be still, be silent… and, if you can manage it, be bored. That’s when you open the channel to let in the brilliant stuff your mind wants to tell you.

So, how do you get to that calm, quiet, and unplugged state? We won’t steal IDEO’s thunder: Read the full post.

3. Burst Your Research Bubble

This post offers an insight similar to the first on our list, about stepping outside your filter bubble. Bursting your research bubble, though, is even less intuitive and will be even more difficult. After all, while we all recognize that have filters and biases—and that this is probably a bad thing—many of us would argue with the notion that research can be a drawback.

But IDEO blogger Owen Sanderson isn’t arguing against research here. He’s simply reminding us that we need to balance data with our “inner listener,” as he describes it, our intuition, and even perspectives that might challenge the data we’ve collected.

Great advice. And there’s lots more where that came from: Read the full post.

4. How to Design a Meeting that Doesn’t Suck

This post opens with the line, “Oh god, not another meeting!” So they’re already speaking our language—yours, too, we’re guessing.

In this wonderful post, IDEO bloggers David Boardman and Marco Righetto offer creative and practical advice for running meetings that don’t elicit eye rolls and profanity when the invites hit your colleagues’ inboxes.

If you run meetings with your team, or if you just attend them but have influence over the meeting host, we strongly suggest you check this blog out.

Just one of their great ideas: Create a distinct brand identity for your meetings. How interesting is that?! For more cool suggestions, read the full post.

5. Nine Travel Hassles We’re Dying to Redesign

Okay, this one is probably our favorite. We don’t know anything about the inner-workings of the airline industry or what’s involved in managing a commercial airport. The industry itself has nothing to do with what makes the post so ingenious, nor do any of the specific (and mostly great) ideas they offer for fixing the aviation industry’s many problems.

What’s so awesome about this blog is that it allows you to flex your own creativity muscles in a context that has nothing to do with your own professional life. (We’re assuming you’re not in the airline business.)

Once you start doing exercises similar to the ones the IDEO blogging team describes in this post—“Hmm, how could we make it less maddening to get through the security check-in line?”—you’ll find you can’t stop. You’ll be coming up with inspired ideas for every industry and every area of your life. Your mind will be redesigning the ATM experience, shopping-cart returns at the supermarket, ordering at a drive-through window, you name it.

And as that redesign muscle gets stronger, it’ll be eager to help you and your team build better products.

Read the full post.

Do you know of other blogs that provide great creative inspiration for product managers? We’d love to add them to our reading list! Feel free to share in the comments below.