The term "creativity" comes from the Latin word "creare", which means "to create", "to produce". An intuitive and often used definition is that creative ideas are both new and useful because they show a suitable solution for a problem. In an interview with Maximiliane Wagner, an experienced UI designer who has been working on the topic of methods for generating creativity for some time, we present methods that support the creative development process. As coeno is mainly active in the field of UI development and design, we focus on methods that are useful for this purpose
But first of all in principle. Which factors can promote creativity?
Creative achievements are often the result of joint work in a group. It is therefore particularly important to create a creative, relaxed environment in which all participants feel comfortable and support each other. This makes it easier for participants to leave well-worn paths of thought and to express unusual, crazy ideas. In addition, an intrinsic motivation, i.e. that participation in the creative process is fun in itself, is also beneficial. External incentives such as money or pressure tend to impair creative performance.
What effect do creative methods have on the development process of ideas?
Creative methods help to create exactly the atmosphere described above, in which creative ideas are more likely to emerge. The methodical approach also reduces the fear of not having an idea and simply helps to get started. Many of the methods are based on heuristic principles such as associating, abstracting, creating analogies, combining and varying. They help to find new solutions. So you can consider them as tools to stimulate divergent thinking and to break down thinking blocks.
However, one thing must be clear: creative methods are not a patent remedy for creative ideas. The quality and quantity of the results always depend on the task, the briefing, the applied method, the atmosphere, the participants and their daily form.
Are there certain methods that can be used specifically for the development of UI's?
For the development of UIs, methods in which the participants already draw first scribbles and wireframes are particularly suitable. One method to which this applies is the Design Studio. Here each participant has five minutes to sketch seven ideas. Quantity comes before quality, so there are no details to be worked out. The goal is to get the scissors out of your head due to time pressure and not to prematurely exclude ideas. Afterwards, each participant has three minutes to present his or her ideas and then receives criticism and suggestions from the participants. In the second iteration step, two to three groups are formed depending on the number of participants. Each group works out its favorite ideas in ten minutes and then presents them to the others. In a feedback round, suggestions for improvement are then collected once again.
A similar method is Collaborative Sketching. Here, the participants sketch their ideas for the user interface simultaneously on a large sheet of paper. Everyone can be inspired by the ideas of the others, adopt elements, but also add or correct other sketches. It is important that the ideas are not discussed during this first phase. If nobody can think of anything else, the participants present the different ideas to each other, discuss them and develop them further. The most sensible and useful approaches are then compiled to be worked out as the project progresses.
With which method have you had the best experience so far and why?
At coeno we like to use the method of Collaborative Sketching. This has the advantage that "theft of ideas" is explicitly allowed. This way, even participants who initially believe they have no idea can find their way into the process by simply taking over and developing other people's ideas. Their own new ideas then usually come automatically. I also appreciate the method, because ideas are visualized directly and each participant can let off steam without criticizing or talking about the ideas directly. Because the wireframes of others are directly supplemented and optimized, this method often results in highly developed approaches.
Another method that we have had very good experience with is Rapid Design Thinking. You can read more about it here.
Very interesting, the presented methods are especially suitable for developing new products. Are there also some that could be used for the further development of products and ideas?
There are methods that work with question lists, such as the Osborne Checklist or the SCAMPER method. These question lists serve as a kind of guide for a systematic, almost forced modification and development of ideas. This involves questions such as what could be replaced, omitted, added or emphasized on the product.
Another method to further develop products or ideas is the stumbling block technique. Here, all participants first take on the role of a terrible nagger and try to uncover all possible problems with a product and express as many concerns as possible. The points of criticism are written down. Afterwards they try to find solutions for the problems and concerns together. The method is also well suited as preparation for a presentation to the customer, as it allows you to prepare for possible counter-arguments.
Often the question arises how the customer can be involved in the idea development process. Are there special approaches that are recommended for working with customers or larger groups?
Many methods can be applied in small as well as in larger groups. In case of doubt, it is almost always possible to divide a large group into smaller ones and then finally try to consolidate the ideas in a large group.
One method that is expressly only suitable for larger groups is the World-Café. In order to apply this method, a small team, which later asks the moderators, must work out three questions. In the Workshop the participants sit distributed at tables with three to five persons. At each table there is a moderator who presents the first question. This is discussed for 15-30 minutes, with all findings being recorded in words or pictures on a paper tablecloth. Afterwards the groups move one table further. However, the moderators remain at the tables and present the results to the newly arriving group. The group then adds its own aspects based on these results. Then the next round starts with the moderators presenting the next question. There are a total of three processing rounds before the results are discussed with everyone.
Are there any problems you should be aware of when working with customers?
One problem with using creative methods with clients is always that it is difficult to estimate how well the client will be able to engage and how much he will be involved. This is especially difficult with methods that involve drawing, as many people are reluctant to just go ahead and scribble if they have no experience with it. That's why methods that involve working in groups are always suitable for meetings with customers. In case of doubt, the client can then be supported and his ideas can be written down if he does not want to use the pen himself.
How can the developed ideas then be evaluated?
There are many different methods for evaluating ideas. A very simple one is the dotmocracy method. Here each participant receives a fixed number of glue dots. These he may now attach to the ideas that he thinks are particularly good. The ideas with the most adhesive dots are then the highlight idea. The rules on how many points each participant receives and how many points can be awarded cumulatively can be lost depending on the occasion.
Finally, do you have some tips on what to consider when preparing for creative meetings?
This is often forgotten, but it is particularly important to remember that good ideas can only be generated if the participants have sufficient knowledge on the topic. A good research, e.g. to find out the users' requirements, to get to know the market situation etc., should always precede the creative meeting. And, of course, all participants must be informed in detail about what they have learned.
Also important for creative meetings is that both the question and the objective are clear. Otherwise you might lose sight of the actual focus during the creative process.
Another tip is to prepare the room for the meeting. That means providing pens, paper and other necessary material in advance, but also drinks and small snacks. If the participants can nibble something in between, it always lifts the spirits.
And last but not least, you should always be aware An idea does not have to be new, the important thing is that the idea solves the existing problem in the best possible way.
Thank you very much.
The interview was conducted by Anja Stork, UX Consultant.