Creativity Techniques

Ideation in Business Design sprints is highly dependent on your project focus. In some cases, you may need a creativity technique to help your team come up with innovative ideas, in other cases it is not necessary. We collected and described the most important ones that helped us over time to open minds in Business Design projects.

1. Key Techniques

What is it?

When do I need it?

How does it work?

Thinking caps

"Thinking caps" can be used to examine problems from different perspectives. Each team member takes on a role; different roles are represented by different coloured hats (or some other symbol). The team members act in line with their roles, enriching the discussion with different points of view.

Use "thinking caps" to facilitate discussions in which team members are liberated from their typical roles; this encourages a more open exchange of views. Make sure team members do not take things to extremes when playing their roles. It can be helpful to have one team member in a moderating role.

  1. Choose a problem and suitable roles (= thinking caps) for your team. Allocate colours and meanings (e.g. white: analytical, red: emotional, black: critical, yellow: optimistic, green: creative, blue: structured).

  2. Prepare a prop for each role in the appropriate colour (e.g. hats, armbands or place cards) and explain to the team members what their roles are.

  3. Have a discussion on the issue you have chosen, and document the results.


90% of all innovations are recombinations of already existing concepts. Creative ideas can be designed by combining different ideas (the more varied the better) in new ways. Replace existing elements of your ideas with new ones from outside your comfort zone, add new elements, or leave out "important" elements.

Often, if your team lacks heterogeneity, the ideas they generate will all be very similar. By recombining ideas from outside your team's comfort zone, the spectrum of ideas can be greatly extended, encouraging you to think in new ways.

  1. Research creative ideas from outside of your team members' comfort zone.

  2. Prepare the ideas to make them easy to understand and easy to combine during the collaborative activity.

  3. Have your team members pick two to three ideas at random and use them to generate a new idea or development.


New ideas are not fully formed, and are often rejected too soon by critical team members. By converting negative criticisms into positive suggestions for improvement, ideas can be matured and developed bit by bit, and transformed from initially questionable propositions into great ideas.

Especially when team members are used to looking at things critically ("I think it's a good idea, but..."), they often find it difficult to give feedback aimed at improving ideas. Negative criticisms should not be suppressed, but used as a basis for constructive suggestions.

  1. Every team member presents one or several ideas.

  2. The other team members write down their criticisms and then translate these into suggestions for improvement.

  3. Based on the suggestions for improvement, the team can then develop the ideas by discussing and incorporating the constructive suggestions.

Breaking with old thought patterns

Initial ideas are often based on team members' habitual ways of thinking. In order to get out of this comfort zone, the first (often quite obvious) ideas are discarded and new ones are created. This encourages team members to really use their creative potential.

Breaking with old thought patterns can help you make room for more creative ideas, by deliberately setting aside obvious ideas at the outset. This method is suitable for situations where your team is coming up with lots of ideas, but not many new ones.

  1. Get all team members to quickly write down three to five ideas and present them. Then reflect together on what you as a group want to "unlearn" in order to develop new ideas.

  2. Set these initial ideas aside, and give all the team members enough time to come up with another six to ten ideas.

  3. Compare the creativity of the different ideas.

Extreme goals

When thinking about how to optimise existing business models, people often come up with ideas which only slightly modify or expand upon these models. Extreme goals, such as immediately doubling your turnover or completely converting your product business into a service business, can inspire you to think differently.

When developing ideas, give your team extreme goals to help liberate team members from their habitual thought patterns and ways of working. In order to do this, however, you will need to be prepared to question your current business model and, if necessary, to revolutionise it.

  1. Think of an extreme goal (including a time frame) as a starting point for developing ideas.

  2. As a team, come up with ideas about how you could achieve this goal.

  3. Reflect together on which of the ideas you have come up with has the potential for further development, and incorporate these ideas into your existing business model.

Trigger questions

When developing ideas, it is important to keep trying to improve initial ideas rather than adhering rigidly to them. Trigger questions can help people to critically evaluate ideas and then, based on their evaluations, to improve and flesh out those ideas.

As soon as you have developed and prioritised some initial ideas, you can use trigger questions to refine your favourite ideas. Trigger questions are helpful whenever you feel that your idea is still very broad and abstract, or not formulated precisely enough.

  1. Get your team members to present your favourite idea.

  2. Discuss the following questions as a team: What can we play up or leave out in order to communicate our value added more effectively? What comparison can we use to represent our value added? Who or what could replace our product or service? How can we communicate our value added without words and without showing the product?

  3. Get the team members to present the refined ideas after the discussion.


Innovative business models often follow typical patterns, e.g. shop-in-shop, franchise, pay-per-use, freemium, lock-in, and many more. By applying such patterns to your business, you can generate exciting ideas for business model innovations.

The focus when generating ideas is often on innovative product and service offerings. Use existing patterns as inspiration whenever you want to encourage your team to think not only about innovative products and services but also about innovative business models.

  1. Prepare some suitable business model patterns and present them to your team using examples (see "Business Model Inspirator").

  2. For each of the patterns, work as a team to develop a business model scenario for your company with your existing or new products/services.

  3. Evaluate the scenarios and apply them to your business model.


Moodboards are physical or digital compilations of various visual contents that make solution spaces stylistically tangible and communicable. They are an efficient means of clarifying difficult-to-communicate content through projections and examples.

Especially in phases of ideation mood boards are a very helpful visual means of communicating your thoughts. They make it possible to create a perceptual world around your own ideas and thus underpin rudimentary visualised and quick concepts.

  1. Think deeply about the question you are working on and watch an image develop in your mind. 

  2. Collect visual content (digital or physical) that makes these images in your head tangible for others - the level of abstraction is up to you. 

  3. Cluster and arrange your collected content on a blank page in such a way that it creates a tangible style world in the overall picture and communicates different solution ideas in detail.

2. Usage Scenarios

  • Come up with new ideas in the Design phase

  • Translate results from Research & Development into new ideas, e.g. during an Ideation phase

  • Depending on the chosen technique e.g. think out of the box, fuel discussions, trigger a change of perspective, etc. (see table on the right "When do I need it?")

3. Instructions for Coaches

  • Decide depending on your project scope, if an extended ideation phase is necessary or not. In many cases, your project team brings a bunch of ideas to the Design workshop and the only task will be to collect, describe and evaluate them.

  • When using creativity techniques during the Design workshop, they can require some time. Set your agenda accordingly and prepare corresponding tools.

Our Business Design Box is equipped with "Method Cards" that give you guidance on how to apply these creativity techniques.