Babson professor Heidi Neck wants to help budding entrepreneurs learn how to identify and develop high-quality ideas. Her solution? IDEATE—the jumping-off place for how to generate ideas of value.
“I often hear that execution is what separates entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs. I don’t disagree, but I also see a lot of failures among those that do start the business. Why so many failures? It’s because the idea was bad to start with!” said Neck.
In their new book, The IDEATE Method, authors Dan Cohen, Greg Pool, and Neck provide a proven road map for how to generate ideas that can be replicated and taught.
From Ideation to IDEATE
Generating new ideas that create value is at the core of entrepreneurship. And ideation is at the core of new ideas. Yet many are at a loss when it comes to knowing how to generate ideas.
“Experienced entrepreneurs generate valuable ideas. They develop skills. They have certain innate abilities related to pattern recognition. They see a pattern—an opportunity—where others see chaos or simply miss the opportunity. They have domain expertise, a professional network, and industry experience that students lack,” said Cohen, a professor at Wake Forest University. “With the IDEATE method, students can spot, evaluate, and select ideas that they would otherwise miss.”
At Wake Forest University, Cohen noticed that his students had lots of success with a teaching approach focused on ideation. They knew how to generate ideas and they knew how to develop those ideas.
Cohen decided to formalize his approach. He wanted his ideation model taught in other settings. Working closely with entrepreneur and educator Greg Pool, and then Neck, the IDEATE Method was born. The secret to ideation was unlocked for all to use. The question of how to generate ideas became something teachable.
Ideation for All
Neck believes that being able to spot problems, knowing how to generate new ideas, and evaluating their value is a skill set that requires practice.
The IDEATE Method helps students do just that. It’s an ideation system. It starts with problem recognition and uses concepts of deliberate practice and repetition to help students generate high-potential ideas. It goes way beyond brainstorming, instead giving students a toolkit for how to generate ideas.
Without ideation, it’s difficult to know whether an idea has potential. It’s tempting to lean toward novelty. With ideation, people can focus on profit potential and market size. It’s an approach that has been validated through research. And, it’s been found to be significantly more effective than other ideation methods because it takes the guesswork out of how to generate ideas.
What Is the IDEATE Method?
In its most simple form, IDEATE is a structured methodology most useful for novice ideators and entrepreneurs—those who have less experience. These are people who need to know how to generate ideas. The book shock-tests 100 ideas to assess their viability and market potential. With self-directed exercises, reflection, and evaluation worksheets, students not only develop their skill set in opportunity generation, but also build their entrepreneurial mindset.
Ideation Action Steps
- Identify – Distinguish between high-quality and low-quality problems
- Discover – Actively search for ideas in problem-rich environments
- Enhance – Add innovation and novelty to enhance existing opportunities
- Anticipate – Use the four sources of change to anticipate new opportunities
- Target – Identify target customers and understand their unmet needs
- Evaluate – Practice scoring, selecting, and defending high-quality ideas
Industry experience is important, as is a strong network. But most aspiring entrepreneurs, especially young students in entrepreneurship courses, don’t have those attributes yet so they need to acquire new tools. Neck’s ideation workbook provides a proven method for how to generate ideas that can produce real value. She will be unveiling the IDEATE methodology at upcoming Babson Academy programs this year.