How to run an ideation session using social trends

In a previous article I talked about the importance of social insights and trends to foster innovation. Today I’m going to focus on the ideation phase only. This can be used for any initiative aimed at driving a future-thinking mindset and to future-proof your ideas, projects and initiatives.

Where to start from?

A successful ideation session has to have the following characteristics:

Timeboxed: it shouldn’t last more than 30- 45 min. After that, people will start to disconnect and lose creativity, our minds can be focused for longer than that.

Standup!: Creativity flows when we are energetic and if people stay sitting they will tend to disconnect quicker.

One idea per post-in note: make sure that everybody captures their ideas in different post-its. You can use different colours and shapes by topic, just make sure you will be able to have ideas separated so you can re-visit them easily after.

Be visual!: Related with the previous, it’s always easier to show than to tell, the use of images, colours, figures and sketches whenever possible will help you more effective than with words.

One conversation at a time: to make sure nobody misses on interesting ideas to be captured or to be built on.

Quantity over quality: the variety and diversity of ideas will help you be more creative and consider things that wouldn’t even cross your minds initially, that’s the value of these sessions. Therefore, encourage people to go wild, feel creative and don’t judge. You will have time to refine later.

Ensure diversity: it’s very important that you have a variety of participants in terms of speciality, background and points of view. That’s basic to make sure that at the end of the session you have very different ideas that cover different points of view, so that nothing gets left aside.

Vote: at the end of the session, make sure that you have time to go through the ideas and that everybody can vote for the ones that they find more interesting or with potential for further development, based on the relevance for the user and the internal investment required.

Why should I include social trends and insights?

It will ensure that you keep a user-centric mindset over the session, so that all the ideas take into account your audience, the people who will you use it and an empathetic approach.

At the same time, it’s important that you also include social trends, because that will ensure that participants in the session are also agents of change, to ensure that you keep evolving and adapting to the future and to walk towards future-proofed solutions.

In order to decide what elements should be part of the session when it comes to user insights and social trends, keep in mind that they have to be:

Inspirational – they have to be easy to understand and exciting

Relevant – they have to be related with the problem you are trying to address

What approach can I use for it?

There isn’t one approach fits all, I encourage you to be open minded and try new things in every session and depending on the goals you want to achieve at the end of it.

However, here are some ideas that work for me:

Use recordings and pictures: when facilitating the session, include a board with relevant visuals that compile key insights and trends identified over your previous research done and that are key for the purpose of you want to achieve.

Invite some representatives of your audience and the key trends identified: invite them to be part of the ideation session in have their say in the ideas that pop up. This will make everyone else to empathize with the audience and have direct understanding of what is relevant for the success of the solution. You can also invite your audience at the beginning of the session by introducing some of the key insights mentioned by these users in recent research and let the participants in the ideation session to ask them some questions.

The museum approach: make sure you have a big room in which the participants can walk around freely. Within this room, you can place different products, pictures, recordings, music, textures, etc. similar to an exhibition, and let the participants to walk around and get inspired by all these elements to put themselves in the mindset of the audience and the trends you identified.

A day in the life of: envision the near future of your audience, how their everyday life already is or will be soon, the role the trends identified and the relevant insights you have found can play in the solution you want to ideate.

The matrix of trends and scenarios: create a matrix in which you cross the trends and insights identified and ideate all together around what realistic scenarios they can bring for the user, your industry and yourself. Think of timeframes, i.e. in 5, 10 and 15 years time. Ideate all together around solutions that can be relevant for the different scenarios and how the solution would be relevant in the different time frames.

What are the benefits of using trends to ideate?

Ensuring that trends are considered when working on new ideas for your product or service is key if you want to make sure that the outcomes and next steps are aligning with a future-proofing mindset, to ensure the relevance of the solution within the environment it will be placed.

By including social trends into your ideation process, you be able to:

  • Prioritise outcomes also by most aligned with emerging and mainstream trends in your industry or environment.
  • Get more innovative ideas and outcomes and therefore, create a culture of innovation.
  • Be perceived as more innovative by your users.
  • Start setting the path to future-proofed ideas and solutions.
  • Be differentiated by identifying opportunities earlier in advance.
  • Take measures to possible threats and adapt quicker to changes.
  • Have the possibility to become an actor of change and transformation.

If you want to learn more, you can check the course on the Trends funnel method to create new solutions based on emerging trends.


It is key to create an empathetic and creative mindset during the session. If you think you will need more than 45 minutes, make sure to have time for breaks and to bring some snacks, water and drinks for the participants to keep the energy!

It’s also important that you think about some ice-breakers and creating a relaxed, friendly and fun environment.