“Ideation is the mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of ‘going wide’ in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.” 
–, An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE

Many start-ups fail because they start with an idea instead of identifying a problem. To separate a great idea from an idea that will succeed, root your idea in a clear user problem. Do your homework, ask questions, take risks, fail fast and fail often.

 In this phase, before devising a solution, begin by identifying problems and asking questions instead of starting with solutions and providing answers. Learn about the needs, wants, and experiences of your target audience. This will uncover a true market need. Design Thinking is one framework to facilitate this goal. Empathy is the first stage of the design thinking process and highlights the importance for gaining a “deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for” (see IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit).  

Once these insights are collected, information can then be synthesized to identify and clearly define a problem. Defining the problem, the second stage of the Design Thinking process, allows brainstorming of ideas that genuinely solve an existing problem and to also explore opportunities to develop an effective product. After the problem or opportunity is clearly framed, innovators can ideate potential solutions (the third stage of the Design Thinking process) that will lead to the product development phase (see Phase 2: Product Development).

 For business success and product adoption, innovators must also consider three key parameters when ideating an effective product: product desirability, feasibility and viability. Innovators should consult over whether there is a demand for their product and if a market already exists.

Think ahead to scaling and diffusion. Even in the Ideation phase, it is important to consider how your product will move through the commercialization lifecycle. Devise a diffusion strategy and engage with potential users and adopters to evaluate the demand of your product and return on your product. The payer should also be identified.  

Helpful tools to develop a business plan and strategy:

  • Needs Assessment: A needs assessment  identifies the gaps between existing conditions and a desired one. As a strategic activity, a needs assessment aims to improve the current standard or correct deficiencies in a system.

  • SWOT Analysis: A SWOT analysis is a framework used to evaluate a company’s (or product's) competitive position by identifying its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This evaluative framework is important for determining the viability of a product and business plan.

  • Business Model Canvas (BMC): The Business Model Canvas is a great tool to help strategize and organize the development of a new business model. You can use the tool to describe, design, challenge, and pivot a business model.


innovator's checklist

Identify a problem you want to solve

  • Determine the purpose of the product and how it will solve a real-world health care need.

  • Conduct due diligence for the idea or concept.

  • Validate the idea or concept with users and potential adopters

  • Define the desired impact.

  • Choose targeted outcomes that the product will address.

  • Ensure that the product aligns with Ontario’s health care and hospital priorities.

  • Consult on if intellectual property of the product needs to be protected.

Identify your market

  • Conduct a thorough market analysis for existing and competing products.

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis.

  • Identify and engage relevant stakeholders (patients, providers, regulators) early.

  • Identify the payer (i.e., who will fund product) and how.

Articulate your technical and business development strategy

  • Determine the business and technical requirements to commercialize the product.

  • Determine where the product will be designed and tested, and launched.

  • Determine the costs associated with its development, testing, and commercialization.

  • Explore funding sources to raise capital (e.g., grants, venture capital investment, private donor).

  • Determine where the product will be designed and tested.



Last update: 2018-Nov-26

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