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Research Phase: The Lowdown

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We're sometimes asked at OpenIDEO why we run the Research phase (previously called the Inspiration phase) first and don't just dive straight into the Ideas phase to start generating concepts. So we thought we'd share some reasons on why we've found the inspiration approach to be successful in shaping our pursuit of social good.
Explore before innovating
By exploring existing initiatives, tools, campaigns, methods, business models, human-centered insights + community perspectives and so on which have been applied to a challenge, we gain collective understanding on the scope of the topic. It's easy to rush in and start proposing ideas without taking the time to discuss and understand the issues. Through exploring widely and collaboratively, we gain diverse perspectives – which are more likely to lead to truly innovative and impactful solutions.

Real insights start with real people
Where possible, we encourage our community to explore the challenge issues by including the voices of people effected by them. We often create an Interview Toolkit which you'll find in the introduction text of the Research phase. We encourage you to think about who you could reach out to to bring valuable human-centered insights to our challenge research.
Turning observation into insight
As we explore, many of us unearth gems which will trigger thoughts on the challenge topic from others. To engage others in conversation, it's great idea to unpack your exploration for the community. Something's caught your eye – rather than just posting a link or video – see if you can turn that observation into an insight. Let the community know why you think it matters, how you think relates to our challenge and share relevant details to spark discussion. Asking broad questions which may trigger widening discussions about your insight helps too – collaboration loves a conversation! (and be sure if you are using text direct from a website, to use quotation marks and give a link to the source.)
Feed the idea & let it grow
Ok – so we know that sometimes an idea strikes you that just seems to fit the challenge perfectly and it's tempting to go ahead and post it in the Research phase before the Ideas phase opens. In this case, our suggestion is for you to jot down your thoughts and park them for now. What could make your idea even better is if you think about where you could draw from existing insights out there in the world which might start conversations that could feed your idea and improve it in the long run. It's great to think sideways. So, for example, if you're planning on an Idea for a mission to the moon, you might like to post contributions on long distance travel and confined spaces to gain further insight. Your emerging idea will strengthen in the process and may even evolve in a whole exciting new tangent by the time we open the Ideas phase – it's about having trust in collaboration!

And here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks can dig who they're collaborating with. Think skills, experience, passions & wit.
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