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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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Photo of Paul Ezeka

Great idea required deep thinking with connectivity among concern stakeholders, we have come to identified the power of connectivity, it helps to identified problem, reason for problem, and helpful solution, at www.crinigeria.yolasite, you will get to understand how we engaged in solving problems.

Photo of Amos Obi

Yes! The process is sound for getting the best of ideas and suggestions for experts conclusion... Quite interesting indeed. We do hope to provide more details and practical experiences based on our vast array of exposures and documentation as below at

Photo of Clare O'Leary

Kia Ora! I love that you are putting out a challenge about facilitating discussions on death and is a changing cultural experience in the 21st century and particularly with globally dispersed families, finding ways of being together at difficult times of loss and grief is a real challenge. I am excited to see what happens. Clare

Photo of Tiago Nunes

Hi y'all. I like how research phase can serve as an innovation laboratory, where you make the knowledge grow higher. Research is very much used in the projects I work with, exactly in the same way. But as a project manager and COO, I keep an eye on time and budget. Without compromising the goals of the research phase (quality), do you control any of these variables while going through the research phase? If so, how do you do that? I'd love to read your answers.

Photo of Nick Van Breda

I like the overall explanation. Looks similar to the one I get in school regarding the innovation cycle starting with problem finding before ideation conception and implementation.


Hello OpenIDEO, It is a good article. Yet, there are not much more effective Tips. Routine & General Idea is given. It ought to have more content rather than differentiating between Research Phase & Idea Phase.

Photo of Telusila Motuliki

Research is important, for it helps to identify areas that we should focus on, areas that needs improvement, areas that we are good at and research will also help to give us feedback and guidelines to where we are from our goals and objectives.

Photo of Teng Zhang

Good idea. I like the way you express your idea.