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Wild Ideas Widen Possibilities

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Sometimes while working on design challenges at IDEO, we need a little bit of a nudge to push ourselves and our ideas further past what already exists. When we get to the ideas phase of one of our projects, the first round of ideas that our teams and clients come up with can be a bit safe, and might simply be small variations on things that already exist in the world. While small, unexpected twists can sometimes be enough to bring a big shift to a design challenge, we've found that pushing beyond the 'safe' ideas often frees us up for even better ideas. That's why one of our 7 brainstorm rules is, "Encourage Wild Ideas." Even folks who work at a creative agency can fall into patterns, and it's a nice reminder to challenge ourselves. In our case, we take explicit steps to shake up our perspective.



When we're thinking about how to bring fresh thinking to an old problem, wild ideas can help push us out of the familiar and stretch our understanding of what's possible. A wild idea can be something that might not make 100% sense. It’s way easier to start with an idea that’s crazy and dial it back to make it feasible than it is to take an uninspiring idea and make it unique. 

Maybe something is a wild idea because it isn't technically possible, like the Hover Board from the 80's movie 'Back to the Future;’ it required a technology that didn't quite exist. But, look at modern high-speed trains that run on what seems like a magical technology (basically magnets) and are able to actually hover. Perhaps hover boards aren't so far off. 

Maybe an idea is wild because it requires a new behavior. What we call the sharing economy or collaborative consumption was and is a big idea because it involves sharing what you own with strangers. Yet through companies like AirBnB, we see now people acting like mini hoteliers and allowing complete strangers off the street and into their homes as guests.

Sometimes an idea can be wild because it doesn't seem to make business sense; for every pair of shoes purchased, Toms Shoes gives away a pair of shoes to someone in need. This generosity and sense of purpose makes Toms stand out – and that keeps business flowing. That's wild.


DesignsOn is IDEO's collective point of view on various themes – we've covered a number of topics from birth, to packaging, to time. It showcases our thinking along a number of dimensions – everything from an emotional lens to a business one – but always human. Designers from the IDEO community meet to explore the chosen theme, contribute their own ideas and receive community feedback on how to make them stronger. Because it’s exploratory, most of the ideas tend to be ‘wild’ ideas.

IDEO designers participate in DesignsOn because it's fun and because it's an honor to have their ideas selected as one of the most provocative. It isn’t about ‘winning’, it’s about exploring personal passion areas, or using the challenge as a design exercise to stretch their own thinking about a space. The ideas that are selected are considered ‘fresh’, which is the highest form of praise for creative thinkers. The community acknowledges that the ‘winning ideas’ have successfully stretched their thinking past the boundaries of what they thought was possible. This is something we celebrate and value.


We've talked about how wild ideas don't have to be viable. We've observed that they can be aspirational, playful, and fun. Ultimately, the goal of wild ideas is to challenge our assumptions and stereotypes, and put forth a new template for how to think about the world.

We love creating positive impact, and inspiring new thinking in the world is one of the most valuable kinds of impact – you have enabled others to see futures that have never existed.


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