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Exploring ideas




30-60 minutes if a session, or days depending on the way to collect ideas

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  • Computer to post query

  • Possible need to assemble photographic and other materials for posting online

  • Could do whiteboard ideation with pen and sticky notes to develop query

What is this tool and what is its purpose and benefit?


Crowdsourcing invites and involves a large number of people to generate ideas for a service, problem solving or another purpose such as collecting experiences and information. Crowdsourcing can take place on the internet or in a physical location, such as in a library or shop, often through an open call to generate ideas or provide knowledge by anyone who sees it. Existing examples of ideas and information collected through crowdsourcing include deciding what should be in a children’s department in a library (utilising a whiteboard and sticky notes for ideas in the library lobby), stories and experiences of boating, and hometown memories to define the core for a municipality’s brand building. Crowdsourcing can also have a secondary marketing effect by generating more attention and visibility to an organisation if a call for crowdsourcing goes viral.

Steps how to use this tool in practice

The same steps apply when working individually, in pairs or in a group.


Start by defining what kind of information or ideas you want to get and from whom. Think about how much information you need and how you will collect and analyse it, and frame the call to be sent out. It can be a question or simply asking people to tell their stories, opinions (like preferences for the premises in a library) or use experiences of a service.


Choose the platform for your call that best serves the aim and enables you to get the most and best quality of answers possible. It can be a natural place for the service, such as in a library for ideas about the library, or organised online on your website or social media. Usually social media reaches the largest numbers and geographic area. For example, a local history museum may ask for help identifying local people in old photographs in a blog post on their own website. Also a combination in location and social media can be a powerful approach.


Follow and monitor responses, such as the saturation and nature of answers. Respond to commenters. Be prepared to continue correspondence beyond the public post via other means, such as in person, phone, email, or private messages, especially if the information being shared should be protected for intellectual property, privacy or other reasons. If needed, you may also ask additional questions to obtain more information or clarification.


Once saturated, analyse the answers and ideas obtained. If you receive a large number of responses, you may need another process to vet the suggestions. In some situations, it might make sense to turn back to crowdsourcing and create a poll so that your audience can vote on the best ideas at the next phase, Alternative prototypes, where ideas are selected.

Tips and hints for using this tool

  • Crowdsourcing can be used in different phase of the service design process, for example, for collecting data for the problem, voting on ideas, concepts and prototypes, or in general, such as asking for knowledge of the best suppliers of a specialised material, expertise from individuals who have undertaken similar projects, help identifying an unknown object in an image, or naming a product or service.

  • You can consider compensation or incentives to encourage participation. Crowdsourcing can be set up as a competition, such as rewarding the ideas that were used to develop the service or suggesting names for a new service.

  • Be aware of intellectual property issues. Consider if you are exposing proprietary information and be clear about ownership of solutions generated.

  • Lack of interaction is a risk. For social media, cultivating a social media following in advance and/or choosing another highly-trafficked platform, potentially one that is sector-specific, such as a forum, can be considered.

Other tools of this phase

An active and exploratory way to generate ideas


An inspiration board for ideating solutions

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A group ideation tool


A fictional description of a typical customer.


Drawing parallels with analogies for ideas.


An ideation matrix of service aspects.

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Creating ideas together with customers and stakeholders.

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A visual map of existing solutions to the identified problem.

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A visual idea generation diagram.

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Generating ideas quietly and getting inspired by others.

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