The main difference between an ideation session and shower thoughts is that shower thoughts are that one idea that just comes out of nowhere, and an ideation session is planned, structured to allow the generation of an abundance of ideas.
First of all. Let's address the elephant in the room; Why do a good percentage of our ideas come to us in the shower?
It is weird; we have to admit- we mind our own business, scrubbing those elbows and knees when suddenly DING! A life-changing idea comes alive in our heads. Maybe it will fix that annoying issue at work, or perhaps it is a revolutionary product idea. So why does this happen, and how is this different from a professional ideation session?
No, it's not some magic dust they put inside our soap suds, although this does have to do with it. The atmosphere when we shower creates the perfect condition for that creative spark and coaxing out that inner idea genius.
Research tells us that when we are doing something monotonous, such as fishing, running, cleaning or showering, we are more likely to have a creative flash. We may have also noticed that when we are battling to sleep at night, and our brain is wide awake, this is when we get idea sparks. All of this is because our brain wanders and goes into a kind of autopilot when doing something monotonous. This kind of dreaming relaxes the prefrontal cortex- (the brain's command centre for decisions, goals and human behaviours). We won't go into this majorly, but it also switches on the rest of our brain's default mode network. With this switched on, we can make new and creative connections that we typically dismiss in our conscious minds.
When we are at work in the office, our ideas are more close-minded and thinking hard about a problem deactivates your default network making us less creative. It isn't altogether a bad thing; it gives us the power to hit that deadline and maintain focus; however, it can dig us into a hole creative wise.
It is strange, isn't it, that when we sit down and think hard about our problem that needs solving, we are likely to be less creative and less prone to problem-solving.
Warm showers create the perfect storm for the perfect idea. So, in a nutshell- the beauty of a warm shower; distracts us, relaxes us, allows us to let go of the leash and give our mind freedom to create. So when the soap washes off, the bulb switches back on, and we go back to life as usual.
How is an ideation session different to our general shower thoughts?
There is a myth that an Ideation Session is just getting a bunch of like-minded people in a room, complete with post-it notes and beers, wait 3 hours, and hopefully, we may have some half revolutionary idea.
But no, Ideation is not just this. It would help if we had a mix of people, not like-minded. We need to include a range throughout the company from the shop floor to the CEO. The best ideas come from everywhere.
A good ideation session probably won't include beer; it may include post-its. A successful ideation session is hard work and an organised procedure that guides people through several crafted exercises to draw out innovative, fresh ideas.
During the session, we will come up with as many ideas as possible; some of these ideas will be revolutionary, some will be rubbish and go straight onto the reject pile. It would help if we focused on quantity, not quality, here. The point is that the more ideas, the better.
Ideation sessions are all about understanding and getting to know our users and having a clear problem statement set out.
So, shower thoughts are that one "DING" moment, ideation sessions are planned, and many ideas are generated, of which a percentage is carried forward.
Usually, it's the shower thoughts that may actually be the best ideas- but nothing get done about them, and soon they become fleeting. Holding an ideation session is extremely valuable as the team we have on the session can build on any idea we have, and it is known to, and hence all harder to forget and lose momentum on. Encourage the team to bring their shower thoughts to the session; you never know, a small shower thought could bloom into a full-blown tsunami of an idea!