Beyond the Brainstorm

As a critical phase of any innovation project, ideation brings the generative possibilities to life. While there are similarities with traditional brainstorming, there are also some key differences. Let’s explore both.

Both brainstorming and ideation are processes invented to create new valuable ideas, perspectives, concepts, and insights, and both are methods for envisioning new frameworks and systemic problem solving.

Both can be useful in every type of business, in the non-profit world, and in the public and social sectors. Both fall in the category of creative processes, though in fact they both are creative and scientific, just not linear.

Ideation and brainstorming share some ground rules (generate as many ideas as possible, do not classify them at this stage as good or bad, one conversation at a time, for example). They share some exercises, such as Worst Idea Ever, leaving your day-job role out of the room, clustering, and more. They share many similar rules, courtesies, tactics, exercises, methods, and objectives.

Ideation, however, is not merely an eloquent variation of time-tested brainstorming. While brainstorming uses a variety of exercises to unlock new thinking about old subjects—and follows a trajectory of immersion, incubation, and insight generation – ideation is more visionary in nature, seeking to see and discern solutions for problems that are not yet defined in many cases.

Ideation also uses a variety of methods to reframe the fundamental mental model of a subject—think of seeing the same thing from different lenses—in order to see it anew. The concept of Sprints also stimulates the ideation session and also helps focus the intended scope within the parameters of a set time. Many of these sprints have built-in methods of building on other ideas and concepts inherent in the process.

An Ideation Exercise

One generative exercise for any CPG company to explore growing market share is hold a session where a team role-plays a wide array of alternative revenue models for a particular brand.

As far as the ground rules for this ideation session, any ideas should be welcomed—and the cultural antibodies of HOW WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE THINGS need to be silenced. This session will not only challenge your existing model and inspire new, profitable thinking, but will also unlock new avenues of growth the existing paradigm of doing business usually will not allow considering.

We know what you’re thinking: “our whole business is built around creating products and distributing them in certain channels by set, predictable methods.” Don’t worry. The feasibility of enacting one or more of these new growth areas can be vetted rigorously after the session. This workshop is for creating and surfeiting desirability.

Here are the eight revenue models to explore:


  1. Unit Sales
  2. Ad Fees
  3. Franchise Fees
  4. Utility Fees
  5. Subscription Fees
  6. Transaction Fees
  7. Professional Fees
  8. License Fees


Each of the eight models offers a multitude of ways to create sales or fees. Even thinking about your current model, take Unit Sales for example, with uninhibited gusto can lead you to discover new ways to drive sales, such as selling in different channels, creating a premium niche, displaying in different categories or departments, etc.

Once you have all of the output of the revenue model innovation exercise, your team can discern the most probable means to augment your existing revenue model. Whether the session yields a dramatic breakthrough or simply incremental growth that increases sales and brand value, this exercise is a worthwhile and cost-effective method of realizing more value within your current portfolio.