Create in IDEO HCD

There are four key activities in the Create phase: synthesis, brainstorming, prototyping, and feedback.


1) Digesting

(30 mins - 45 mins)

Step 1. Everyone read through interview transcripts individually, and take time to let the information sink in. Every one should aim to understand the interviewee's worldview, with a view for story-telling.

2) Story Sharing

(30 mins - 45 mins)

Step 1. Upon gathering, everyone is to share 3-8 stories about the users based on what they have read.

Step 2. The rest of the team takes notes on post-its. Notes should be small pieces of information (no longer than a sentence) that will be easy to remember later. As a group you should be thinking, “What does this new information mean for the project?” Anything goes, including life history, household details, income, aspirations, barriers, quotes, observations, etc.

Here are some tips for effective story-telling:

  • Be Specific- Talk about what actually happened. It helps to begin stories with “One time...” or “After such and such happened...”

  • Be Descriptive- Use your physical senses to give texture to your description.

  • Follow Reporting Rules- Cover the following topics: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Try to avoid:

  • Generalizing
  • Prescribing (they should, would, could...)
  • Hypothesizing
  • Judging
  • Evaluating or Assuming

3) Identifying Patterns

Making sense of your research is accomplished by seeing the patterns, themes, and larger relationships between the information.

Seeing the patterns and connections between the data will lead you quickly toward real-world solutions.

(45 mins - 1 hr)

Step 1. Everyone is to go to the wall of post-its and choose 5 key post- its (stories, quotes, observations) that are most surprising, interesting, or provocative.

Step 2. Group these into related thoughts.

Step 3. Write a succinct Insight statement on a new post-it for each grouping that summarizes the big takeaway.

Step 4. Post these Insight post-its where all can see.


  • Insights are revelations – the unexpected things that make you sit up and pay attention.
  • Insights extrapolate individual stories into overarching truths.
  • Insights allow us to see our design challenge in a new light.

Big Tips:

Aggregate big thoughts: Are some of the thoughts linked? If so, aggregate them. Take several related pieces of information and re-write them as one big Insight

Work at the same level: Check that the insights sit at the same level — that they are all big thoughts. If you find you have some lower level insights, consider whether they might be reframed at a higher level. If they need to be dropped a level, they may be best talked about as customer needs that inform and support the Insight.

4) Find Themes

(20 mins - 30 mins)

Step 1) Looking at all the insights, start to group these insights into major themes

Step 2) Make sure these themes are on the same level. If not regrouping, breaking up, abstracting are all in order.


  • Look for categories and buckets Sort your findings into categories or buckets. Which ideas are related? Cluster together the findings that belong together into themes.

  • Consider the relationship between categories Look for patterns and tensions in the way your themes relate to each other. Are they on the same level? Or are they talking about different kinds of things?

  • Group and re-group Slice and dice the data in different ways to find meaning. Try moving the post-its around to form new groups.

  • Get input from the team Explain the early buckets and themes to a broader group. Learn from their input and try alternative groupings.


Moving from Analysis of Information to Creation of New Ideas

1) Create Opportunity Areas


  • An opportunity area is a stepping stone to idea generation.
  • An opportunity is a rearticulation of problems or needs in a generative, future facing way.
  • An opportunity area is not a solution. Rather, it suggests more than one solution. It allows the team to create many solutions.


  • Opportunities start with the phrase “HOW MIGHT WE...?” to suggest a mindset of possibility. On the post-it, this can be abbreviated to "HMW..."

(45 mins - 1 hr)

Step 1) Spend at least 15 minutes on each theme generating Opportunity Statements for that theme. Place the post-its next to the theme area.

Step 2) : If the team gets stuck, read the insights from each theme area as a way to jolt the creativity of the team. For example, for each insight posted, ask the team to come up with at least one “How Might We...” statement.

2) Brainstorm New Solutions

The practice of generating truly impractical solutions often sparks ideas that are relevant and reasonable. It may require generating 100 ideas (many of which are silly or impossible) in order to come up with those three truly inspirational solutions.

(45 mins - 1 hr)

Step 1. Prepare 3-5 “How Might We...?” opportunity statements from those generated previously. Place each statement on a separate wall
or board. Give each person post-it notes and a marker.

Step 2. Begin by asking the group to generate a list of barriers related to the opportunity statement.

Step 3. Protect all participants by enforcing the Rules of Brainstorming.

If ideas slow down, prompt the group to think about one
of the barriers listed during the warm-up.

Or share a story from the research to spark thinking (i.e. “So what ideas would encourage Shashu to adhere to her medication?”)

Step 5. When the ideas really slow down, switch to a new opportunity area.

This might be 15-30 minutes per HMW.


  • Defer judgment There are no bad ideas at this point. There will be plenty of time to judge ideas later.

  • Encourage wild ideas It’s the wild ideas that often create real innovation. It is always easy to bring ideas down to earth later!

  • Build on the ideas of others Think in terms of ‘and’ instead of ‘but.’ If you dislike someone’s idea, challenge yourself to build on it and make it better.

  • Stay focused on topic You will get better output if everyone is disciplined.

  • Be visual Try to engage the logical and the creative sides of the brain.

  • One conversation at a time Allow ideas to be heard and built upon.

  • Go for quantity Set a big goal for number of ideas and surpass it! Remember there is no need to make a lengthy case for your idea since no one is judging. Ideas should flow quickly.


Prototyping is about building to think.

What is prototyping?

  • BUILD TO THINK: Prototypes are disposable tools used throughout the concept development process, both to validate ideas and to help generate more ideas. Prototypes are a powerful form of communication and force us to think in realistic terms about how someone would interact with the concept.
  • ROUGH, RAPID, RIGHT: Prototypes are not precious. They should be built as quickly and cheaply as possible.
  • ANSWERING QUESTIONS: It is essential to know what question a prototype is being used to answer,
    for example about desirability, usefulness, usability, viability, or feasibility.

Imagine the Value Proposition: For each prototype, answer these questions to start building the value of the idea:

  • Who will benefit from this idea? What is the value to the end customers?
  • Why and how is this idea better than alternative options?
  • How much is this benefit worth to them?
  • How much would they be willing to pay for this benefit”
  • How might this payment be collected?

(45 mins - 1 hr)

Step 1. Ask teams to partner in teams of 2-4. Small teams help everyone to have a role.

Step 2. Ask teams to pick one solution from the brainstorming boards. You may choose to offer a range of criteria: two teams working on solutions they’re “most passionate about”, one group on “most feasible”and one on “furthest out” or “long term”

Step 3. Prompt teams to spend no more than 30-45 minutes making their chosen solution tangible, using one of the prototyping forms described here or creating new ones.

Step 4. Give each team 5 minutes to share their idea back with the larger group to get initial feedback. Encourage teams to include an enactment of the experience of use, even if they have a paper-based prototype. Prompt groups to identify what customer needs their prototype addresses and what key questions they still have.



 A physical model of a product, shown above, makes a 2-dimensional idea come alive in 3 dimensions. Using rough materials allows you to quickly mock up low-fidelity prototypes.


Imagining the complete user experience through a series of images or sketches.


The emotional experience with a product or service is sometimes best expressed by acting it out with team members taking on the role of the constituent or customer.


Mapping is a great way to express a space, process, or structure. Consider how ideas relate to each other, and how the experience changes over time.


Don’t invest too much time perfecting the ideas before feedback – the point of re-engaging customers is to change the solutions, not to prove that they are perfect. The best feedback is that which makes you rethink and redesign.

(1.5 hr - 2 hr)

Step 1. Ask team members to prepare how to present their solutions to participants. It’s not necessary to give behind-the-scenes organizational information to them.

Step 2. Have teams practice presenting solutions to the rest of the group— enactment is especially effective. Invite others to help simplify and clarify the presentation and identify focus questions to be answered in research.

Step 3. Ask teams to standardize a script about the solution so it is delivered consistently at each feedback session. Write down key questions to ask in follow-up.

Step 4. When introducing the feedback session to the customer group, explain you want honest feedback— even if negative—and that the team has spent minimal time prototyping.


  • Have Several Versions When there is only one concept available, people may be reluctant to criticize. However, when allowed to compare and contrast, people tend to speak
    more honestly

  • Don’t try to sell the idea. Present solutions with a neutral tone, highlighting both pros and cons of a solution.

  • Adapt on the fly. If it becomes clear that there is one aspect of the solution that is distracting people from the core idea, feel free to eliminate this piece or change it.

  • Ask participants to build on the ideas. If a participant asks a question like, “Can this service be purchase by the community or just an individual?” Ask the question back to them: “Should the service be purchased by the community or individual?” Another valuable question is, “How could this be better for you?” It invites the participant to help improve the idea or give additional critique.

Seah Ying Cong

Old soul in an older body.

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