There is a very good post here, about where ‘idea generation’ fits in with the innovation processes.
The best quote in the article is this:
Idea generation is at best the “mid point” of an innovation process, because by the time you start generating ideas you need to have:
- A good sense of the strategic goals and direction of the organization
- A good sense of trends and the unfolding future
- An understanding of unmet or unarticulated needs
Understanding ‘unmet or unarticulated needs‘ requires either asking your customers very careful questions (for design improvements), or if you’re looking for giant leaps, knowing your customers better than they know themselves. If people have developed workarounds, or have identified different values than what the offered products pre-suppose, then this is a great starting point for idea generation and the resulting innovation.
Either way, the author is correct. Idea generation isn’t the start of the innovation process, or at the end; it sits somewhere in the middle, resting upon some more fundamental observations and processes.