The 3 Phases of Inspiration

The 3 Phases of Inspiration

  • Jens Mühlstedt Associate Director UX Innovation, designaffairs

The Process of Creating Ideas in Design, Experience and Innovation Projects.

Offload. Look Around. Go Wild.

Inspiration is omnipresent in fields of design and product innovation. Nevertheless, it is often structured by intuition and not based on knowledge or models. Looking at the wider topic, there exist numerous publications about innovation and connected topics like Design Thinking. The following model gives a mental structure to follow. The three phases are: 1. Offload – to express all pre-collected ideas and obvious steps. 2. Look around – by examining close-by fields, sub-aspects of the question, comparable problems, or branches, individuals may become inspired to generate new ideas. 3. Go Wild – by using techniques to consider unexpected topics and distant areas even more ideas can be generated.

The 3 Phases of Inspiration
The 3 Phases of Inspiration

Former studies and publications focused more on the “unusual” fields of idea origination, respectively, the environments that people think are most inspiring. Flueglistaller (2005) mentions that 24% of design ideas originate within an organization and 74% are adapted from external sources and other organizations. Mühlstedt, et al. (2014) mention that 70% of people are inspired by natural environment of a forest, 63% by music, and 54% by the “outdoors”.

Newer research shows how idea generation occurs – the actual core part of inspiration. WeTransfer (2018) shows that out of 10,000 surveyed participants, 47% mention their ideas are created “at work / my desk / in my studio”, 29% “on my way to/from work” and 23% “in bed”. In addition, the report mentions sources of inspiration, with 45% mentioning “books/magazines”, 45% “talking with friends”, 38% “travel”, 35% “music” and 34% “nature”. This shows that inspiration and ideation must be clearly distinguished and examined separately although they are both part of innovation.

For innovation and idea creation there are numerous methods and materials available that explain the psychology behind ideation processes, provide tools and templates as well as case studies and examples. However, for the topic of inspiration, especially in a professional environment, there are fewer resources. Hence, in the upper paper the process of work-related inspiration is discussed, disassembled into 3 defined phases, and explained in different aspects that include connected methods and recommended tools for each phase. 

Read more about the 3 Phases of Inspiration in this article.

The people behind our thoughts

Related examples of our work

Examples of Methods in Phase 1: Offload. – Notes, Brainwriting, Brainstorming
Examples of Methods in Phase 1: Offload. – Notes, Brainwriting, Brainstorming
Examples of methods in Phase 2: Look Around. – Requirement list, Analogy example, Mind-mapping and Solution sketching
Examples of methods in Phase 2: Look Around. – Requirement list, Analogy example, Mind-mapping and Solution sketching
Examples of Methods in Phase 3: Go Wild. – User Journey Walkthrough, Superhero, Inspiration Wild Cards, Love Letter
Examples of Methods in Phase 3: Go Wild. – User Journey Walkthrough, Superhero, Inspiration Wild Cards, Love Letter
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