When you’re finding that everyone’s ideas are falling in and around the same areas of exploration, it’s time to expand the boundaries of your thinking. This is a perfect time to use a creative matrix.Free download
How to use the canvas
The goal of ideation is to expand the thinking and ideas of everyone on the team, to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. However, without context and practice, most of us have a tough time expanding beyond what we know (or came up with in the shower).
The creative matrix was designed with this in mind. Essentially, the creative matrix is a tool that will help spark new ideas at the intersections of discrete categories. This tool is all about divergent thinking. Best of all, you get to design your own creative matrix based on your design criteria, the market you play in, or the customers you serve (or wish to serve).
To design your own creative matrix, draw a grid on a whiteboard or poster paper with no more than five rows and five columns. Give it a topic or a central “how might we…?” question.
For each of the columns, designate a customer segment (existing or new). For each of the rows, designate a particular technology, enabling solution, or value proposition. You might also opt to designate the end column and/or row as a wild card category, for placing open ideas.
With your matrix in place, it’s time to ideate! Using sticky notes, have each person randomly and rapidly add as many ideas as they can come up with to the cells in the matrix. Words are good. Pictures are better! The goal is to fill in every single cell in the creative matrix with at least one idea.
To incentivize people to generate more ideas, assign a point for each sticky note. The highest total score wins.
Once every cell has been filled in and the time limit is up, it’s time to review everyone’s ideas. Have the team huddle around the create matrix as if it were a painting. Once everyone has had an ample chance to look at each other’s work, have each person call out their favorite ideas (or top two). From there, as a team select the most promising ideas to move forward.
1. Categories on the left
Add the different things you want to come up with, e.g., a channel, value proposition, and revenue model, for each segment. Or ideate for variations of the same thing.
2. Customer segment up top
Try to put in the different customer segments along the top. That way you can generate ideas for each segment and accommodate their needs.
3. Don’t overthink it!
You can add as many columns as you want. However, for an effective result we don’t advise going over a total of 20 cells.
4. Aim for uniqueness
Come up with a number of different ideas for each cell, and try to avoid taking the easy way out by just making variations on a theme.
5. Spice it up
To spice up the exercise add an extra “wildcard” row where your team needs to come up with ideas that do not fit in any of the other categories.
Step by step guide
Before you start
Arrange for a comfortable environment. Definitely not a meeting room.
⊗ Arrange a relaxed, positive and private environment
⊗ Have markers (fine tip) and paper for everybody
⊗ Print or draw the canvas on a big sheet of paper
⊗ Have plenty of sticky notes and markers ready
⊗ Allow yourself 15 minutes of undisturbed time
Have team members individually go over each cell and try to come up with ideas for them. Don’t discuss yet!
Fill the matrix
Cell by cell, ask the team members what their ideas were and have them add them to the canvas.
TIP! If there are certain boxes that are difficult to fill, try to see if that is because they don’t make sense, or because they are simply unfamiliar. In the latter case, it makes sense to try to fill them. Otherwise skip!
Check your work
Once you have spent around 15 minutes, the matrix should be quite full. Check your work to see if you’re finished:
⊗ All of the cells are filled with ideas that make sense
⊗ The ideas are concrete and well defined
⊗ You can’t think of any categories you left out
⊗ Validate your new ideas!
⊗ Use your ideas as a starting point for the wall of ideas
⊗ Select ideas based on their value with the innovation matrix