An Activity to Help You Find Inspiration Outside Your Context - IDEO U


An Activity to Help You Find Inspiration Outside Your Context

One of the best ways to get inspired is to look outside your context. When working on new design challenges, IDEO designers often use analogous inspiration to gain fresh perspective. For example, emergency room doctors can get insights about organizing their medical supplies by spending time with a Nascar pit crew and an airline employee might get ideas about check-in by observing a hotel front desk.

To get outside of your context, and spark your own creativity, try the following:

Imagine you’re working for a company that has designed an amazing new bike, but not a super fast racing bike—a cruiser. It’s made to help people get into cycling. It’s simple to ride—no gears, and it doesn’t require all that spandex. How would you sell it to people who aren’t avid cyclists? What would an approachable experience look like?

Shopping for bikes can be intimidating for people who aren’t avid cyclists (aka the spandex averse).

Step 1: Start with Emotions

Start by thinking about the emotions that play into this scenario. What’s it like to buy a bike, when you know nothing about biking? Write down how that might make you feel.

Step 2: Identify Analogous Experiences

What other experiences—outside the biking industry—might evoke similar emotions?

The IDEO team designing the bike shop experience found inspiration from shopping for beauty supplies.

Step 3: Reflect and Connect

How does this inspiration from others unlock creative solutions for your own challenge? What concepts could you borrow from other industries or places that you might apply in your bike store?


This exercise was part of an IDEO team project. In order figure out how to get that non-cyclist demographic into an intimidating bike store, they sent the entire design team (a team of mostly men) to Sephora, a beauty supply shop. The goal was to see how they felt being in a store with products fairly foreign to them and to help them build empathy for how non-cyclists likely feel walking into a bike shop.

For more in-depth exercises, tools, and tips for bringing creativity into your work join our Unlocking Creativity online class.

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