Idea generation is an integral part of creative problem solving that happens in all businesses developing products — whether they were services or physical products. Idea generation methods have been studied against one another to create an understanding on how to produce most novel and innovative ideas or how to use certain mechanisms such as incubation or analogies in order to promote idea generation.

This paper presents a study comparing two idea generation mechanisms used as interventions during an alternate uses test. A group of 61 participants either classified or combined their ideas from the first round of ideation to come up with more ideas on a second round of idea generation. An outcome-based approach was used to evaluate the data and two metrics, quantity and novelty were used to evaluate the resulting ideas per group and round and unique ideas produced after the intervention.

The results suggest that at least when ideating alone, it is useful to stop and use some time to either classify or stop, observe and start combining the ideas already produced. Both have a positive effect on idea novelty, but classifying ideas results in significantly higher novelty scores over combining ideas. There was no difference in the novelty of unique ideas between the two groups, but both had a positive effect on novelty of unique ideas. Classifying ideas into categories produced significantly more unique ideas than combining ideas.

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