How to Generate Great Ideas with Your Team?

Martyna Tarnawska shares tips on generating great ideas with your team. Learn what Shrek ideas are about!

Our Guest

Martyna Tarnawska, Service Design Expert & Digital Innovation Lead at Socjomania. Martyna is an experienced project manager, facilitator, and strategist. She has worked with various brands such as GDS EY, TESCO, HPE, DHL, Orange & T-Mobile. Martyna has facilitated multiple workshops in the field of service design, design thinking, innovation design, and digital trends.

Video Transcript:

Gosia: Hi, I’m Gosia from Whiteboards and this is the Agile on Board Show. Today, my guest is Martyna Tarnawska, a digital innovation enthusiast, service design expert, and facilitator.

Hi Martyna, thank you so much for joining our show.

Martyna: Hi, Hello, thank you for the invitation.

Gosia: Today, we’re going to focus on how to generate great ideas with your team. It might be useful during brainstorming sessions, and ideation to find solutions to problems that your customers are having. Martyna, do you have any tips for us?

Martyna: It might be shocking because every time when I’m saying this to my clients, they say, “No, we shouldn’t do this!”

I think to generate the best ideas and the most varied ones, you should not start with ideation.

What does it mean?

Very often I’m working in the design thinking methodology because it gives me a lot of tools. There is a rule if you want to create great ideas, you have to think first about the best definition of the problem or the challenge.

If we’re talking about six-hour workshops, my clients are very shocked when I’m telling them that ideation is only about 10%, maybe 20% of this process, even if we’re talking about the creative workshops where we generate ideas for their clients or for marketing or for sales.

What does it mean in practice? What are we doing for the rest of this time?

Following the creative problem-solving methodology, first, you’re thinking about the challenge and you’re trying to empathize with the customers and what their problems really are.

What are the pain points for the users?

First, you’re trying to get into the shoes of your clients, thinking from their perspective, trying for example very simple tools like the five whys.

As an example, somebody has formulated a challenge, “We are going to fail because of our team cooperation, something is not working very well,” and I’ll ask, “Why?”

“Because we don’t do anything together.”


“Because we don’t know each other.”


“Because we don’t spend time together in the hybrid work.”


“Because we don’t rework our work model.”

Very often when we’re trying to get to know the source of the problem, the challenge, we’re trying to solve different challenges. The scope of ideas is totally different.

The first tip, the most shocking one is — do not start with the ideation, start with the challenge and then go to the very short, very effective ideation session with the team.

Gosia: Does it happen sometimes that we don’t fully understand the problem? We jump to the solutions, but these won’t be great ideas because we really don’t have an understanding of the core problem. Would you say that this exercise, could we perform it during remote workshops? Have you facilitated any workshops like that?

Martyna: I think this is very useful in online and offline workshops. Very often when it comes to this short, but very intense session of ideation, sometimes it’s easier to do during online workshops because very often I’m trying to combine different types of brainstorming activities in one session.

I don’t like standard brainstorming where we’re just sitting online or offline in one room and we’re thinking, “Okay, so what should we go with?” It’s not very useful.

Very often we’ve got some hidden problems that we’re not talking about or someone has the higher authority and it’s not working very well for me or my clients.

When designing the workshop, my rule is to have different types of brainstorming activities.

First, we’re going through a silent brainstorming task and this is very useful when it comes to the remote session because we’re trying to have it time-boxed.

We’re thinking about the first areas, and then we’re trying to combine them. In my experience, what is working well is putting people in pairs so that they’re thinking together about ideas or problems they’ve generated previously alone.

This is something very unique because when they’re talking together they’re owning these ideas. It’s no longer, “this is Martyna’s idea, this is Gosia’s idea, they are together.” It creates common ownership and this is something very powerful to work on these ideas later.

Then I’m trying to use some techniques like dotmocracy and it also works well during an online workshop because we’re trying to vote but in a democratic way for one idea for example to develop. Then we’re working on prototypes and very often I’m choosing to work with online tools, even if we are meeting each other offline in one space.

When you’re the facilitator you know this hidden joke that the best part of your workshop starts at the end when everybody goes to their homes and you are in this one space and you’re seeing everything that you have to digitalize, and you have to rewrite, which is so annoying.

I learned that it’s beneficial to use online tools during offline meetings to have easier digitalization after the workshop or easier teamwork during the workshop.

Gosia: You mentioned that it’s good that people can get together and express their ideas and probably they can also bounce ideas off each other. Right? First, working silently, I think it’s also good for introverts and in the IT world we have a fair amount of introverted people so for them it would be great to work alone in this silent session, talk it over in small groups and only then discuss it with the whole group and vote. I think that’s brilliant.

Do you have any other tips on how to generate great ideas?

We might have this misconception that it’s just creative people that can come up with great ideas but I guess this is not the case, we can probably train our minds to generate great ideas. Right?

Martyna: I think that very often it’s correlated with the atmosphere and your mood. Even the most creative person in your team might not have a good day and they’re not able to create any ideas, any crazy, or any good or bad ideas.

When you’re trying to make the best ideation session, I think it’ll be great to spend 10 minutes on lateral thinking exercises. Very often it’s similar to thinking-outside-the-box exercises.

We’re trying to do something unusual, something not related to our work or to the challenge that we’re trying to solve just to train as you said before, your creativity, your very horizontal thinking. Something that would help you to link some dots and create something new.

Gosia: Let’s say if we have an idea and then we kind of challenge this idea, we think of something totally opposite. Would that help?

Martyna: Yes, exactly.

Sometimes I call it the “Shrek model” or the “Shrek ideas” from the film Shrek. I heard it from the prototyping session once.

What does it mean “Shrek ideas”?

These are completely wrong, the worst possible ideas in the world. You’re trying to come up with the ugly, the worst ideas ever.

When you’re doing this, and this is very funny, it’s very mind-opening for the participants and it’s easier for them to think about the final solution.

The Shrek models or Shrek ideas are really fun and sometimes we can use something so simple like, “Okay, now we’ve got 3 minutes to think about different uses of smartphones, not only to call somebody or scroll through Linkedin. Think of something more interesting.” Sometimes even this 3-minute activity, might change our mood, and open our minds and it’s very useful for the ideation session later.

Gosia: Basically we’re not limiting ourselves, we’re open to different ideas. Maybe this idea may sound a bit ridiculous at first but because we’re opening up our minds, we can zoom out and have a look at a larger idea. Then maybe we can see some associations. I can see that working.

Martyna: Yes, exactly. It’s like a training session. First, you have to prepare your body. In the ideation session, you have to prepare your mind and then go to the main activity.

Gosia: Thank you so much Martyna for these tips. I’m sure they will be useful for our audience during the next brainstorming sessions.

Thanks, everyone for listening to this episode of Agile on board. Don’t miss future episodes and subscribe to our Youtube channel. Take care. Bye.