What is the difference between an idea and wishful thinking?

wishful thinking

Differentiating between idea and wishful thinking aims to clarify and describe ideas in a clear way. By concretizing ideas and creating an understanding of the type of ideas that emerge, it becomes easier to communicate and work further with them.

The method should be used in situations where there is often a need for consensus. It can be used in an early phase of the ideation process to avoid overly general ideas and claims. It can also be used later in the process to ensure that the ideas are sufficiently clear and concrete to be developed further.

Here are the steps to use this simple method:

1. Divide the ideas into two categories: “Ideas” and “Wishful thinking”.

2. Wishful thinking are ideas that are desired but do not describe how to achieve them, for example “A nice design”. (It is important to clarify what the nice design actually looks like in order for it to become concrete).

3. Ideas are those where it is clear what the idea itself means, for example “Coating the product with silver magnetic paint”. It is a concrete idea that can be understood and discussed.

4. Go through the wishful thinkings and ask yourself “how?” to make them more concrete. There may be several ways to flesh them out, so note all options.

Here is an example to illustrate the method:

Wishful thinking: Create a better coffee mug. (sounds good, but says nothing about how we can go about creating it)

Generated ideas from this wishful thinking by asking the question “how?” to reveal the real ideas behind the original thought: A handle that fits better for big hands, a magnetic color that makes them easier to stack, etc.

It is important to remember that introducing this method too early in the idea process can create uncertainty in idea generation and thereby reduce the flow of ideas. This may happen because you tend to focus on whether it is an idea or not, instead of actually generating ideas.