Case Study — Conducting a Design-Thinking Ideation Workshop: Generating Feasible Solutions to User Problems

Kristin Zibell
3 min readJul 19, 2023

“How might we generate many creative, out-of-the-box ideas to solve our user’s problems and determine a few to test with users?”

Fifteen students in my UC Berkeley Design Thinking and UX Strategy class started their first day of class with bright ideas and solutions without knowing how produced user value. Using the Design-Thinking Methodology and my guidance, they conducted user research, listening, and empathizing with users to identify their goals, challenges, and needs. They codified the users’ most significant problems into a problem statement and defined their way forward.

Now, it was time to ideate.

I created a workshop plan with several exercises using the creativity of the group. Our goal was to generate many ideas using the creativity of the group to identify the few, most feasible ideas, so they could create prototype and test them with users.

Workshop Agenda

Part I: The Foundation of How Might We

  • We reviewed the goals of the workshop
  • I introduced the How Might We method from Stanford’s and used examples from a hotel booking engine case study to illustrate the framework.
  • I gave the students an exercise focused on five of the How Might We methods to get started with their ideas: Amp up the good; focus on emotion: take it to the extreme; explore the opposite, and question an assumption.
  • They wrote each their favorite How Might We statement on a large poster paper and stuck it on the wall to create space for the ideas, e.g., “How might we show the hotel as the safest place?”

Part II: The Brainstorm

  • We started the brainstorming exercises using IDEO’s seven rules as a foundation for the session.
  • Each student silently wrote down their ideas on small sticky notes to answer their How Might We question and stuck them on the poster. e.g., “Create a safety rating system.”
  • I turned on some light techno music to get the energy level up in the room. Every student walked to the poster on the right of their classmate’s How Might We poster and for 2 minutes wrote their ideas to this new challenge.
  • I stopped the music every 2 minutes, and the students walked to the new poster on their right and filled it with more ideas. We kept going until each How Might We posters were filled with many ideas from the entire class.

Part III: The Short List

  • Next to their original How Might We poster, the students wrote their user’s problem statements on another large poster.
  • They organized into small groups and took turns moving the most feasible ideas from the large How Might We poster to Problem Statement poster.


Part IV: Nex Steps

At the end of the workshop, students generated a shortlist of ideas to prototype and validate with users.