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There comes a time in the design thinking process where I sit down with my team and we begin to brainstorm. In front of us are the problem statements we've authored based off of the user research we've performed. However, it seems that the team simply draws a blank when we're all put in a room together and asked how to address the problems our users are facing.

As a moderator, I try to ask the group questions like, "what would things look like if we change the navigation?" or "how would a non-native english speaker use this application differently?" There is a small bit of chatter and then one or two people say something to the effect of "can't you just tell us the answer?"

I'd like to know the tricks other UXers have used during this step in the design process to engage members of the team to think creatively and truly participate in the process. Yes, I can make all these decisions, but that's no fun! I want to hear what people think, but I fear that I'm not providing an environment where they're comfortable enough to share their thoughts.

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The more visual the better. Give your team a stack of sticky notes and a sharpie and encourage them to visualize their ideas.

If ideas aren't flowing, start by asking them visualize the current experience for users, or the problem you're trying to solve. The result could be a flowchart, a storyboard, or something more abstract—the visual doesn't matter so much as the act of visualizing it. This kind of exercise activates different areas of the brain than writing or speech and should give your brainstorming session an initial boost.

Ideo uses techniques like this: https://www.ideou.com/pages/brainstorming

As does XPLANE, an agency known for their visual thinking techniques. XPLANE founder Dave Gray is a friend of mine and has a wealth of resources for these kinds of situations: http://www.xplaner.com/visual-thinking-school/

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You are asking great questions to your team. But your team may not be the ideal user. Therefore, they may not be confident to answer the perfect answers.

Create 3 to 6 ideal user personas and post them on the wall during brainstorm meetings. When you ask the SAME questions to your team, your team has to answer on behalf of a user persona (not their personal opinion).

This is fun because your team members have to play make-believe. User personas can be more engaging, insightful, and fun for your team members to put themselves in other peoples shoes.

This is effective only if you create REALISTIC user personas (the good, bad, and uglies of ideal users). Remember: users have both strengths and weaknesses.

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