The Usefulness of Ideas, Not Data, in Product Development

Shimpei Takahashi outlines a few of the idea generation he uses to create amazing toys.

Shimpei Takahashi had a problem with idea generation. His boss told him to look at the data and find the toy most likely to sell, instead of just inventing new toys and trying to bring them to market. This method pulled the creativity and happiness out of Takahashi’s designs and caused the quality of his work to suffer.

In his TED Talk, Play this game to come up with original ideas, Shimpei talks about the different methods he uses to generate ideas for products. Shiritori is the main idea generation tool, played by taking a word and then saying another word that starts with the last letter of the first word.

The tool is simple but the point isn’t to always generate the perfect idea. Instead Takahashi says that we should generate as many ideas as possible and eventually one of those ideas will turn into a winning product.

Shimpei Takahashi play this game to come up with original ideas

Brainstorming techniques are shown here very similar to the way we teaching engineering students to generate ideas. Write down everything, don’t discount anything while generating the ideas. Eventually the ideas will be sorted into the useful and not-so-useful bins and the best ideas can be developed further. Takahashi’s energy and enthusiasm help to show how entertaining a good brainstorming session can be.

Two ideas generated during the talk come from a roulette wheel and a hat, and a toothbrush and music. Shimpei first talks about a hat game where each person puts the hat on their head in turn until a monster pops out of the hat. Another toy is shown as a guitar with a toothbrush end so that users can brush their teeth and make music at the same time.

Generating ideas is critical to any business. Takahashi’s main message is to use the law of averages and find as many ideas as possible to meet a stated goal. Using data mining and analysis techniques can suck the fun and effectiveness out of product development.

Shimpei Takahashi play this game to come up with original ideas