Let's Flow Ideation - a Compendium of a Design Thinking Logic and Design Tools

Let's Flow: Ideation, Conceptualization, and Design Thinking in Product Design

Let's Flow Ideation, Conceptualization, and Design Thinking in
Product Design

Carlos M. Rodriguez Ph.D. | April 3, 2024

Read time: 7 minutes

“Flow is a magical word. When we hear it, an orchestra seems to start awakening our senses. It is a flexible imaginary that chains actions, processes, and objectives.”

– Dimas E. Agudo, CEO Design Thinking House

Managing and developing organizational ideation capabilities is imperative in today's competitive and challenging environment. According to Arthur D. Little's Global Innovation Excellence Benchmark Report and Best Practices (Little, 2023) and Beyond Colloquia (Erickson, 2015), managers recognize that the logic of competition has changed, and as organizations reconfigure themselves, it requires new mindsets and behaviors to pursue major innovation breakthroughs, capabilities to execute innovation projects in an agile manner, develop new market spaces, market intelligence capabilities, and build ideation management capabilities. According to this study, most firms underperform in adopting idea management competencies conducive to innovation for value and portfolio performance optimization.

Idea management requires nurturing creativity as the transformational process that brings ideas, imagination, and dreams into reality by applying design heuristics rather than algorithms. It involves the ability to generate novel ideas and create and discover new solutions and possibilities. This process requires stimulation and a space to be nurtured, i.e., the House of Design Thinking.

Ideation in Sequence

The design innovation process starts with a clear intent (stage 1: sense intent). It follows an understanding of the user’s context (stage 2: know the context), continues to a deep dive into the consumer’s world (stage 3: know people), mapping experiences and identifying profiles (stage 4: frame insights), and follow to stage 5, where designers frame the concept space and identify and organize ideas. This is the ideation stage, as shown in Figure 1. Ideation is the backbone of concept generation and solutions (diversity of thinking goals) in new product and service development processes. For this reason, ideation approaches should avoid “fixation” or the tendency to focus on a single idea at the expense of exploring other alternatives (Linsey et al., 2010).

Figure 1 – The Design Innovation Process and the Ideation Moment.
Source: The author, adapted from (Kumar, 2012).

Ideation is at the forefront of the new product/service development process. Promising ideas, when identified and enriched, become good product concepts that eventually deliver top-and-bottom-line growth. This is the beginning of a successful product in the marketplace. Ideation generates ideas, concepts, and solutions to inspire new products or services. It is a critical stage in design thinking and requires a deep understanding of the user, an emphatic approach, and consumption immersion (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Design Thinking Process: Ideation is the third stage in the Design Thinking model. It is supported by a deep understanding of the user, the consumption context, expectations, and experiences carried out in the empathize and define phases.
Source: The author

In the early concept generation phase, imagination uses several design heuristics to assist in concept generation, extension of existing concepts, and exploration of design solutions. These design heuristics are a source of inspiration for idea generation and introduce variation to form new solutions or variants (for a detailed description of design heuristics and its application, please access http://www.designheuristics.com) (Daly et al., 2012; Yilmaz et al., 2016). Still, a process-driven approach is required to foster creative and visualization space, i.e., Let’s Flow and an innovative path design.

Let’s Flow: A Design Thinking Logic

A design studio is a workshop that utilizes divergent and convergent thinking to generate problem-solving ideas. The process involves brainstorming, setting priorities, and adjusting solution demands in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. It provides a platform to aid prototyping efforts and is often referred to as design sprints, UX workshops, and other similar terms (let's note that a sprint has a more concrete and defined objective than a workshop completed in an extended period, i.e., five days). In my practice, I use several “innovation flows” described in Let’s Flow by the House of Design Thinking to achieve specific objectives and guide me in the design studio process.

The Let’s Flow suite is a compendium of several creative and ideation paths or “flows” developed by The House of Design Thinking in Spain to approach wicked problems and ideation challenges, awaken different perspectives, design brands, build strategy, expand the solution space, and visualize concrete and actionable steps. This methodology allows innovation and creation through thematic sessions and creative tools to bring out the disruptive insight potential added to the organization's human talent.

Let’s Flow results from multiple experiences and reflection on the mechanisms that allow organizations to enrich and develop their innovation efforts through group dynamics that foster imagination and creativity, co-creation, and expanding the solution space. It has been implemented in several worldwide organizations, such as Danone, Blendhub, Otis, Siemens, Coca-Cola Europe, Zenith, OTIS, Aena, OI Side, Desigual, and Carrefour.

An example of a typical innovation “flow” is shown in Figure 3. This basic flow entails the following stages: 1. Get moving stage, 2. A call to mind, 3. Pin-Point, and 4. A Purification stage, 5. Grounded.

Figure 3 – Basic Creative and Ideation Flow. This flow illustrates the use of several flow tools. The facilitator selects these tools based on the profile of the studio participants, their understanding of diverse creative methods, the participants ‘roles, the degree of interaction with the users, and the number of individuals who participate in each stage of the design studio.
Source: Adapted by the author from the Let’s Flow manual.

Figure 4 shows a more advanced flow design known as the Rational Street Flow. This path is used when the focus is on creativity through a forced change that alters the thinking group process.

Figure 4 – A more complex creative and creativity flow. Facilitators use this flow to boost higher levels of creativity and innovation in the design process.
Source: Adapted by the author from the Let’s Flow manual.

The Let’s Flow methodology can be used when facing any of the following purposes: Define Challenge, UP & Downflow, Rational Street flow, Brand Focus flow, Creativity Focus flow, Strategy Flow, Design Service, Spectrum flow, Deconstruction flow, Double Road flow, Launching flow, and specifier flow. Each of these flows has a specific goal in mind and should match the facilitator’s objectives for the workshop or Sprint.

Let’s Flow: The Design Tools

Once the facilitator defines the purpose of the inquiry and selects a particular flow, the specific tools must be chosen. Let’s Flow offers several tools aligned with a specific stage (Get moving, A call to mind, Pin-Point, A purification stage, Grounded).

The “Get moving” stage includes the following tools: 1-minute visual, Think Quick, Macgyver, Etnokit, Evoke exercise, Pass the Doodle, Stickmatick, Twister history, and Sistemarium. These tools, in the form of “all-inclusive” cards, include the mechanics for their use, benefits, and the materials needed to perform the tool. A sample of these tools is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5 – The workshop stage, Get Moving, includes several tools. The facilitator must select adequate tools to accomplish its design objectives.
Source: Adapted by the author from the Let’s Flow manual.

The “Call to Mind” stage includes the following tools: splitting the atom, Trading spaces, Flashstorming, building on, Brainstorming AOKI, Opposites attract, Rotoution, Expertation, and Hybridation tools. A sample of these tools is shown in Figure 6. Let’s Flow offers more than 120 tools in all creative paths.

Figure 6 – The workshop stage Call to Mind includes several tools. The facilitator must select adequate tools to accomplish its design objectives.
Source: Adapted by the author from the Let’s Flow manual.

Other Ideation Techniques

Several ideation techniques are available to the designer, product, service developer, and the new product development team. These are Ishikawa diagrams (root-cause analysis), SCAMPER, Mind mapping, Brainstorming (including brainwriting and brain drawing), Morphological Analysis, and TRIZ, among others. For a detailed description of all other ideation techniques, the reader would like to review the kHUB PDMA Knowledge Hub, Product Design and Development Tools, Chapter 4, NPDP Certification Body of Knowledge, Second edition, 2020 (Rodriguez, 2020). It follows a brief description of some ideation tools helpful in starting the ideation process.


Ideation tools and methods are imperative to product and service design. The tools vary in their focus, specificity, and usability. This article highlights the purpose, content, and tooling in Let’s Flow from the House of Design Thinking. These tools have proved effective, innovative, and flexible to assist the facilitators in designing and operationalizing workshops, Sprints, and Design Thinking sessions. The richness of Let’s Flow resides in its flexibility and focus. The methodology offers several creative and innovative paths with more than a hundred and twenty tools. These tools target specific objectives from ideation to prototyping and facilitate the creation of divergent and convergent thinking in design.


The author acknowledged the collaboration of the House of Design Thinking (https://www.letsflow.es/) and Dimas E. Agudo in providing the Let’s Flow suite, their disposition for inquiries, and business examples of the methodology.


Daly, S. R., Yilmaz, S., Christian, J., Seifert, C. and Gonzalez, R. (2012). "Design Heuristics in Engineering Concept Generation", Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 101, pp. 601–629.

Erickson, T. J. (2015). Best Practices and Beyond, Beyond Colloquia, Arthur D. Little, Inc.

Linsey, J., Tseng, I., Fu, K., Cagan, J., Wood, K. & Schunn, C. (2010). "A Study of Design Fixation, Its Mitigation, and Perception in Engineering Design Faculty," Journal of Mechanical Design - J MECH DESIGN, Vol. 132.

Hussein, H. et al. (2023). Global Innovation Excellence Benchmark Report V 9.0, Technology & Innovation Management Practice, Arthur D. Little, Inc.

Kumar, V. (2012), 101 Design methods: A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Rodriguez, C. M. (2020). Product Design and Development Tools, Chapter 4, NPDP Certification Body of Knowledge, Second edition.

Yilmaz, S., Daly, S. R., Seifert, C. M. & Gonzalez, R. (2016). "Evidence-based design heuristics for idea generation", Design Studies, Vol. 46, pp. 95–124.

About the Author

Carlos M. Rodriguez Ph.D.

Carlos Rodriguez

Carlos M Rodriguez is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Quantitative Methods and Director of the Center for the Study of Innovation Management, CSIM in the College of Business, Delaware State University, USA. His publications have appeared in the Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business to Business Marketing, Journal of International Marketing, International Marketing Review, Management Decision, International Journal of Business and Social Sciences, Journal of Business and Leadership, and Journal of Higher Education Research & Development among others and several conference proceedings. Currently, he serves in the editorial board of several journals. His research interests are in the areas of entrepreneurship and strategic capabilities, luxury branding and experiences, product design and new product development teams, and relationship marketing. He recently published the book entitled Product Design and Innovation: Analytics for Decision Making centered in the design techniques and methodologies vital to the product design process. He is engaged in several international educational, research, and academic projects, as well, as, international professional activities.

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