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Ideation is the first real phase of the product design cycle. It’s an iterative process that should result in a very rough list of keystone components, a rough idea of how they fit together and maybe even a collection of building blocks you will tie together in your design. The goal at the core of ideation is to refine your problem space down to something actionable. To better understand how you might fix the problem. And to figure out what bits of hardware will go into the solution.

You will spend a lot of time tossing ideas around, sketching little circuits and block diagrams, and researching the things that other designers have built in the past. You need a whiteboard, some scrap paper and some people to bounce ideas off of. You should probably begin to build a team. You should keep lots of notes. And you should try to get out of ideation and onto something concrete and in-design as soon as you can.

But like most great ideas your great idea is probably either already in your head and why you showed up here, or it hasn’t yet come to you, and often it can’t be forced.

“The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.” Paul Graham [1]

There are four major stages to the ideation phase (The Idea, Discovery, Part Selection, Whiteboards & Block Diagrams).

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