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How to come up with creative ideas for your next sustainable solution

Pieter De Vocht

Innovation & Service Designer
The need for more sustainable ways of living is growing fast. How we live is largely determined by the products and services we use every day. That’s why designing more sustainable alternatives for our current products, services and businesses has an important role in ensuring that we will still have a liveable world for our children.
Our generation may well be the first to comprehend and experience the almost irreversible damage our species has done to our planet. Blaming our predecessors for that won’t solve it. The responsibility is not theirs anymore, it is ours now, and that responsibility weighs more than it has ever before. If we don’t act now, it will be too late; The earth will soon reach a tipping point and start warming up itself at an exponential pace, resulting in a world we don’t want to (and cannot) live in.  

The ‘Sustainable business ideation deck'

There’s not one golden solution to this wicked problem we face, but every improvement counts. That’s why we want to share one of our latest tools with you. The ‘Sustainable business ideation deck’ is a set of cards that we developed together with OVAM (the Public Waste Agency of Flanders). Every card in this deck describes a principle on sustainable design, with an example on the back of that card. We’ve been using these cards in workshops with our clients to come up with ideas for more sustainable products, services or business models.
We’ve seen proof of how this inspirational card deck, combined with a structured brainstorming session results in actual starting points for the development of innovative and sustainable products, services and business models.

After this fun workshop of 60-90 minutes, you get a selection of ideas that are turned into concepts and that are ready to initiate a sustainable project for your business.

You’re free to use the cards the way you like, but here’s how we use them as an ideation tool in group exercises:

Step 1

Form teams of 5-6 people.

Every team gets a card deck and every participant within the group gets 5 cards and 5 minutes to read them individually to get informed and inspired. After this, the first team member picks his/her favourite card and shares it with the team.

Step 2

The team now needs to come up with at least 5 ideas on how to turn their current business/product/service/operations more sustainable, inspired by the card. Every idea gets doodled onto a Post-it and pasted in a row next to the corresponding card.

Step 3

The next team member can now share his/her card with the team and the team performs another brainstorming round to come up with a selection of at least 5 ideas. Repeat this process until all team members have shared their card.

Step 4

Now that your team has at least 25 ideas (5 sets of 5 ideas), the team tries to find creative connections between ideas across the different sets. The goal here is to at least create one idea that is a combination of at least 2 ideas from different sets.

Step 5

The team now formulates a clear idea definition and elaborates on the idea by describing a.o. the impact or expected outcomes, the needed expertise to implement the idea, potential challenges, stakeholders,..

Step 6

Each team gets to pitch their concept to the other teams. Count for 2-3 minutes per pitch.

Now it’s up to you!

Have fun with these cards, print them out and put them on your desk, share them with colleagues and start building a more sustainable business as soon as you can.

Want us to help you through the ideation and development of your next sustainable product, service or business model that fits your innovation strategy?

Pieter De Vocht

Innovation & Service Designer


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