Using personas to boost ideation processes

Developing new processes, services or products that are successfully adopted from the market sometimes demands creators to switch perspectives and to walk in the shoes of their potential future customers. Especially in Open Innovation ideation processes (e.g. ideation workshops) where a heterogenous group of users and / or experts collaborate on a certain topic, the Persona method has proved to be the right one to empathize very fast.   

What is a Persona? 

The term Persona refers to a fictional character that has been specifically created to represent the different user types that may interact with your business, be it as a potential customer, partner or other type of stakeholder. It is designed to provide new perspectives and stimulate new ideas during the ideation process.  

What are Personas used for? 

Personas can be used for a range of different purposes such as strategy development or new product / service development. It enriches the ideation process by giving it a human touch: It helps to better understand behaviours, experiences, needs and goals of potential users that would not have been obvious.  

Why are Personas used? 

Innovating with Open Innovation methods and principles demands high intellectual performance from people involved. Especially when gathering a group of heterogenous users and experts in an Open Innovation workshop in order to come up with radical innovation in a defined period, it is important to get people on the same page very fast. Therefore, the Persona profile includes a range of information specific to the fictional character. The aim is to unify the picture for all innovating participants and to align the starting position(s). 

What to consider when developing Personas? 

It is important to bear in mind that the level of details a Persona’s profile contains decides on the way how participants of e.g. a workshop will work on a topic. The more details the Persona description contains, the likelier will collaborators have an aligned picture of what to do and where to go.  

On another hand, the level of elaboration of a Persona’s profile depends on the task that needs to be fulfilled. For instance, working on a visionary process in a foresight project demands persona details that are on different high-altitudes than those that are used for more short-term product developments.  

Key benefits of using Personas:

  • They enable workshop participants to gain specific insights into different user/customer groups by use of coherent stories that are more easily understood.
  • Personas provide a human-centred approach to understanding the needs of individual users/customers by encouraging empathetic reactions by the participants in the workshop group.
  • They inspire the formulation of new ideas that may not have come to light otherwise and the opportunity to test whether those ideas actually meet the needs of the Persona.
  • They enable the prioritisation of new ideas by evaluating the number of Persona needs that are solved by a respective novel idea.