Techniques and Methods to Spark Inspiration


As the media landscape continues to grow and competition increases, today’s news ventures have to be innovative, creative and ahead of the curve. It can be hard for the news organization to find that inspiration that leads them down a successful path.

Throughout this year, the Hub will focus on a variety of companies that do things differently that can serve as points of inspiration for the news organization.

The Hub provides some tips this week inspired by the folks at IDEO, a global design firm that works with companies from around the world across a variety of industries, including the media sector.

The concepts and methods IDEO uses are unique and you may be inspired to see how you can adapt the ideas to your own news organization.

h3>Content creation – a different approach

When looking for inspiration, a good place to start is to look inward and see what your staff does well in terms of the stories they write and the kinds of topics they cover in the community. You may discover there is a niche topic or topics your organization does well. You can build out this niche area separately from your organization as a short-term project to see how it does and you may find it goes well. One example you may find inspiration from is the Bold Italic.

The Bold Italic was created from an experimental session IDEO held with Gannett’s Design and Innovation Team back in 2009. According to IDEO, “Gannett approached IDEO with the opportunity to create a new local media offering unencumbered by existing structures but leveraging Gannett’s history in participating and engaging directly in local communities with IDEO’s expertise in uncovering consumer insights.”

The project focuses on offering local, rare news that is unique to the San Francisco area. Since 2009, the Bold Italic continues to operate with a large staff and growing number of local contributors. The project has received a number of awards as well.

Layering the storytelling process

Another area where you can seek inspiration may be in the storytelling process. Have you and your staff thought about different ways to layer the story? Different ways to offer context and depth? Different methods of interaction?

In 2010, IDEO launched a new approach to thinking about the future of the book with three different styles – Nelson, Coupland and Alice. Each style provides a unique focus on how the reader follows the story, how they can interact with the story and with others, and how the narrative can be transformed into an immersive experience for the reader. IDEO created a video to explain these three styles and how they would be put into action.

You may not want to implement these specific styles in your own news venture, but it may inspire your staff to think differently about storytelling approaches. You may discover that can find new ways to layer the story, new methods to offer context and depth to the story, and find new venues where your audience can interact and share the stories.


Another approach to finding inspiration can come through the traditional form of brainstorming. Brainstorming can be guided when specific scenarios, concepts or ideas are presented generally and serve as a launch pad for additional thoughts. One way to help with this brainstorming can be through the use of IDEO Method Cards.

IDEO Method cards launched in 2003 and since then have been a staple item in many company offices. The 51-card deck has different methods on each card ranging from role-play to cognitive mapping with an explanation of how the methods can be used to help with strategic planning to product development. If you are seeking for ways to brainstorm with your staff and get the creative juices flowing at the next staff meeting, these cards may help.

These are just a few ways you can find inspiration in your news organization and challenge your staff to think differently about how things can be done. Some of the ideas that are generated by your staff using these techniques may not go anywhere but other ideas may be the next innovative thing you do that places your news venture on the path to success. You have nothing to lose but to at least try it!

Note: This blog post is not an endorsement or advertisement by IDEO. The Hub will be focusing this year on different companies that do things differently that can serve as points of inspiration for the news organization.