How GenAI can add to creativity

How GenAI can add to creativity

From development to evaluation and action, GenAI has useful roles to play.

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How GenAI can add to creativity
GenAI is going to change the way we do business and innovate.

Since the end of 2022, ChatGPT and other new generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools have begun to disrupt long-established business processes, functions and professional roles, with the prospect of significantly boosting productivity, effectiveness and speed. But how can these tools augment human creativity? And in particular, how can we employ GenAI in workable, meaningful ways in the creative process?

In part 1 of this series on Feb 16, I shared my initial experiences with using GenAI tools to support an innovation team at the front end of the creative process by broadening their perspectives during the first exploratory stage and improving idea quantity during Ideation. In today's second and final part, let's discuss how we can include -- and intentionally choose to exclude -- GenAI in the remaining stages of the creative process. To do so, we will continue to use my X-IDEA method (Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation and Action) as a framework.

Development: Use AI only to further humanly designed concepts. X-IDEA is unique because it has two distinct creative stages (Ideation and Development). In the development stage, we aim to turn idea quantity into quality by developing a portfolio of relevant, realistic and ideally meaningful idea concepts:

  • First, we ask the human members of the team to discover the vital few intriguing ideas within the larger pool of raw ideas (including those that were AI-generated). Typically, 80% of the raw ideas get left behind, and the teams continue working with the 20% that have an interesting or wild aspect.
  • Then, the team members, individually or in small buddy teams, design selected intriguing ideas into realistic idea concepts by employing three principles: elaboration, combination and transmutation.
  • Finally, when they develop the designed concept further, the innovation team may invite GenAI back to help them expand on all concepts and add further value.

Overall, I propose limiting AI use in this second stage. I advocate letting only human creators carry out the first two development steps (Discovery and Design), as they also require unique human qualities like intuition, empathy, value perception, aesthetics and psychological aspects of design.

Since the end of 2022, ChatGPT and other new GenAI tools have begun to disrupt long-established business processes, functions and professional roles.

Evaluation: Get AI to assist with the job. The objective of the critical, reality-based evaluation stage is to gauge the value potential of the concepts to help the teams find the top ideas that have the potential to succeed in the market and thus deserve to be pitched. Again, there are three distinct steps (Evaluate, Enhance, Elect) that can be supported by GenAI:

  • GenAI tools can help critically evaluate an idea's pros and cons (listing PMI-Plus, Minus and Interesting aspects) and expand on the points listed by human team members.
  • Special GenAI tools can also help create early prototypes of promising concepts. For example, you can use the text-to-image models MidJourney or Stable Diffusion to visualise a new product concept, or use OpenAI Codex or GitHub Copilot to write code for a quick-and-dirty version of an app. Moreover, ChatGPT can also be a quick way to give you eight ideas on how to fix the bugs of the eight cons of an otherwise promising idea concept.
  • Finally, when it's time to select the top ideas, we can ask a GenAI tool to assess the value potential and feasibility of each on a rating scale and then count its vote as one head of the innovation team. (However, beware of allowing your human votes to be swayed by a GenAI assessment).

Action: Add AI as a key member of the implementation team. This final stage aims to secure approval for a pitched top idea, implement it, and finally release it into the market as a value-adding innovation. Like in the first creative process stage, I view the role of GenAI here as performing various "activation assistant" jobs supporting the journey from pitch to implementation to launch.

For example, GenAI can help a team prepare for the Q&A at the end of their pitches or create a first draft of a project plan for activating an approved, funded top idea. But overall, this is more the time for human action to get all the implementation work done.

Conclusion: GenAI is going to change the way we do business -- and innovate.

When I first played around with GenAI tools and looked at the outputs, my first impression was: "Wow, that's much better than I thought." I began seeing them as an opportunity to innovate better and faster -- provided these tools are applied mindfully to support and augment human creativity at the right time in the right way within the structured framework of an effective creative process method.

Make no mistake: GenAI is here to stay, and its tools will only get more numerous, better and more powerful. So we'd better learn fast how to use them effectively to amplify and support our human creativity and innovation.


Dr Detlef Reis is the founding director and chief ideator of Thinkergy Limited (www.Thinkergy.com), the Innovation Company in Asia. He is also an adjunct associate professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University, and an innovation advisor at the Institute for Knowledge & Innovation -- South-East Asia, Bangkok University. He can be reached at dr.d@thinkergy.com

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