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The Ideation Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

The Ideation Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup StrengthsFinder Ideation definition: People exceptionally talented in the StrengthsFinder Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Near the beginning of the recent movie, "The Greatest Showman," P.T. Barnum first as a boy and then as a young man sings:

Every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it's gonna take

A million dreams for the world we're gonna make.*

These lyrics resonate with those who have Ideation among their Signature CliftonStrengths Themes, because they know what it's like to have a million dreams keeping them awake. Ideation dreams, imagines, creates. There is a power in ideas, and those ideas tend to come fast and furiously.

Individuals with high Ideation can find themselves getting lost in thought; not necessarily deep thought (which tends to be associated more with the Intellection theme) but plentiful thought. "What if …?" is a favorite expression of Ideation, and if you want the best of someone high in Ideation, ask them to come up with a new process, a new product, or a new perspective, or to find a way to do something that has never been done before. The thrill is in the novelty -- and in the novelty there just might be the answers we've been looking for, if we only have the eyes to see it.

Ideation: Helps and Hinders

When you coach those with Ideation in their Top Five, helping them claim both the "helps" and the "hinders" of the theme is critical to productive aiming. Some common helps and hinders of Ideation include:


  • With your natural ability to consider issues from multiple perspectives, you can find solutions to problems that may vex others. This solution-finding perspective makes you a valuable member of your team.
  • You are creative and can generate ideas around nearly any topic. Your ideas can become plans for addressing inefficiencies, creating new processes or developing inspirational team goals.
  • You see the bigger picture, and because you see connections where others may not, you can explain initiatives and decisions. You can help others see the "why."
  • You are drawn to complexity -- in part because of your desire to see and understand the simplicity in the midst of complexity. You can help others see a way forward, making sense of what appears to them to be nothing short of chaos.


  • You tend not to be satisfied with the status quo. This can create friction and misunderstanding. Help others see the logic of your push for change.
  • Sometimes the sheer multiplicity of the ideas you generate can be overwhelming -- both to you and to others. It might help you and those you work with if you create a system and process for prioritizing the value of your many ideas.
  • By nature you tend not to be the most practical of humans on the planet. That's OK, but there are times when you need a reality check. Find a partner who can keep you grounded.
  • For you, the ideating is the thrill -- not necessarily putting the idea into action. This can lead to your having a reputation of a dreamer, not a doer. Find someone with whom you can partner to turn your best ideas into reality.

Ideation: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

In order to productively aim Ideation -- or any -- talents at a particular goal, an individual must have: 1) self-awareness about the theme's power, edge and vulnerabilities; 2) an understanding of how the theme finds expression in day-to-day thinking, feeling and behaving; and 3) knowledge of how to regulate the theme to maximize the potential positive outcomes that can be realized through intentionally applying a strengths-based approach. Coaches can help clients with strong Ideation talents by exploring the following:


  • The Power and Edge of Ideation: Those with Ideation among their Signature Themes bring new and fresh ideas to situations and projects, and are natural innovators. Their creative energy can bring an alternative perspective to a team's challenges.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Ideation: With their tendency to prefer novelty over the tried and true, those strong in Ideation may reflexively discard conventional ways of doing things -- even if the tried and true is sound, efficient and productive.


Coaches can assist clients in realizing and claiming the expression of Ideation by helping them explore instances in the past when this theme has been particularly useful. To facilitate this exploration, coaches can ask the following questions:

  • How do you get your best ideas?
  • Who helps you clarify your thinking?
  • What has been your greatest success -- either at work or in your personal life? How did your Ideation talents contribute to that success?
  • Do you schedule "musing time" for yourself to give free rein to your ideas?


Self-Regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or know which talents to combine to amplify or accelerate a specific talent, or to soften or moderate that talent. For example, sometimes those with strong Ideation talents can slow a team down at crucial moments because they have a "great new idea" they need to share -- they may not realize the right time and place for sharing their latest brainstorm. In situations like this, a coach can help the client find other talents that might yield better results. Also, coaches can help clients explore different theme combinations. Because Ideation is a Strategic Thinking theme, below are some possible combinations that will either activate or clarify Ideation:

Ideation: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • What has been your best idea? How did you arrive at that idea? How many other "best ideas" do you have that you need to share?
  • How would you describe a great day at work? How do your Ideation talents contribute to those best days? How can you have more of those days?
  • How do you know when an idea is a good one and should be acted on, or just a pleasant diversion?
  • What ideas do you have that will make your company or organization great? How will you make those ideas heard?
  • Who are colleagues who can become your thought partners? Who has the potential to see your dreams and help you activate them?

* "A Million Dreams," music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, copyright © 2017 Breathelike Music, Pick In a Pinch Music, and T C F Music Publishing, Inc.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Al Winseman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Futuristic, Maximizer, Strategic and Command.

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