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Design Better Ideas: A Tutorial

Written by Dr. Alex Bruton, entrepreneur, educator and president of the practical open innovation education firm, theinnographer.com.

Way too often we end up spending huge amounts of time on ideas that are really pretty crappy. From the Business Planning 101 classes you took in college to the best organizations you’ve worked with since, you’ve no doubt seen people labor away trying to turn their pet hunch into a success.

It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

The Super Hunch Sketch Pad is part of a suite of visual tools from The Innographer’s DIY Innovation Toolkit that can help you deliberately design better ideas in any context where innovation happens: nonprofits, classrooms, boardrooms, your own start-up, or even the back of the next napkin you run into.

Don’t play the odds

There’s a reason most ideas don’t have much impact in the world. You see, it takes some 3000 raw ideas to yield just one success and only 6% of successes turn out to have high impact.  And yet, so many individuals and organizations put everything they have into their rawest of hunches only to realize later on they’ve spent huge amounts of time and money on a pretty average idea.

That can change and you don’t need to settle for playing the odds.

How it works

The Super Hunch approach can help you and your team design better ideas in as little as 20 minutes by literally sitting down to “sketch” your idea on a page, or through a more collaborative design process over several iterations as a project evolves.

The spaces on the sketch pad are designed to help you visually map the five fundamental components of an idea: Who’s involved? What are you offering? Who are you offering it to? Why would that person care? Do you have any core competencies?

Image-1---The-five-questions

Basically, participants work together and with key stakeholders to keep answering these simple questions until their hunch is deemed to be both impactful and feasible. In the same way that a product designer creates and seeks feedback on prototypes, you can use this tool to create and seek feedback on your ideas.

Think of the Super Hunch as a powerful visual prototype of your idea.

How MURAL takes it to the next level

Involving other people in the ideation process always makes for better ideas. In the case of designing a Super Hunch, this includes your colleagues, the people who will help you make it happen and, especially, the people who might benefit from the idea you’re designing.

Because of its visual and collaborative nature, MURAL takes the collaborative design process to a whole new level. You can invite people to help you sketch your idea by going to People in the header and then sharing it with them. Then you can also talk to them using the Chat box on the lower right hand side of the page for real-time interaction.

Even if you’re a person who likes to start out by sketching a series of hunches on your own at first, you’ll quickly enjoy the benefits of sharing your prototypes and the ideation process with others across your office, in your network and around the world.

Easy steps to design your first Super Hunch

1. Add a Super Hunch Sketch Pad to your mural. You can do this by clicking in Spaces in the toolbar and dragging and dropping it to where you want it to be. Remember you can Lock it (right click on the image) so it doesn’t move unintentionally. A fresh sketch pad will look like the one below.

Image 2 - New Super Hunch Sketch Pad

2. Name your Super Hunch as shown below. You can use the Text Box tool for this (found under Text Tools in the toolbar).

Image 3 - Naming it

3. Start by answering the five questions on the sketch pad as they relate to your idea: Who are you? What are you offering? Who are you offering it to? Why would they care? Do you have any core competencies?

You can use the Sticky Note or Text Box tools for this (both are found under Text Tools in the toolbar). Or you can enhance the sketch pad with images, videos, links and other media that might help you tell the story to others.

Image 4 - Answering the questions

It doesn’t matter which of the five questions you answer first and much like sketching on paper, it can often help to just get all your thoughts down as shown in the following example. Remember you’re only creating a prototype of your idea and doesn’t have to be perfect.

4. Once you and your team members are satisfied with your first draft you can share it with others. MURAL provides some great ways of doing this. You can invite others to join your process by going to People in the header, for example. And they can make changes directly or if you just want them to provide feedback they can add Comments or do so using Chat.

In particular, you should ask them to provide an overall constructive critique of the idea, by telling you how feasible they think it is for your team and how impactful they think it would be. This critique can be charted on the grid on the bottom right side of the sketch pad, as shown by the blue dots below for the feedback received from five different people. (The dots are created using Shapes in the toolbar and customizing the color.)

Image 5 - Charting the critique

5. Iterate! Based on the feedback you receive – both the comments and the constructive critique – you should go back and change your answers to the five questions. Think of these as the variables that make up an idea. If you get the right combination of variables then the feedback on your hunch will become more feasible and more impactful as shown below.

Image6Refined-critique

Here is a tip:

In general, if you're trying to increase the impact your hunch might have, you should focus on improving your answers to the questions Who are you offering it to? (i.e. do you have the right customer group or beneficiary?) and Why do they care? (i.e. what problem are you solving, or what value does the customer get from your offering?).

And if you're trying to improve the feasibility of your hunch you should focus on improving your answers to the questions Who are you? (i.e. do you have the right team in place?), What are you offering? (i.e. is it clear that it will it solve the problem or meet the need?) and Do you have any related core competencies? (i.e. are there things that will really set your idea apart, strategically, by giving it a unique ability to create the value or by making it hard to imitate?)

Think of your Super Hunch Sketch Pad in MURAL as a prototype. Keep changing the variables and putting it out there for feedback and critique until you’re satisfied that your hunch is a Super Hunch.

6.  With MURAL the design exercise can go far and collaboration can be deep. MURAL provides a great way to record and reflect on your ideation journey because, for example, for every iteration you can create a new Sketch Pad within your mural. As such the mural itself becomes a very effective idea and opportunity design space. You can keep a record of the comments people have provided. You can mine your prototypes for themes. You can document and share insights you’ve gained. And you can come back to it at any time.

Start sketching your Super Hunch now so you can beat the odds and come up with ideas that can help change the world around you because they are at the same time feasible and impactful. You can also watch this video for a full tutorial on how to design better ideas.

 

Alex Bruton

Alex Bruton

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