Managing Design Innovation

with Matthew Beebe

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Innovation Worksheets

What comes next after the idea

Matthew Beebe

Design & Idea Expert, User Experience, Human-Centered Design

Lessons Learned

Meeting notes capture a moment in time - they are terrible for capturing ideas.

Good ideas come up all the time, not just during a planned timeframe in your process.

In one conversation, you will touch on many different topics. You need a way to capture it all.


Lesson: Managing Design Innovation with Matthew Beebe

Step #4 Innovation Worksheets: What comes next after the idea

The innovation worksheets are tool that I developed while I was at IDEO to help us basically run design and innovation projects so that we could spend more time focusing on the content of our projects and less on negotiating the kind of process.

Prior to having a worksheet to capture all the stuff, like this Post-it would be over here, this one would be over here, this one would be down there because it was more like meeting notes. Meeting notes capture a moment in time, and so you could look through, “This is the stuff we did a week ago, this is the stuff we did a month ago, this is the stuff we did three months ago.” When you capture it is not important.

There's this other relationship that meeting notes are terrible at capturing visibly, that foam core is terrible at capturing, that Post-it Notes used in that way just doesn't work. This could have been a Post-it Note written on the first day of the project. This could have been a Post-it Note written yesterday and we've been at the project for six weeks. It's like the time is not an important organizing principle.

The worksheets are basically the organizing principle for this particular type of project. One of the things that's hard about this kind of work is sometimes it's hard to know what to do next. The worksheets can give you a very concrete possible next step, and maybe that there's something else that's better to do that’s not really outlined in the worksheets but pretty much if you do the next thing in the worksheets, it's not going to be a bad thing that you should only be able to come out with ideas during the last week of our project. You can't constrain things that way. It just doesn’t even make sense but what you need is an easy way to capture stuff no matter when it comes up and put it in the right place, because you are going to have to make a decision at some point that is related to one of these types of information.

For instance, if we're at very beginning of the project, we don't really have to decide what idea are we going to go make. We're just at the beginning of the project, but we might come up with ideas for things we're going to go make. So we should have a place to put that, and as we get closer and closer to that time, we're going to get to this point of time where we have to decide what are we going to make? But we're not there yet so wait, wait, wait. Now we're here so we've come up with ideas throughout this whole process about things we might want to go make. Now they're all there in an easily reference-able place so that when we have to make that decision, the information we need is at hand.

You might start the project with a set of criteria. For instance an example would be for the salad packaging one, one of the criteria going into the project was it should be a brand experience. I don't even really know what that is. It's very hard to know with confidence if you created a brand experience but in the course of the project with this topic just kept coming up and we just kept talking about it and by the end of it we all had at least a better understanding than we did at the beginning of what that really meant.

This worksheet, it says, “Brand experience — it should be memorable and differentiated.” That starts to bring a little bit more clarity to it. People will remember the package and want to buy our product because of the package, not just because of the ingredients. That's kind of interesting.

Basically that conversation around the topic of brand experience, it needs a place to live. So the worksheet, one of the project definition topics was brand experience and then there's bunch of Post-its related to that topic there, so now when we go talk about brand experience, we have a little bit more of a shared point of view about what that means.

Defining a project is this ongoing process and I find that being able to recognize during the course of a conversation in the project you’re probably going to talk about defining topics, research questions, insights and ideas in one project. In one conversation you're going to touch on all these types of information. So recognizing the type of information that it is, or at least recognizing that it’s important or should be captured, that's the first thing that is important. Basically capturing that, in our case, on a Post-it Note and at least putting in someplace where you're going to remember to process it later.

One of the drawbacks of this is that it does destroy, basically, the time-based model in favor of this other way of organizing your stuff, which I think is more useful but it destroys the time-based model for organizing it, which is, number one, very uncomfortable for a lot of people but, number two, it is actually useful sometimes to be able to say, “What did we do three weeks ago?” Sometimes you need to know that, and so this model doesn't for allow that, basically.

The fundamental insight may be is that project knowledge, to be most useful and actionable, must not be organized by time.

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