Managing Design Innovation

with Matthew Beebe

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Develop Concept

Ideas as working prototypes

Matthew Beebe

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

Lessons Learned

Think about your first idea as a prototype. It is a working model & it needs to be change-able.

Do not use the worksheet like a tax form. Think of it as a structure from which to hang ideas.

Write first, organize later.


Lesson: Managing Design Innovation with Matthew Beebe

Step #8 Develop Concept: Ideas as working prototypes

The concept prototype worksheet is a place to take all the similar ideas, like post-it notes or early concepts that describe different angles of the same thing and put them all in the same place and give it a name, a brief summary of the value proposition and a brief description of it. And then also a place to capture future refinements to it. It's easiest one for people to adopt because I think it solves the problem that people are most aware of that they have.

Many people are very aware of the post-brainstorm anxiety problem. We have all these ideas, what am I going to do with it? And the worksheet gives you easy first step at least towards starting to make it more useful and actionable. This is the one that solves the problem that I think people are most aware of and so it's usually the one people start with.

So I call it the Concept Prototype Worksheet because people are familiar with this concept of prototyping things. I think the initial sketch of the thing that comes out of the brainstorm is basically the first prototype of the idea and if you think about it the point of prototyping is to gradually refine and improve an idea. I think the worksheet provides a good place for a very first couple of generations of the prototype.

So as you're prototyping idea you're basically bring greater and greater fidelity to it, so you can understand it better and better. You know, at some point you want to move on to some other form of prototype like a clickable software prototype or a foam model or something like that, but like the first few generations you can just keep sticking layers and layers on top of this that are basically more and more refined drawings.

And it's cool because you can flip back to the origination point and see how it's evolved over time. And maybe you go back a couple generations and see something and be like, "I'm going to fork this idea from the earlier one." Use them on the right projects and use the ones you need, but don't feel like it's all or nothing, basically.

t's really important to be able to skip a bit, so that means most of the worksheets have some kind of the flow to them, as indicated by these little arrows. In the same way that you don't have to use the worksheets in the linear way you don't have to feel them out linearly either. The thing that is great about post-it note is that I can very quickly capture an idea before I even know what that is.

So many people are asking me about color-coding the post-it notes on the worksheet so you could see some easier pattern or something, so we tried on some projects to put all of our insights on the blue post-it's and all of our research questions on the yellow post-its. Which just does not work, because the whole point of the post-it's is that you should be able to capture the idea before you even know what that is. And so you don't have to filter it out or think ahead of time, "Wait a second, the idea that I have right know is a question, so I'm going to grab a yellow post-it's, I'm going to write my question." It's just impediment to the flow of ideas.

One of the points of the worksheet is that idea of skipping a bit is write it down, on't even put that on the worksheet yet, put it on the blank part of the wall. Occasionally you go over to the blank part of the wall where you put a bunch of stuff up and be like, "Oh yea, that's an important research question, go put it in the right place." So basically don't feel that you are sitting down and filling out tax forms. It's a structure to hang the ideas off of periodically. So feel free to skip a bit basically and don't fill it out like this.

Yeah, "write first, organize later" is one of the other ideas which is related. And remember for each decision you're going to have to use multiple sheets, so it's not like the project is defined by one topic. The project will have many defining topics. You'll have a bunch of different criteria, bunch of different ideas about scope of the deliverables, different ideas about scope of activities. Things like who's going to be involved in what phase and how long is it going to take. There's many different defining topics.

For instance, use a worksheet and define for each topic. Same with the things you learned from user research. There's going to be many thing you learned from user research and use a different insight worksheet to capture each one of those, basically.

You can organize the content of the project into frameworks or more easily communicated outlines. Think of it as an exercise of taking a thousand post-it notes, which are then organized into 50 worksheets, let's say. And now you've got 50 things you're trying to organize. So now I can take my twenty concept prototypes and organize those into three families. And it's this bottoms-up way structuring information so you can boil it down to the bullets.

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