Phase 1: Discover

Exploring Opportunities and Challenges

STEP 1: Draft Your Project Brief

How can you transparently communicate the scope of your project while allowing for the necessary uncertainty that comes with innovation?

Challenge yourself to not start offering solutions in this phase. This is your opportunity to define the scope of the work and begin communicating it to your innovation team and the organization. Much of it will still be undefined, so make sure you consider existing research and identify assumptions and questions as you go.

STEP 2: Assemble Innovation Team

What problem are you trying to solve and what is the ideal level of involvement for each person on your innovation team?

This is your opportunity to fully understand the organizational goals, articulated by the people involved in the project. Be sure to agree how each person will be involved and when they should expect updates.

STEP 3: Research Your Users

What problems and opportunities exist for your users?

During this phase, you will continue consulting existing research, but you will shift your focus to your users by synthesizing existing user data and collecting additional data as needed.

Be sure to prioritize both quantitative and qualitative data with regard to your users. Having a deep and wide understanding will help you generate ideas that better meet their needs.

STEP 4: Map Out Current Realities

Why is the current reality not meeting the organizational goals or user needs?

Analyze and visualize your user research to better understand the problem.

STEP 5: Establish and Align on Design Criteria

Does the team agree the design criteria accurately captures the organizational goals and user needs?

During this phase, you will synthesize organizational goals and user needs to create design criteria. Design criteria allow you to build a shared understanding of what success will look like before moving forward with ideation. You will evaluate potential solutions on their ability to meet these design criteria.

Phase 2: Ideate

Turning Hunches into Concepts

STEP 6: Brainstorm Ideas

How many ideas can you generate that fall within your design criteria?

During this phase, keep your ideas fast and loose. The more the better. This is a good time to intentionally widen your frame. After brainstorming, you will organize your ideas into themes so invisible connections become visible as insights.

STEP 7: Develop Concepts

How can you assemble your ideas into testable concepts?

Use your insights to put your ideas from step 6 together in new ways and turn them into at least 3 concepts. From there, create short napkin pitches to clearly communicate your concepts.

Note: Developing multiple concepts ensures you don’t fall in love with any single design. Research shows that having multiple options increases the likelihood of the project being successful.

STEP 8: Surface Assumptions & Questions to Test

What would have to be true in order for each concept to succeed and how can we test those things?  

Convene your innovation team to present your concepts.  Collaboratively identify constraints, implementation challenges, and other questions for each concept. You may need to alter your concepts based on feedback. Otherwise, capture the questions and assumptions you will need to answer during the next phase.

Phase 3: Experiment

Prototype as if you’re right, test as if you’re wrong

STEP 9: Create Prototypes (small bets)

What is the cheapest/fastest way you can communicate your concepts to users for feedback?

Be careful not to get too attached to any concept. During this step, prototypes are low fidelity learning opportunities.  Generally speaking, the cruder the prototype, the more honest the feedback. A simple sketch is often enough for a user to give meaningful feedback at this stage.

STEP 10: Test Prototypes

Do your concepts meet the needs of your users?

Getting quick feedback from actual users  will help you test your assumptions  answer your questions, and surface surprises . Avoid confirmation bias by diligently documenting disconfirming data , which  helps identify how these concepts can improve before the next phase.

STEP 11: Reiterate (and retest) Concepts

How can you refine the concepts based on what you’ve learned?

This is a stage to abandon concepts, combine them, refine them, and create new ones. If necessary, go back to step nine.

STEP 12: Analyze Learnings

How can you synthesize and share your learnings with your innovation team?  /  How can you communicate the value of your learning with your innovation team?

This step offers a needed pause for reflection. Take time to form your insights based on everything you’ve learned.

  • Did we answer any assumptions?
  • What is the disconfirming data?
  • Are design criterion being met?

Phase 4: Evolve

Growth in Concept and Scalability

STEP 13: Refine Concepts into One Solution (medium bet)

What should you place a bigger bet on?

During this step, take the “best parts” from all your concepts to develop one informed solution to explore.  You should be confident enough to place a medium-sized bet, but still open enough to be wrong.

STEP 14: Design Learning Launch

How do you maximize your learning to make the best decision about moving forward?

Put together your Learning Launch Plan:

  • Have the innovation team identify new and evolved assumptions and outstanding questions
  • How will you test your proposed solution in the “real world?” What support structures are needed for the Learning Launch?
  • Define success: What do we need to see to move forward to phase 5?
  • Define failure: What would cause us to not move forward?

Note: Agreeing on indicators of success and failure BEFORE the launch is important to accurately access the solution and resist confirmation bias.

STEP 15: Test in Reality

Is your solution meeting your organizational goals and user needs?

Your learning launch should occur in in “real life” conditions for maximum learning.

STEP 16: Share Findings

Bring your innovation team together to access the solution and build consensus.

Prepare by asking questions:

  • Do we have data that indicates we met both the organizational goals and user needs?
  • Can disconfirming data improve our solution?
  • Should we abandon this solution, save it for later, or move forward?

Note: The goal of this  entire phase is to learn. Learning enough to abandon a solution is just as much a success as agreeing to move forward.

Phase 5: Launch

Scaling the Project

STEP 17: Build appropriate long-term support structures

What are long term considerations for sustainable implementation?

During this phase, (re)communicate the WHY, inspire people to make the change, and create environments and support structures to encourage the necessary behavior change required for adoption.

STEP 18: Design the On Ramp

What short-term support is required to scale this solution?

A thoughtful on ramp is necessary for all innovation. Consider how to leverage your innovation team to coordinate all the moving pieces required for the change.

  • Creating timelines and deadlines
  • Create necessary resources
  • Communication strategies
  • Trainings and building capacities
STEP 19: Launch and Monitor

How do we know if we succeeded or failed?

Even though you launched, your work isn’t done. Continue monitoring the project and be prepared to be wrong. Identify tripwires that indicate your solution is not meeting your organization goals or user needs. Set a time to reconvene your innovation team to answer the questions:

  • Is it working?
  • Is it fully adopted?
  • Is it sufficiently supported?
  • What changes could improve the solution?