From 0 to startup in 5 episodes. Lesson #2: how to find an idea

Content taken and edited from the courses of the School of Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Before starting this step, make sure you have completed the previous one: starting from the problem.

Ready? Steady? Go!

Finally we have a real problem, felt and proven, we know every aspect of it, we have studied deeply, investigating what are the current solutions, who are the actors involved, interviewing anyone who can offer a significant “insight”, we have also formalized our Point Of View and now we are ready to start with the conception.

An exercise widely used in Design Thinking is the “How might we” framework. To begin with, it is necessary to put our PoV in the center and unpack it in all its aspects, trying to reframe them starting from the question “how could we”. 

A very famous example of this exercise comes from Standford d.school and starts from the challenge of rethinking the experience of waiting at the gate in airports. The PoV says:

“Parents in airports need a way to entertain their children because they can annoy other passengers”.

To find the right questions to ask, we can focus on one positive aspect of the problem:

  • How could we use the energy of children to entertain other travelers? 

Or eliminate the potentially negative effect altogether:

  • How could we separate children from other travelers? 

Question the assumptions that the problem exists:

  • How could we completely eliminate the waiting time at the airport? 

Or suppose to change the status quo:

  • How could we make lively children less noisy and annoying? 
  • How could we make waiting for the gate opening the interesting part of the trip?

Asking ourselves these questions is useful to have a guide wide enough to think about many possible solutions, but precise enough to have boundaries and not to lose your way. 

The long-awaited moment to think about possible solutions has finally arrived, but do not let yourself be overwhelmed: although brainstorming is an extremely creative and imaginative process, it is good to keep in mind some basic rules to avoid the most common mistakes. 

Take a couple of hours, put yourself in a space that makes you feel comfortable, stimulating and positive, equip yourself with a large sheet of paper and hundreds of post-its, let’s get started.

  • Make sure that all people involved in brainstorming know the outputs of the previous steps, so that you are all aligned on the problem to solve. 
  • Use your HMW questions to stay on topic and avoid going too far off track.
  • Refrain from judgments and criticism: this is not the time to be a puppy shooter. Welcome every idea that is proposed, however absurd and unrealizable, helps the creativity of the group. 
  • Aim for quantity rather than quality: the goal is to propose as many ideas as possible. Do not interrupt the brainstorming at the first good idea, continue to propose crazy ideas, unrealizable, incorrect, illegal, failed, do not be afraid to think of everything, even the wrong idea can be the right starting point.
  • And in this regard, build on the ideas of others, take inspiration from each other, listen to each other.
School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation – Inventor Prototyping Bootcamp

Certainly beautiful, but vaguely confused. The first step to make order is to group all the ideas that are similar or that can be united because they belong to the same macro-idea, in this way you should get a more synthetic result and without repetitions.

At this point we must give ourselves a method to establish which of the many ideas that have emerged will be the one we will actually develop. The most effective way to do this is to give yourself numerical parameters by which to measure the goodness of your ideas, for example:

  • Problem-solution fit: does the idea actually solve the problem? To what extent?
  • Market: is there a market for the product/service you thought? Would someone be willing to pay to use your idea?
  • Innovation: Is the idea actually different from existing solutions?

There can be many other parameters, even more detailed, useful to determine the goodness of ideas formulated during brainstorming, the important thing is to make them measurable, giving each parameter a grade from 0 to 5. 

Once you have voted individually or as a team all the brainstorming ideas, add up the parameters of each one and make a ranking of your 5 best ideas. 

At this point, each team member has to draw on a piece of paper the idea they prefer, no matter the quality of the drawing, the point is to visually convey the features and functionality you imagine for your product or service. One at a time, present the drawings to the team, gather feedback from everyone and answer questions and doubts.

School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation – Inventor Prototyping Bootcamp

Now you should have all the necessary elements to choose as a team what is the idea you want to focus on, but if irreconcilable opinions emerge, you can always use the Zen-voting technique, where everyone chooses their favorite idea, writes it on a sheet of paper and puts it in an envelope, the majority will win. 

Laboratorio di fabbricazione digitale FabLab Torino

The idea has been chosen, ready to start the production? Not so fast, it is not sure that all our assumptions are right: this is the perfect moment to test everything with a prototype. 

In order not to miss the next steps, continue to listen to the episodes of the Fail Forward column and subscribe to our newsletter here.

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