The ‘Concept Sprint’ concept (and an anecdote)

In our book we have a Operations Insight about IDEO, the industrial design company that utilised their ‘Deep Dive’ process to develop new products.  This link, on the other hand, takes you to McKinsey’s website, where a young consultant talks about her participation in a ‘Concept Sprint’.  I would venture to suggest that there a quite few similarities between the two processes, such as:

  • co-creation – tapping into the ideas and thoughts of potential users of the new product or service.
  • room organisation – having a specific format for the meeting room and the materials in that room.
  • clear stages in the process.
  • voting on the best solutions.
  • prototyping.

Over the years I have run a number of innovation workshops for a variety of different clients.  They have always worked best when there was a strong element of co-creation.  For instance, I once ran a workshop for a company that made the small security seals put on airline catering trollies.  Their competitor had just won a contract with a major airline by undercutting them by 1 cent per unit – a tiny amount it would appear, but significant when you consider the seals were selling for 10 cents per unit.  So my client knew they had to redesign their product so that it could be made cheaper.

So I organised a small, one day workshop designed to come up with design solutions to the problem.  As well as managers and industrial designers from the client firm, I asked along three cabin crew from an airline and arranged for us to have a catering trolley and seals with us in the room.  When we assembled for coffee ahead of the workshop it was fairly evident that the designers were sceptical about what the cabin crew could bring to the table; and the cabin crew were not sure if they would be any help in the process.

I started the workshop by outlining the problem and explaining why we were all there.  I then asked the cabin crew to demonstrate to us how the seals were used.  So one was put on the trolley and one of the cabin crew showed us how they broke the seal – by taking a pen from their pocket, putting it through the seal, and using it as a lever to break the seal.  The designers were appalled.  They had designed the seals so that when they were twisted it would break at a cleft in the plastic bracket.  When they explained this, the cabin crew said the cleft was ineffective.  So another seal was put on the trolley, and one of the designers was asked to open it by twisting it.  He couldn’t.

At this point two things happened.  First the designers realised why it was a good idea to have the cabin crew there.  Second, the cabin crew realised that the designers were not as clever as they thought they were.  The co-creation process had begun…

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