We built the Ideation Canvas to address a need. We were guiding a workshop on how to solve challenges for innovation leaders. Our goal was to give participants an opportunity to familiarize with 4 different innovation tools while making sure of two things: firstly, that all of their solutions are directed towards an important meaningful challenge, and secondly, that once the workshop was over, it would be possible to easily examine the solutions and prioritize the best.
The ideation canvas has 5 steps. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Defining a SMART challenge
The first step is dedicated to focusing on your starting point. We begin by characterizing our main challenge. Defining it well starts with a two-word title: that makes the challenge easy to absorb, remember and understand. Then we characterize it as a SMART challenge in an 8-word description. Limiting the number of words forces us to refine and pinpoint the challenge. Defining it as a SMART challenge is based on SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time based.
A well-defined challenge can describe the pain point at hand broadly, without seeming like a complaint and without relying on existing solutions. A well-defined challenge can give rise to multiple solutions. If our challenge can be defined this way, we write it down in the center of the canvas, and come back to it all the time to ensure we’re solving the real pain point.
Step 2: Be a dreamer, a realist and a critic – like Walt Disney
The concept: the second step 2 is based on the methodology defined by Walt Disney when he sought ways of ensuring that innovation teams wouldn’t get stuck in fixed stances.
Some of us are dreamers, some are realists, and there’s always someone whose inherent stance is the critic. Disney believed that if we want to avoid keeping ourselves in our comfort-zone stance, and want to promote exercising our innovation muscles, we need to try on different hats. Everyone in the team has to be dreamers (and we’ll define our dream), then we all have to be realists and suggest solutions, and only after trying on those two hats, we can examine things from a critical perspective.
Implementing on the canvas: as we work on the canvas, we start with the circles on the right, listing our dreams there, the things we want to happen, and which seem most achievable to us: it’s the dream we’re aspiring to (regarding the challenge, of course). After we’ve listed 5-6 dreams, we can think about solutions which address achieving the dream. We need to emphasize building upwards: a challenge followed by a dream, and following the dream a possible, realistic solution. After that, we can add a red dot on the canvas relative to any risk we identify (at the stage where we all become critics).
We’ve completed those steps: have we got 10 solutions? Let’s go to the 3rd step.
Step 3: Creating the 11 Star experience, like Airbnb
The concept: Airbnb wanted to examine what can be offered beyond the basic 5 star experience. They characterized the hosting experience in a person’s home, and tried to understand how a 6 or 7 star experience would look (the kind that creates added value for the client, but remains economically viable). They were also curious about how a 10 or 11 star experience would look, the kind that creates crazy extra value and experience for the client but is not economically viable at all).
The ability to step back and examine a range of experiences can expand our thinking, provide us with ideas, even if they are only half-baked, but more importantly, it allows us to better understand how the client perceives the experience and what the client expects.
Implementing on the canvas: on the upper left of the canvas we’ll write down our 5 star solutions to the challenge (which get the job done). Then we’ll look for the 7 star solutions which add to the experience while remaining implementable and economically viable, and then we’ll look for those crazy and inapplicable 11 star solutions (which no amount of money can buy). From this point we go back to the 5, 7 and then 11 star solutions. We constantly keep questioning the solutions: are they really 11 star level? Or are we just too afraid to dream big enough and the solutions are actually very feasible. That’s the goal.
We’ve completed this step: have we got 20 solutions? Let’s go to the 4th step.
Step 4: Connecting to the ecosystem and impacting the client
The concept: after years of focusing on connecting sustainability to innovation, we have developed the “Just Impact” approach. The Just Impact enables organizations to exit the “vicious cycle” of implementing sustainability without any real purpose. It examines whether there is any connection between the main challenge and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the UN, in order to create a global impact not only on ourselves but also on the clients.
Implementing on the canvas: check which of the 17 SDGs our challenge best aligns with (there may be more than one), define the change it will have on ourselves as well as the change we can help our clients to achieve. If we aren’t able to impact the client towards instituting the change in its own organization, we aren’t creating impact.
Have we completed this step and come up with 30 solutions? Now we’re ready for Step 5.
Step 5: Upgrading solutions with Round Robin
The concept: this last part requires group work and uses the Round Robin method.
One person reads a solution, suggests an upgrade, then passes it on to the next person until everyone has contributed their upgrades to the solution.
Implementing on the canvas: we look at all the solutions suggested so far, choose the best of the 30, go down to the lower right area, and write it down under the “original idea” field. Then we pass the canvas around among the participants, each adding her or his upgrade to theoriginal idea until the canvas comes back to us and we can incorporate the additions into one upgraded idea.
Ending the process, every participant has a canvas where the challenge is clearly stated in the center, some 30 ideas are linked to it, and one of the ideas has been pinpointed following upgrades and additions.
Every idea requires us to dare to dream, aim for an unbelievable experience, but always balance by keeping our feet on solid ground.
This is the step where all of the input so far, the half-baked solutions, suggestions and upgrades should be combined into one clear solution that allows us to fail fast and cheap, and test if our solution is feasible.
In the picture: Students from the MBA for Startups program at Warsaw School of Economics, working with the Ideation Canvas during a hackathon in collaboration with students from the Ashkelon Academic College in Israel
In the picture: Innovation leaders from Yeruham city, working with the Ideation Canvas, as part of a program run by Edmond de Rothschild Partnerships
A version of this article was published in ELTA’s #24 Innovation Magazine.
The tools presented in this article are part of buildInn’s Toolbox incorporating over 70 different innovation tools and presented as part of the organizational innovation leaders training program.