Concept Ideation & Prototyping | Startup Client
Using Rapid, Hypothesis-driven Ideation to Reframe a Problem & Challenge Assumptions
How might we use hypothesis-driven ideation & rapid prototyping to reframe a problem, challenge assumptions, and push thinking in new directions?
Utilizing divergent, hypothesis-driven ideation and intuition to challenge an uninspired brief by reframing a problem, bringing a focus to users, and demonstrating how powerful solutions can be brought to life using design thinking and rapid prototyping.
Scenario & Background
Startup X (“The Company”) was a seed stage startup that offered contract design as a service, direct to consumers, in a traditionally agency-driven space. The founder was a colleague and a close friend who contacted me to request that I review a creative brief for a mobile app that he was planning to build. The brief would be used to engage and request pricing from interested parties.
The brief I received was uninspired, outlining a goal that was extremely broad and a problem statement that was vague and referenced the problems of a largely undefined set of users, identified as “designers”.
After reviewing the brief and discussing his goals with him, I knew that conducting a bit of discovery and research to understand his users, their needs, and pain points would get him thinking differently about what he needed to build, and in turn, save him time and money. Knowing this, I offered to contribute a few hours of my time in order to “review and come back with a few ideas”.
The goal of this exercise was to get the client thinking differently about what he could and should be building and showcase the value of user research.. To accomplish this divergent ideation, intuition, and assumptions would be utilized to challenge the uninspired brief by reframing a problem, bringing a focus to users, and demonstrating how powerful solutions can be brought to life using design thinking and rapid prototyping. This process and the production of any deliverables would be time boxed to a single weekend, no longer.
My Role & Contribution
I was the only contributor to this exercise and executed all aspects of the ideation process and deliverable production.
Timeboxed divergent ideation & reflection cycles
I intentionally executed short, self-regulated ideation cycles that allowed me to quickly make assumptions, generate ideas, reflect on my thinking, reframe my assumptions, then repeat.
Structuring assumptions into a baseline hypothesis
Through structured ideation and a systematic approach to definition, an intuition-informed, baseline hypothesis on primary/secondary users, their needs, and opportunity areas was defined.
Making it real via rapid prototyping & concept definition
Utilizing the previously defined baseline hypothesis as a set of guardrails, rapid prototypes of a hypothetical system, interface, and key interactions and flows were defined.
Process & Deliverables
The final output of this exercise was a compilation of design artifacts (in the form of a presentation) that demonstrated how rapid, generative ideation could be utilized to produce hypothesis-driven ideas and reframe assumptions. Additionally, it illustrated how rapid prototyping could be utilized to quickly translate these ideas into tangible concepts that could be used to gather information via research and testing.
Phase 1: Generative Ideation
The first phase of this exercise (roughly 2 hours focused on generative ideation. This process took the form of short, timeboxed divergent ideation & reflection cycles. The divergent ideation process allowed me to quickly make assumptions and generate ideas. The reflection process allowed me to analyze my thinking, structure assumptions into baseline hypotheses, and reframe my assumptions.
Ripping the Brief
As ideas and assumptions were generated and refined during the ideation process, both the problem and goal statement for the project were continuously being challenged and reframed.
Defining user archetypes as a starting point
As a base for ideation, assumptions around users and their needs were defined. Then using these hypotheses as a base, potential challenges and areas of opportunities to deliver value to users were identified.
Phase 2: Rapid Prototyping
The second phase of this exercise (approximately 6 hours) focused on translating ideas into a tangible concept. This process involved utilizing the previously defined ideas and hypotheses as a set of guardrails to quickly prototype a hypothetical system, user interface, key interactions, and flows.
Mapping a Customer Experience Ecosystem
A process flow diagram was created to map a small portion of a hypothetical customer experience journey. This specific portion of the journey had been identified as a potential opportunity area during the generative ideation exercise; it encompassed the initial interaction between our primary (service provider) and secondary user (client).
Defining a Tactical Application
Iterative sketching of a structural app map and a mind mapping ideation exercise of potential functionality began to define how a tactical application (in this case, a mobile application) could be structured to offer to our users within the context of their needs and behaviors, which screens were core to that offering, and what functionality/content would be needed to deliver that value.
Designing Screens to Make it Feel Real
After defining the key screens, functionality, and content that we assumed would produce value, wireframes were created to bring the ideas to life via a tangible application that could be put in front of users. Higher fidelity wireframes were used in this case based on my assumptions of what the key client stakeholder would react best to.
Using Scenario-based Screen Flows to Tell the Story
As a final step in the process, the previously defined screens and states were strung together into screen flows. These flows showcased how our system could offer and deliver value within the context of our assumptions of core user needs, behaviors, and interactions. These flows would later be used to gather input and feedback from users.
Packaging the Exercise
As a final step in the exercise, a playbook (in presentation format) was created to bring together the output of the exercise into a single, solidified package that outlined the process, demonstrated its value, and showcased the output in a format that the client stakeholders would be comfortable viewing and consuming.
Outcomes, Learnings, and Takeaways
The final pitch was effective in illustrating how user research in combination with analysis, ideation, and prototyping could be an effective catalyst for rapid idea generation, reflection, and assumption reframing. Additionally, it showcased the feasibility and value of executing low-cost, low effort hypothesis-driven research initiatives.
Learnings & takeaways
Hypothesis-driven research can be a gateway
Testing the existing hypothesis and assumptions of a stakeholder can be a great way to introduce and demonstrate the value of research to a skeptic or naysayer.
Make it real, but show your thinking
When dealing with a skeptic stakeholder, make your ideas feel real using higher fidelity prototypes but highlight the messy whiteboards that got you there.
Utilize provocations to highlight unknowns and engage your audience
Strategically insert bold questions and provocations that highlight the known unknowns and potentially exciting opportunity areas that could be explored via research.
Want to know more?
The final client presentation (PDF) for this project can be viewed by clicking on the button below. Get in touch to discuss further!