Rapid iterative concept workshops are a great way to explore new concepts and test ideas.
This post follows on from ‘Research in Agile Environments’.
Creating successful products in fast moving, competitive environments is a challenge facing many teams. How do you quickly explore new concepts? And how do you identify which are likely to be successful with customers? And then how do you ensure a shared understanding and ownership of these new initiatives ? Answering all of these questions might seem like a big ask but we feel it’s not impossible. In this post we are sharing a technique we have used recently with ANZ, which was inspired by Google Ventures design sprints albeit in less time.
We love to run workshops for a variety of reasons:
- Speed: As a time-boxed activity, they force decisions to be made quickly. This is made possible by ensuring that all relevant people are in attendance and are focused on the task at hand. The time bound nature of workshops can also help with the rapid generation and iteration of ideas.
- Shared understanding: With the appropriate people in the room a shared understanding of objectives can been gained. The articulation of these objectives can provide an invaluable point of reference when exploring potential products and features.
- Focus: Workshops force teams to focus in on a problem at hand which can be especially valuable in large companies where decision making and projects themselves can be a protracted.
We believe workshops are also a great opportunity to engage customers and get some real world feedback on the product in a rapid feedback loop.
Such was the case when we facilitated a workshop over 1 action packed day at ANZ recently. The aim of the workshop was firstly to explore new product concepts and secondly to prove the value of a rapid iterative concept workshop which incorporates lightweight research.
First up it was important that we spent some time getting to understand the problem. Within a workshop environment, we started by exploring the problem space and parameters that exist. This is essential to nailing down what you are trying to achieve. The business and product objectives were defined to provide direction for the creation of ideas and concepts. As part of this process a simple and pragmatic criteria for successful products was agreed to for later evaluating which concepts progress and which are discarded.
One of the frameworks we used in this part of the workshop was the 4 C’s activity (http://gamestorming.com/games-for-design/4cs/) which provides an exploration of the topic and extracts attendees existing understanding of the problem space. Attendees were asked to break into groups and brainstorm the following 4 concepts in association with the problem defined.
- -Components which are parts of the topic.
- -Characteristics which are features of the topic.
- -Challenges/obstacles associated with the topic.
- -Characters/people associated with the topic.
This allowed the group to better define the concepts they wanted to take to customers later in the workshop.
Next up we explored concepts via storyboards. Story boards where attendees are asked to define the desired experiences we are seeking to create for our customers. Storyboarding of ideas is a great way to explore product benefits from the customer perspective.
From the initial high-level ideas, prototypes were sketched to define the concepts. At this stage a peer review enabled prototypes to be refined and prioritised. Sketches were then photographed and pulled into Marvel App, a prototyping tool that was used to generate interactive prototypes. With tools like Marvel App it is possible to create a simple prototype in minutes (it’s our favorite tool at the moment!!). The focus of the prototype was on illustrating the concept for customers to use and gaining feedback. The aim being minimal effort to rapidly gather feedback.
Then to the moment of truth, these prototypes were taken to customers to explore the high level concepts and the proposed execution. Testing was rapid and informal (e.g. local cafe or on the street) to allow for cost effective and timely recruitment. Small testing groups set off to find customers to speak to. A framework for running the research was provided so that attendees could run their own research. The benefit of attendees running their own research is they get to see first hand how their product is testing, what customers are saying about the product, and how products can be improved. Any activity that gets people talking directly to customers is a win!
Following testing, some concepts were discarded and updates identified to the preferred concepts. Concepts were prioritized in terms of which should be pursued.
Overall, the workshop was a success in terms of our objectives of exploring new concepts and proving the value of a rapid iterative concept workshop which incorporates light-weight research. It was also great to see the group engaged by the process.
It helped the designers to see the value in obtaining users feedback early in the process before they have invested in developing an idea/concept and it
demonstrated the ease of gathering user feedback and illustrated that the barriers to engaging customers and iterating ideas are mostly created by our perceptions. The group also came up with a couple of great concepts which we hope to see developed in the future!
For more information on rapid iterative concept workshops being held at your workplace, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.