I read an article recently on ‘Design thinking’, the methodology that top designers IDEO deploy to come up with creative, excellent solutions to problems. It has five stages:
1) Immersion – ‘designers research the problem by plunging themselves into it’
2) Synthesis – where they ‘gather together their findings and look for patterns’
3) Ideation – brainstorming possible solutions
4) Prototyping – making mock-ups of solutions to try out against the problem, giving equal weight to each option
5) … and then moving on to build the product itself.
There are huge parallels here to the ways we approach helping an organisation to improve its proposal capabilities – immersing ourselves in “how it’s done now”; assessing what works well and where the challenges and barriers may be, using our benchmarking model; identifying improvement options and testing the viability (and affordability) of different implementation approaches; building and agreeing a clear plan and helping with implementation as required.
The concept of a team is key, too. Certainly, BJ or I can and do work successfully alone on this type of exercise (as do the other quite excellent directors in our team). But the really high-energy, high-impact projects come when we have the chance to work together: comparing notes, sparking creative thoughts, challenging each other’s thinking, building on each other’s ideas.
Where there’s perhaps a different emphasis on the projects we deliver, compared to IDEO’s tack, is at their ‘prototyping’ stage. Most project sponsors (typically CEOs, COOs, Sales VPs, heads of sales ops) are so impatient to improve their proposals once they’ve engaged us that they tend to want to leap straight to conclusions and the plan. The article’s a welcome reminder – and useful proof point – of the need to hold back from ’solutioning’, if only for a short while, and to test various options carefully with the sponsors.