Today’s blog post is by Allison Khaw, a systems engineer and frequent creative collaborator & co-facilitator with the Innovation Toolkit.

Over the holidays, I received a Knock Knock “Make A Decision” notepad as a gift. It walks you through the decision-making process with just the right mix of realism and levity. This was a perfect gift for me, as I’ve always loved miniature versions of, well, everything. I have a mini book, a mini mirror, and a mini briefcase for business cards in a neat row on my desk, and if you look more closely, you’ll find a handful (literally) of other such knick-knacks too. In my day-to-day job as a systems engineer at MITRE, I model systems on a much larger scale, and yet, this notepad got me thinking… What if the tools in the Innovation Toolkit were represented in a similar format? In addition to the standard large format tool canvases, what if there were… Mini Canvases?

And the idea was born. Four ITK tools – Problem Framing, Premortem, TRIZ Prism, and Rose Bud Thorn – seemed perfect for a first batch. These tools could be designed to fit on 8.5×5.5” sheets of paper while remaining readable. They could then be produced in bulk and widely distributed. Through it all, their power to help would speak louder than their unassuming size…

• Need to frame a problem? Explore a problem space and ensure that you are solving for the right problem with the Problem Framing tool.
• Need to develop a plan? Imagine a future scenario where a current project, activity, or initiative has utterly failed… and explore this scenario with the Premortem tool.
• Need to generate ideas? Uncover novel solutions to existing problems with the TRIZ Prism tool.
• Need to evaluate options? Identify a topic (system, product, process, organization, etc.) for analysis with the Rose, Bud, Thorn tool.

The beauty of these Mini Canvases is that they emulate an innovative mindset. You want to experiment with using the same tool in different ways? You “fail” with your current sheet and want to begin anew? Easy, just rip off the old sheet and use a fresh one. The possibilities are endless.

But hey, we practice what we preach. What if these Mini Canvases are not successful? Let’s find out! Here is a Premortem Mini Canvas filled out meta-style (RIP: These Mini Canvases). We’ll use what we discover here to adjust in the future. What about you? What can you change about your own goals and risk mitigation strategies to improve your current products?

Looking ahead, these Mini Canvases will be used as ITK “swag” at conferences and events (stay tuned!). They can serve as effective innovation tools, simple conversation-starters, or both. At the very least, they can sit at your desk, as a playful reminder of the tools at your disposal, if you so need them.

We plan to produce more of them soon.

I never thought that my love for everything miniature would come into play here, and yet it did. So keep an eye out. You never know when inspiration will strike and how far along the innovation path it may take you. Wherever you find yourself, Team Toolkit is ready to help.

– Allison Khaw