This week’s blog post is by Kerrianne Marino
The Market Opportunity Navigator is a set of three tools that help project teams ideate, organize, and strategize their market opportunities. Created by “Where to Play,” it is designed “to help [teams] get a clear overview of [their] potential market domains and make confident decisions on where to play next.”
While “Where to Play” focuses on business strategy goals, these tools can aid discussions on which research topics, proposals, areas of interest, or other ideas the group should pursue.
The “traditional” method as outlined on the Market Opportunity Navigator is only one option to put these tools in practice. I adopted the Agile Focus Dartboard and Attractiveness Map in a slightly different way recently during an ITK session. Regardless of the approach, establishing action items at the end of any session is essential in setting ideas into motion!
In practice – Agile Focus Dartboard & Attractiveness Map
In a recent ITK session I facilitated, 3 groups of 3-4 worked together to brainstorm goals for 1, 3-5, and 10 years for a new software wellness initiative that aimed to transform how MITRE approaches “healthy” software development by creating an inclusive community and collection of resources. We used the Agile Focus Dartboard as a visual aid for the groups to note the area of focus they should be brainstorming in.
The year 1 group was the “pursue now” section, and they were tasked with brainstorming initiatives that the team could start on right away. The 3-5 year group was “keep open,” where they came up with ideas that could come into play, or be “launched” several years from now. The 10 year groups was “place in storage,” and they thought of the practices, resources, and culture shifts that they hoped MITRE would lead a decade in the future. While these substitutions aren’t exact matches for the listed categories, they gave context for the groups to work toward.
In the smaller groups, the teams brainstormed for 20 minutes on dry-erase laminate cards (an alternative for sticky notes), and placed their thoughts on an appropriate quadrant in the Attractiveness Map.
We then discussed in turns all three Attractiveness Maps in a larger group to consider and include other’s opinions on where the ideas would fall in the quadrant based on experience. For example, we thought about the lift that research proposals would take in the year 1 timeframe. Originally, we thought this idea would be a quick win, but when discussing with the larger group, we moved this to a gold mine.
Example: Culture Change – Act Now for Later?
Because we were starting a brand new wide-spread initiative that aims to change how engineers at MITRE work, culture change was a big topic that all three groups discussed. When we came together, we agreed that it would fit into something to pursue now, even though we may not see the change for 3-5 or even 10 years.
Year 1 identified this culture shift as a moon shot, and the 3-5 and 10 year as somewhere in the middle of the quadrant. We knew if we didn’t start acting on culture-changing efforts now, this culture shift would delay, so we made action items in “year 1/pursue now” to initiate the kind of practices that will drive the desired long-term changes. For example, the group considered using incentives like small company awards as an immediate “low challenge, medium potential” option to catalyze this culture change.
While the Market Opportunity Navigator was designed for business goals, our Software Wellness Center initiative team was able to tailor and adopt this strategy to our goals of providing the best services for software developers to develop healthy software for all.
If you’d like to give it a try, here’s a quick summary of the steps involved:
- On a large whiteboard, draw out the Attractiveness Map
- Organize groups of 3-4 people per group in each category in the Agile Focus Dartboard (Pursue Now, Keep Open, Place in Storage)
- Have the Agile Focus Dartboard on display as a visual aid to show participants where their group lands
- Give participants sticky notes and ideate for 20 or so minutes, placing items in their associated quadrant
- Come together as a group to share out each board and iterate based on team feedback
- Set action items to put ideas into motion!
- The “traditional way” (see steps on Market Opportunity Navigator). Ideate first, then place stickies on Attractiveness Map, then place stickies on Agile Focus Dartboard
- Hand out or have on display the Attractiveness Map and/or Agile Focus Dartboard as a visual aid to focus brainstorming discussions. For example, you could use the Lotus Blossom tool to ideate only ideas that would be Gold Mine’s that the group could Pursue Now.
Writing is HARD.
I think that one of the reasons that writing is hard is that it requires clarity of thought. It requires a purpose. And the blank page can imply a lack of both.
Writing also requires a certain level of technical skill, in order to avoid using awkward phrases like “I think that one of the reasons that writing is hard is that…” Yikes. That’s some bad writing right there.
HOWEVER… the secret to good writing is to first write badly. Good writing is just bad writing, rewritten. And so, good writers allow themselves to write bad first drafts, turning off their inner editor and letting the words flow, however messily.
One might even perform an exercise such as the following:
“These words I am currently writing are the wrong words. I am writing them but they are not exactly what I want to say. This is ok. I will delete these words later, because they do not make my point, do not advance the narrative, do not add clarity or value to the overall piece, and some of them are probbabbly misssplled. They do, however, help me build momentum and they give me something to work with, even if the only work to be done is the work of deletion. I will now delete this previous paragraph, because what I really want to say is…”
So… maybe writing is EASY.
Just put ink on paper.
Yeah, I like that.
Ink now, think later.
Maybe that makes sense.
Maybe it’s true.
Maybe it’s good advice?
I don’t know yet, but I might know tomorrow, when I come back to this page and read it with tomorrow’s eyes, a fresh eraser, and a sharpened pencil.
What does this have to do with ITK? A lot, actually, because communication is a key aspect of innovation. The best ideas in the world are worthless if we can’t express them clearly, so developing our ability to write is an important component of our ability to innovate.
This week’s post is by Josh LeFevre, Julie Williams Stogner
COVID-19 changed the way we all collaborate. As individuals and organizations make decisions about the future of their workplace, we are likely to see more collaboration sessions with a blend of in-person and remote participants. While Josh’s personal preference is to host workshops that are all in-person or all virtual, we’d like to share what we’ve learned from a recent hybrid workshop we led.
This should be the beginning of the conversation around how to make ITK, design or innovation style workshops most effective in the growing hybrid collaboration space.
THE CASE STUDY
In May, Julie asked Josh to develop and facilitate a workshop to help improve decision advantage for logistics teams that are stood up in times crisis . Throughout June and July, Josh and Julie worked closely with the sponsor to craft a half-day in-person workshop with a series of activities to achieve the desired outcomes.
The sponsor asked all the participants to attend in-person to elevate the level of collaboration. One week prior to the planned workshop, some participants expressed they could no longer attend in person or that they only felt comfortable attending virtually, due to COVID-19. While this abrupt change was not ideal, we quickly pivoted to run a hybrid workshop with six in-person participants and four virtual participants.
As one participant observed, the workshop turned out great “due in large part to the upfront planning and exceptional team support.”
If you are going to lead a hybrid ITK session, consider using this brief checklist:
IN A HYBRID CONTEXT
- Test all connections, tools and tool access (like MURAL) for participants, video feeds, microphones, Teams access, projectors/monitors, etc., are working properly and are in sync to ensure virtual portion of the meeting will not have technical difficulties
- Leave enough time to troubleshoot (do not wait till the day of to test)
- Ensure all materials are printed or available online ahead of time
- Have one lead facilitator and at least two – four co-facilitators (3-5 facilitators total)
- Lead facilitator should attend in person if possible
- Have at least 1-2 extra co-facilitators in-person to collect notes and update lead facilitator of incoming virtual feedback. One of these facilitators should be responsible to monitoring the online chat and video feeds in the room.
- The secondary facilitator may be needed as escort for participants depending on site guidelines
- Have at least 1-2 facilitators online to capture notes, transcribe in-person activities and manage online conversations. One of these facilitators should be confident running a virtual workshop on their own in case there are technical issues.
- Make “video on” a requirement for virtual participants (or at least when they speak and participate). Video on encourages engagement and less distraction of virtual attendees. This also helps in-person participants feel as if they are being eased dropped on.
- If using MURAL (digital whiteboard) and in-person whiteboards, make sure both are updated and match synchronously
- This can be done by either an in person or online facilitator
- This task is incredibly challenging as those attending virtually cannot always see the activity outputs until they are completed
- Encourage participants to read their contributions as they are added
- Facilitator (Lead) can re-read the up-voted contributions
- Secondary facilitator can take pictures after each activity to ensure the online participants and facilitator(s) are able to follow
- Take time to pause and invite virtual participants to contribute to discussions
- Take breaks after dot voting to tabulate online and in-person votes
- Consider utilizing an MS Form version of Rose, Bud, Thorn
- Use printed handouts and virtual handouts for attendee bios, instructions for site, instructions for activities, contact information for follow on discussions (create these ahead of time)
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO TRY
- Have a smart projector or large touchscreen up in the room for in-person and remote persons to collaborate seamlessly via a digital interface
- Provide video feeds via tablet or mobile device at every in-person working group to facilitate a stronger in-person/remote collaboration during discussions
- Pair up one in-person participant with a remote participant, throughout the workshop, to ensure the remote participant’s voice is heard and has a clear access to provide contributions to mixed (in-person and virtual) breakout groups
- Take more frequent but shorter breaks to ensure remote attendees stay connected and to sync in-person and virtual contributions, as needed
- Conduct a “how to” MURAL or platform training ahead of the hybrid workshop
Today’s blog post is by Allison Khaw
Let me tell you about the Time Blossom!
This innovation tool can be used to help you better manage your time on a project. On a larger scale, the Time Blossom is one of several existing “X-Blossoms,” which are specially-themed variations of the Lotus Blossom. Inspired by the diversity of X-Blossoms created before me, I chose time management as the underlying theme for the Time Blossom because of how pivotal a role it plays in our busy world today.
First, a refresher—to use the Lotus Blossom, start by labeling its center box with a problem or topic of your choice. From there, leverage the tool’s grid structure to brainstorm ideas and propagate them outward to the surrounding blossoms. These ideas may be characteristics, categories, or solutions related to your central topic, but the key is that you’ll generate many of them in a rapid manner.
The Time Blossom has the same structure as its parent tool, but it is pre-populated with eight open-ended questions that revolve around time management and prioritization. Thus, to use the tool, select a project or subject area to focus on, and then fill in the outer blossoms with your answers in the context of your project.
It’s as simple as that.
In particular, consider the top row of questions in the Time Blossom. Think of these as the “Goldilocks” questions, but in units of time: they ask you to identify tasks that are running “too hot,” “too cold,” or “just right.” In fact, the question, “What are we spending the right amount of time on?” was not included in an older version of the Time Blossom; only after early testing did I discover its importance. Recognizing what we’re doing right is just as valuable as recognizing what we can do better, after all!
Let’s take a look at a Time Blossom example. Imagine a fictional scenario where you and your team—Alisha, Gabe, Kai, Liz, Pat, Rob, and Stacy—are holding a brainstorming session on the development of your product. (This realistic premise stems from our very own choose-your-own-adventure-style book called The Toolbox of Innovation!) If you populated the Time Blossom as shown, what might you conclude about how effectively you are managing your time?
Perhaps your team would conclude that your product development is going well but could still be improved by the reprioritization of certain tasks. For instance, you might plan to spend more time with users or set up a meeting to uncover any hidden assumptions about your product. The boxes with thumbs-up symbols indicate the ideas that especially resonated with the team. Down the line, you might even hold Lotus Blossom sessions for some of the more complex ideas that should be further explored.
To me, improving your time management skills is as much about increasing your self-awareness as it is about working efficiently. Knowing which tasks you’re prioritizing, and why, can give you a sense of clarity that is hard to find otherwise. Tools are just one way to help with that. The Time Blossom is by no means the first—nor will it be the last—time management tool, but if it prompts you to reflect on these topics, it is time well spent.
Download an editable Time Blossom template