the future leader innovation lab

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  • THE FUTURE LEADER INNOVATION LAB How to find Solutions to the BIG Problems of

    Tomorrow and build a Better Future

    By Dr Nik (Nikolaus Eberl PhD)

    Founder: The Future of Leadership Forum

  • Future Leader Innovation LAB: How to solve Tomorrows Problems

    Disruptive Innovation Centre Page 2

    The Future Leader Innovation LAB


    Most teams often invest months, even years, in developing a product or service - only to discover

    they've built something that no one wants. By acquiring and investing in hundreds of start-ups, Google

    Ventures developed a method that helps teams make better use of time and resources by simulating

    the entire product development process in just five days.

    The Future Leader Innovation LAB helps teams filter ideas and gain clarity as to which of them are best

    to pursue. The sprint is a fast-track process for answering critical business questions through design,

    prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Based on the principles of design thinking, its a

    greatest hits of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more -

    packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

    Working together in the Future Leader Innovation LAB, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and

    compress months of time into a couple of days. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to

    understand if an idea is any good, youll get clear data from a realistic prototype. The sprint gives you

    a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer

    reactions, before making any expensive commitments.

    A crucial, but overlooked, part of the design process is designing the way in which we work together.

    The structured Future Leader Innovation LAB process enables teams to operate in ways that are

    effective in gleaning real, actionable insights about what works and what doesn't. It empowers

    individuals with crazy ideas and also squashes ideas that aren't validated by customers.

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    DISRUPTIVE Future Leader Innovation LAB: STEP 1

    Youll kick off your Future Leader Innovation LAB by sharing knowledge, understanding the problem, and

    choosing a target for the weeks efforts. With only two days, it might seem crazy to spend half a day talking

    and writing on whiteboards. But if you dont first slow down, share what you know, and prioritize, you

    could end up wasting time and effort on the wrong part of the problem.

    These structured discussions create a path for the disruptive innovation sprint. In the first session,

    youll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, youll make a map of the challenge. In the second

    session, youll ask the experts at your company to share what they know. Finally, youll pick a target: an

    ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.

    1st Session

    Write this checklist on a whiteboard. When youre done, check off this first item. Keep checking

    off items throughout the day.

    Introductions. If some people dont know one another, do a round of introductions. Point out the

    Facilitator and the Decider and describe their roles.

    Explain the sprint. Introduce the Future Leader Innovation LAB process. Run through this checklist

    and briefly describe each activity.

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    Set a long-term goal. Get optimistic. Ask: Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be

    in six months, a year, or even five years from now? Write the long-term goal on a whiteboard.

    List sprint questions. Get pessimistic. Ask: How could we fail? Turn these fears into questions you

    could answer this week. List them on a whiteboard.

    2nd Session

    Make a map. List customers and key players on the left. Draw the ending, with your completed

    goal, on the right. Finally, make a flowchart in between showing how customers interact with your

    product. Keep it simple: five to fifteen steps.

    Ask the Experts. Interview experts on your sprint team and guests from the outside. Aim for fifteen

    to thirty minutes each. Ask about the vision, customer research, how things work, and previous efforts.

    Pretend youre a reporter. Update long-term goal, questions, and map as you go.

    Explain How Might We notes. Distribute whiteboard markers and sticky notes. Reframe problems

    as opportunities. Start with the letters HMW on the top left corner. Write one idea per sticky note.

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    Organize How Might We notes. Stick all the How Might We notes onto a wall in any order. Move

    similar ideas next to one another. Label themes as they emerge. Dont perfect it. Stop after about ten


    Vote on How Might We notes. Each person has two votes, can vote on his or her own notes, or even

    the same note twice. Move winners onto your map.

    Pick a target. Circle your most important customer and one target moment on the map. The team

    can weigh in, but the Decider makes the call.

    Key Ideas

    Start at the end. Start by imagining your end result and risks along the way. Then work backward

    to figure out the steps youll need to get there.

    Nobody knows everything. Not even the Decider. All the knowledge on your sprint team is locked

    away in each persons brain. To solve your big problem, youll need to unlock that knowledge and

    build a shared understanding.

    Reframe problems as opportunities. Listen carefully for problems and use How might we

    phrasing to turn them into opportunities.

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    DISRUPTIVE Future Leader Innovation LAB: STEP 2

    After understanding the problem and choosing a target for your sprint, you now get to focus on

    solutions. This step starts with inspiration: a review of existing ideas to remix and improve. Then, each

    person will sketch, following a four-step process that emphasizes critical thinking over artistry. Youll

    also begin planning the customer test by recruiting customers that fit your target profile.

    Lightning Demos. Look at great solutions from a range of companies, including yours. Three

    minutes per demo. Capture good ideas with a quick drawing on the whiteboard.

    Divide or swarm. Decide who will sketch which part of the map. If youre targeting a big chunk of

    the map in your sprint, divide it up and assign someone to each section.

    The Four-Step Sketch. Briefly explain the four steps. Everyone sketches. When youre done, place

    the sketches in a pile and save them for tomorrow.

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    1. Notes. Twenty minutes. Silently walk around the room and gather notes.

    2. Ideas. Twenty minutes. Privately jot down some rough ideas. Circle the most promising ones.

    3. Crazy 8s. Eight minutes. Fold a sheet of paper to create eight frames. Sketch a variation of one

    of your best ideas in each frame. Spend one minute per sketch.

    4. Solution sketch. Thirty to ninety minutes. Create a three-panel storyboard by sketching in

    three sticky notes on a sheet of paper. Make it self-explanatory. Keep it anonymous. Ugly is

    okay. Words matter. Give it a catchy title.

    Key Ideas

    Remix and improve. Every great invention is built on existing ideas.

    Anyone can sketch. Most solution sketches are just rectangles and words.

    Concrete beats abstract. Use sketches to turn abstract ideas into concrete solutions that can

    be assessed by others.

    Work alone together. Group brainstorms dont work. Instead, give each person time to

    develop solutions on his or her own.

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    Recruit Customers for the Test

    Put someone in charge of recruiting. It will take an extra one or two hours of work each day during

    the sprint.

    Recruit online. Post a generic ad that will appeal to a wide audience. Offer compensation (we use

    a R500 gift card). Link to the screener survey.

    Write a screener survey. Ask questions that will help you identify your target customers, but dont

    reveal who youre looking for.

    Recruit customers through your network. If you need experts or existing customers, use your

    network to find customers.

    Follow up with email and phone calls. Throughout the week, make contact with each customer to

    make sure he or she shows up on the day.

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    DISRUPTIVE Future Leader Innovation LAB: STEP 3

    By now, you and your team will have a stack of solutions based on your sketches. Thats great, but its

    also a problem. You cant prototype and test them allyou need one solid plan. Now, youll critique

    each solution, and decide which ones have the best chance of achieving your long-term goal. Then

    youll take the winning scenes from your sketches and weave them into a storyboard: a step-by-step