Magazine article Talent Development

The Big Pitch: Have a New Concept to Present? First, Grab a Napkin

Magazine article Talent Development

The Big Pitch: Have a New Concept to Present? First, Grab a Napkin

Article excerpt

Talent development professionals are constantly being asked to solve problems. Some are small; others are more complex. There are two typical starting points when faced with a problem. The first, and most natural, is to gather a group of colleagues around an easel or on Skype and start brainstorming possible solutions. A second is to conduct an Internet search to find out what the best or next practices are.

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However, while those are typical strategies, neither is good for most problems that are complex, such as modernizing the learning strategy. A better starting position is to look at the current reality, the "what is." Once data have been gathered, organized, and analyzed, the problem might look different and need to be reframed--or it could become a different problem altogether. Jumping into solving a problem can result in a great solution, or a solution for the wrong problem.

There are numerous frameworks to use to solve conundrums in innovative ways, such as the traditional Shewhart process that W. Edwards Deming adapted into the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle of improvement; LUMA's Look-Understand-Make model; Vijay Kumar's framework that involves sensing intent, knowing context, knowing people, framing insights, exploring concepts, framing solutions, and realizing offerings; and Darden's model that asks What is? What if? What wows? and What works? Within each of those frameworks are many methods, tools, and techniques--with some having built-in redundancy that requires looking at the same data from several different perspectives using multiple methods or tools.

The napkin pitch

The napkin pitch is a design thinking method espoused by Jeanne Liedtka and colleagues at the Darden School of Business. It incorporates ideas from the problem-solving repertoire of design thinking and marries it with the simplicity of Dan Roam's ideas from his book, Back of the Napkin. The napkin is an ever-present staple where people gather--on planes and trains, and in restaurants and snack shacks, for example. Generally, napkins are small, so the space is limited and forces a focus on the critical few. And the informality of it encourages drawing pictures and visuals.

Using the napkin pitch is part of the What if? section for a project. It is a method used to show an idea or concept to others after the ideas in the brainstorming have been turned into concepts. It follows after research has been completed, insights have been identified, and the design criteria have been established in the first or What is? stage of the project.

The napkin pitch uses a four-quadrant framework for communicating a concise summary of an idea or concept:

* The big idea: Icons, words, bullets, and even sentences to describe a summary of the big idea solution you are recommending. It answers the question: How does this idea create value?

* User desirability: This section documents how the big idea meets the needs of or benefits the user or customer. It describes how the solution seems to address a critical or unmet need of the user. It answers the question: Which of the attributes or characteristics of the user does the concept address?

* Technical feasibility: This section is a description of the operational abilities and challenges involved in implementing the concept. The technical feasibility lays out steps for how this big idea can be implemented. While it may address technologies needed, the use of the term "technical feasibility" is not just technology. It answers the question: Does the organization have the right people, tools (including technology if needed), and processes to implement the solution?

* Business viability: This section describes how addressing this need will result in a net positive outcome for the organization. It answers the question: How will both the users and the organization benefit from this idea? …

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