By defining necessary resources and people, and inserting those directly into a production strategy, learners are challenged to develop realistic, sustainable plans for building innovative items or ideas and delivering them to the intended end users. The strategy map exercise helps students to consider the real-world consequences of introducing innovations to the world.
This is the third lesson in a four-part collection entitled "The Design Process: From Idea to Solution."
45 minutes - 1 hour & 45 minutes
- Students will learn to create strategy maps, visual representations of the resources they will need to build and deliver an idea/product into the hands of real people.
Prep for Teachers
Students should form teams teams dedicated to particular ideas or areas of interest. Seat each team together so that students can collaborate over the production of their strategy map.
- Flip chart paper
- Post-it notes (smallest size available); Colors: Pink, Orange, Blue, Green
Watch the video entitled Strategy Mapping.
Elements of the Strategy Map: Product to End User
Explain to the students that they will be building their own strategy maps.
Provide flip chart paper. Each team should arrange two pieces of paper side-by-side, forming one large canvas area to stage the map.
To begin, each team should clearly define the innovative item that they hope to develop. The team should write down the name of their item on a pink post-it.
Next, the team should define the end user. This is the person that is intended to use the item. The end user should be as well-defined as possible. (For example, if a item is “Playstation 4,” then the typical user will likely be “16-35 year old male.”) The team should write down end user demographic on an orange post it.
The (orange) end user post-it note should be placed in the right half of the canvas, and the (pink) item post-it note roughly in the center.
Allow 5-10 minutes for this process.
Elements of the Strategy Map: Activities and Resources
Once the product and end user have been defined and placed on the map, the instructor should ask,
“What are all of the activities and resources you will need in order to make the item and get it into the hands of its consumers?”
Examples of activities include:
- Making the product
- Distributing the product
- Selling the product
- Providing maintenance
- Signing contracts
Examples of resources include:
- Raw materials
- Storage space
- Office space
Next, the instructor should ask,
“Who else might you need to help you achieve these things?”
The answer to this question could include: researchers, volunteers, employees, partners, suppliers, distributors, retailers, hosting companies, etc. Although some of these people might appear to be resources, any facet of the strategy map that is a person or company should go on an orange “people” post-it note.
Questions to help stimulate thinking during this process:
“When you look at the activities on your first iteration of your map, who, specifically, will be responsible for actually doing these things?"
“Is this someone you need to employ, or is it a service that could be provided to you by a third party?”
“Is there anyone who could do this better, quicker, cheaper, or at greater scale?”
Allow 10-25 minutes for students to consider the people necessary implement their strategies.
Having developed a strategy, teams should then engage in a peer review of each other’s maps. To do this, students should recruit individuals from other, unfamiliar teams, and should walk these individuals through the strategy. As students walk others through their thinking, they will quickly notice that they have either missed things, or that they need to re-order things.
Presenters should write down any questions or suggestions that the peer reviewer might have. It is important to note these questions rather than answering them. Questions need not be resolved during the peer review process. Rather, they should be used as a means of gaining perspective, thinking about the validity of the current working hypothesis of the strategy, or evaluating the method by which the presenter conveys information.
Allow 10-25 minutes for this process.
A Working Hypothesis
Having completed the peer review process, and considered any questions or re-evaluations they feel they should make, a team should draw light pencil lines between the various elements on their canvas, connecting the strategic elements.
These maps represent the “working hypothesis,” and are made up predominantly of facts, opinions and guesses (with the likely emphasis on guesses). Teams should try to consider the biggest possible mistakes that they might have made and/or the biggest uncertainties or assumptions they have made.
A Critical Eye
Once a working hypothesis has been generated, teams should consider who would be best placed to cast a final critical eye over their maps. Helpful persons might include:
- An entrepreneur
- An expert in the academic field related to the item
- A researcher
- A person with experience in the field of business relating to the item
If possible, all participants should submit their product for a review with these persons, and should thoughtfully consider their input.
With a completed strategy map in hand, each team has a simple, visual representation of the real-world functionality of their potential innovation. This asset is invaluable when assessing the actual viability of a given idea for the marketplace, and it also can serve as a tool when considering other potential ideas and hypotheses. Finally, the strategy map is a great place to start when considering how to communicate about your idea with new audiences.