Special Guest PostWhen search­ing for a team to work on our first NextBrief [link], I was hop­ing that C. Todd Lom­bar­do (@iamctodd) might be able to work on the daunt­ing task of think­ing about the future of tele­vi­sion. Hap­pi­ly, he was. And he was a per­fect fit.

With over 15 years of expe­ri­ence cre­at­ing change in the cor­po­rate world, C. Todd is an inno­va­tion chameleon, fit­ting into a num­ber of dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments and excelling at nav­i­gat­ing ambi­gu­i­ty. He often works on user expe­ri­ence (UX), com­mu­ni­ca­tion, design or strat­e­gy projects in his role as Inno­va­tion Archi­tect for small busi­ness soft­ware provider Con­stant Contact.

Since the Oppor­tu­ni­ty Can­vas intro­duced in my first e-book [link] was a key part of the think­ing process on the NextBrief, I asked C. Todd to com­ment here about what some­one should do after com­plet­ing the can­vas stage of Nextsensing.


The Oppor­tu­ni­ty Fore­sens­ing can­vas is an excel­lent thought process to help deter­mine which direc­tion your busi­ness may want to go. You end up with a set of data-dri­ven hunch­es about what might be next in a crit­i­cal area of inter­est for your company.

How can you take the next step toward act­ing upon those hunches?

C. Todd LombardoWhere I work, in the InnoLoft at Con­stant Con­tact [link], we prac­tice a sim­i­lar method to test our ideas and hunch­es. We call it a Design Sprint. It starts with hav­ing some hypothesis/es to test. We then do a data exchange with a team focused on tack­ling this par­tic­u­lar ini­tia­tive. Once we have laid out all of our facts and assump­tions, we deter­mine if there are any gaps we need to fill in.

Then, in the dri­ve towards a refine­ment of the hypoth­e­sis, we ask, “Do we have a prob­lem worth solv­ing for?” This involves get­ting out of the build­ing to per­form what we call Dis­cov­ery Inter­views, which are inter­view­ing tar­get users about their cur­rent habits, beliefs and/or atti­tudes about a par­tic­u­lar area.

How­ev­er, before jet­ting out­side and ask­ing ques­tions of the first peo­ple you see on the street, some prepa­ra­tion is important.

Interview Graphic 2

First, iden­ti­fy the pro­file of the peo­ple you’d like to talk to. Has the can­vas hint­ed toward any par­tic­u­lars, whether demo­graph­ic (for exam­ple, 25­-34 year old females with asso­ciate degrees and liv­ing in sub­ur­ban areas) or psy­cho­graph­ic (such as, technophiles with the lat­est gad­gets and an influ­ence in their social circles)?

Sec­ond, after dis­till­ing the pro­file, cre­ate a top­ic map of areas you’d like to fur­ther under­stand about their world. Break down each of your hunch­es from the can­vas. Try to avoid spe­cif­ic ques­tions and keep to top­i­cal areas. This can allow you to treat this infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing in a dis­cov­ery sense.

Armed with these two ele­ments, you can then begin.

Often, more obser­va­tion is in order. Before ask­ing ques­tions, see if you can just observe the behav­iour of the pro­file per­son or group. If you’re able to see how peo­ple behave in the present, you may get a sense of the types of activ­i­ties they may want to do or avoid in the future. When you begin inter­view­ing, be mind­ful of your own bias­es and ask open-end­ed ques­tions, ones that demand more than a yes-no response. Ask for sto­ries relat­ed to your point of search.

Once you’ve col­lect­ed your inter­view notes, bring them back and post them on a wall for oth­er team mem­bers to exam­ine. Look for pat­terns and quotes, and ask, “Why did they say that?” Do this fre­quent­ly, and try to see if any­one on your team can think of an answer. (Again, there’s a need to be mind­ful of your own bias­es and mis­in­ter­pret­ing someone’s answer to fit your hopes of being right about your hunch­es.) In our team, we specif­i­cal­ly call out the assump­tions we’re mak­ing and chal­lenge each oth­er to min­imise any con­fir­ma­tion bias we may have.

Through all of this, you have to be okay with being wrong. Just keep exam­in­ing the infor­ma­tion you’ve obtained. How does what you have heard line up with your orig­i­nal hunch? Are there trends in the new infor­ma­tion that indi­cate that you are head­ing in the right direction?
As with any good research, it’s impor­tant to be as cer­tain as pos­si­ble about the qual­i­ty of your data before you start act­ing on it.

Stay tuned for my next post in which I’ll talk about what to do with the infor­ma­tion you’ve gained since com­plet­ing the Oppor­tu­ni­ty Canvas.

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