Organising chaos

18 Mar 2021 7min read

Front end innovation is a fantastic way to explore the possibilities and potential of new ideas. From strategic workshops to set direction and align project teams, to rapidly creating and testing early designs, the aim of this early development stage is to determine everything you need to get off the starting blocks.

So how do you actually turn your initial ideas into viable concepts for your medical device?

Picture the scenario – you’ve just finished day two of a design sprint, a tool regularly used at Team Consulting to create vast amounts of ideas and insights at the start of your medical device development. You are now faced with a room full of Post-it notes, thumbnail sketches and great ideas. How do you try to make sense of the chaos?

At Team Consulting, we use a variety of innovation tools and techniques to help us collate our thoughts and aid the creation of device concepts. Here are a few of our favourites that work both in person and virtually.

Heat mapping

While medical device development involves a lot of high-tech equipment, you might be surprised to discover the process often begins with just a humble sticky dot. This is a great tool for some initial filtering of ideas and getting a feel for which show early promise. It can also be done well in a virtual environment using an online whiteboard or a similar dedicated space.

As you’re nearing the end of a creative sprint session, gather up all your ideas and arm your team with two large dots and five small dots. The idea is for your team to use the large sticky dots for concepts they are drawn to and the small dots for specific design features they like.

This is a great way to distinguish between the wider concept idea and the smaller feature details. It also gives a feel for where the group wants to go and a chance to see what individuals feel about certain features of the design. The challenge with using this method is to ensure the group doesn’t play follow the leader, and that they place the dots on what they are personally drawn to.

Brave scale

Sometimes called levels of change, this is a scale we use to explore scope and trade-offs when we create our concept embodiments.

At one end of the scale, we have the most basic concept; often with the least features and the least investment and associated development risk. We create this by asking the question, “what is the lowest level of change we can carry out to get a new minimum viable product?”.

Then, as we work along the scale, we gradually increase the level of change in the concept until, at the other end, you have the ‘bravest’ idea. This often has the highest level of development risk and a larger investment need.

Brave scale a great tool to help organise concepts and can be applied at any level of detail, from mapping specific features to complete embodiments – and it works really well with the matrix.

Enter the matrix

It is often the case that a design sprint leaves you with a variety of great features and design details, but it can be very difficult to turn these into a tangible design concept. This is where a morphological matrix can help.

Along the x axis, start by listing the primary and secondary design challenges you’ve been focusing on in your creative sessions. Along the y axis, use the brave scale described above. This forms a grid where you can place concept features corresponding to their perceived level of change.

You can then begin to fill the matrix with the ideas that were developed in the design sprint. This is also a fantastic tool for spotting any gaps in what you’ve come up with.

We’ve found that the quickest way to populate these matrices is by using rough thumbnail sketches to illustrate the features, then once all the columns are complete, combining them along the x axis to form the concept embodiment.

Post-its and war rooms

A war room is your dedicated space to visualise your problem and concepts, and it just isn’t a war room if you haven’t covered the walls in Post-its. We find Post-its are a fantastic tool for keeping your ideas loose and flexible. For a virtual alternative, online whiteboards will also do the trick.

When you start to map out the individual features of your concepts, putting each idea on a separate Post-it means you can change them and move them around. Depending on the size of the problem you’re facing and the number of concepts you are creating, it could mean your feature list becomes very big. Therefore, having a designated space to put them all up in is ideal.

The great decider

This one isn’t so much a tool, but rather a person. Having an impartial decider on the team who is focused on the bigger picture is critical in aiding the decision of what to take forward.

With a strategic hat on, they will remind the group of the objectives of the project and the desires of the client. They will focus more on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ and prevent the group getting too caught up in the technical details of the concepts.

This early activity is about determining concept architectures and features – there will be time for the details later.

These are just a snapshot of some of the tools we have found helpful to organise your initial ideas and turn them into meaningful concepts. If you’re interested in finding out more about front end innovation, get in touch.

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