What might we learn about one situation which could provide lessons for another? Could observing transport hubs teach us about designing human interactions for other busy places?
We're sometimes asked at OpenIDEO why we run the Research phase first and don't just dive straight into the Ideas phase. So we thought we'd share some reasons on why we've found this approach to be successful in shaping our pursuit of social change.
Explore before innovating
By exploring existing initiatives, tools, campaigns, methods, business models, human-centered insights + community perspectives and so on which have been applied to a challenge, we gain a collective understanding on the scope of the topic. It's easy to rush in and start proposing ideas without taking the time to discuss and understand the issues. Through exploring widely and collaboratively, we gain diverse perspectives – which are more likely to lead to truly innovative and impactful solutions.
Real insights start with real people
Where possible, we encourage our community to explore the challenge issues by including affected people or those working to support them or even those who create issues in their investigations. Or perhaps you might try reaching out to gain multiple local or global perspectives on the same issue. We may create an Interview Toolkit which you'll find on the challenge brief page. We encourage you to think about who you could reach out to to bring valuable human-centered insights to our challenge research.
Trying a New Lens
The Research phase presents us an opportunity to look at our challenge topic through a number of fresh lenses. Sometimes when thinking about a problem we can focus so hard that we get paralysed by it. Stepping away from that context and looking to other aligned situations can point to unexpected insights. Try it yourself: list out all the activities that take place in a given context or the emotions involved in the situation. A good analogy will involve as many of these things as possible. eg. If you are exploring project management for an international development issue, you might interview a wedding planner to unearth insights on co-ordinating people towards a common goal. It's amazing what innovative ideas emerge from this kind of sideways exploration.
Turning observation into insight
As we explore, many of us discover gems which will trigger thoughts on the challenge topic from our OpenIDEO community. To engage others in conversation, it's a great idea to expand on your exploration. Rather than just posting a link or video – see if you can turn that observation into an insight. Let the community know why you think it matters, how you think relates to our challenge and share relevant details to spark discussion. Asking questions which may trigger conversations about your insight at the end of your post helps too. And be sure that if you are using text direct from a website, to use quotation marks and give a link to the original source.
Feed the idea & let it grow
We know that sometimes an idea strikes you that just seems to fit the challenge perfectly and it's tempting to go ahead and post it in the Research phase before the Ideas phase opens. In this case, our suggestion is for you to jot down your thoughts and file them for now. What could make your idea even better is if you think about where you could draw from existing insights out there in the world which might start conversations that could feed your idea and improve it in the long run. It's great to think sideways. For example, if you're planning on an idea for a mission to the moon, you might like to post contributions on long distance travel and confined spaces to gain further insight during the Research phase. Your emerging idea will strengthen in the process and may even evolve in a whole exciting new tangent by the time we open the Ideas phase – it's about having trust in collaboration!
And here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so others can learn more about who they're collaborating with. Think skills, experience, passions and more.