Business Design Tools

Idea Flip

The Idea Flip is a great way to rapidly iterate on concepts or ideas. There’s a lot of space to play with here, so you can get a lot of ideas down. It contains the fundamental elements of a pitch, so each idea is broken down into the how, who and why that ultimately prove whether the idea has merit. 

This tool was designed and is licensed to Do Tank Do LLC.

The Problem

What issue are you addressing? Who does it impact? How does it affect them?

Impact

What positive effects will this have for your customer and the broader world? (e.g. lives impacted, minds changed, etc.)

The Big Idea

Visualize your idea. How does it work, and how does it address the problem you stated? (e.g. product, service, process, or solution)

Size of the prize

What will be the return on investment for your team or organization? (e.g. revenue increased, costs saved, etc.)

Assumptions and Risks

What assumptions will you need to validate and further explore? What risks endanger the success of this work?

5 Effective ways to use the tool

5 ways to use the tool

To flesh out an idea

The Idea Flip is useful for adding substance to an idea that excites you but lacks detail. It challenges you or your team to define the problem you hope to solve and then illustrate your idea—how it works, who’s involved, and why it’s important. Surrounding this core illustration, the Flip then asks you to explore the assumptions that underpin your idea and to make the case for its positive impact—both internally and in the wider world. These three surrounding questions really drive clear thinking. An idea is nice in the abstract, but it’s more real with some carefully crafted detail.

To explain your idea to others

When you have a robust idea, the next step is to share it with others who can help sharpen it. With the Idea Flip, this is a breeze. Show your colleagues or external partner the problem you’re facing and a sketch of your proposed solution (“the big idea”). Then, walk them through the assumptions you plan to test — and might need their help testing. Finally, to demonstrate the idea’s effects, walk through the internal “size of prize” and the external impact you hope it will have. Using this framework should bring clarity much faster than an unstructured discussion.

To pitch your idea

Great ideas often go beyond one person’s capacity. The Idea Flip offers a great structure for making a pitch to those who may have the funding or human capital you need to make it happen. Use it to show your executive team or board of directors — the folks who allocate resources — what the internal “size of prize” will be, in terms of revenue generated, profit earned, or any other metric that matters. Another option: tailor the pitch to external folks by focusing on its wider impact — in terms of lives improved, minds changed, or even jobs created. From these, work backward to showing how it works and seeking feedback on what needs to change before they are willing to fund it.

To pressure-test your idea

Any idea can be improved through a healthy process of feedback and discussion. Use the Idea Flip in a conversation with your stakeholders to ensure you’ve thought through the key elements. Is your problem statement clear, and does it resonate? Does your illustration of “the big idea” make sense to those who didn’t create it? Is the “size of prize” realistic and compelling? Will the impact truly improve the world, and have you captured the important effects? What assumptions are still unstated? This is the opportunity to leverage an outsider perspective to make your idea stronger and better.

To analyze your competition

One really creative way to use the Idea Flip: as a competitive analysis tool. If you have a competitor pursuing an interesting idea (or one that threatens your market position), use the Flip to take a walk in their shoes. What problem do they seem to be addressing, and what is your understanding of their solution? How lucrative will it be for their organization — and their stakeholders? Looking at all of this, ask yourself: how could we address that problem differently, improve on their solution, capture more value, or have a bigger impact in the world? A key opening for competitive advantage: identify an assumption they might be wrong about, and seek out a solution that avoids the same mistake.

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Share this (or work on it) with others!

The Idea Flip can be a solo exercise, but it’s not meant to exist in a vacuum! Whether you tackle it alone or with a team, quickly get a larger group involved. Expose it to criticism and differing perspectives. People from other functions within your organization will likely see your idea at least somewhat than you. Will they agree with your estimated “size of prize” and find your assumptions valid? Will they agree that you’re addressing an important problem with an idea that can work? There’s only one way to know … go ask them.

Be crystal clear with your problem statement.

This is often where the work of an Idea Flip begins. Without a clear problem statement, you and your team may be talking past each other, muddled in vagueness. Try to draft a statement that tells what is going wrong, who is harmed, and how it affects them qualitatively — or better yet, quantitatively. It’s the difference between writing “obesity” and writing, “30% of U.S. schoolkids are now obese and at risk of Type II diabetes.” Being clear in this section leads to greater rigor in the remaining sections.

Embrace visuals for “the big idea.”

Whether you feel artistic or not, one thing is true: Everyone can draw. And this is the place to give it a try. If you can sketch the essence of your idea — as a diagram, a process, a prototype, or anything that makes it more real — this will be vastly more compelling to your audience than a long list of features or a rambling paragraph. Try stick figures, arrows, or some simple buildings; it’s not hard to make your idea visual!

Use real numbers in the “size of prize” and “impact” sections.

Your idea can appeal to others much more strongly when it’s backed by numbers. Push yourself to answer the tough questions about its potential: What will the ROI be, given the upfront investment and expected returns? How will it deliver value to others? Will this be apparent to them in dollar terms or something more abstract? Whatever the unit of measure, do some basic math to arrive at an estimate that feels realistic and shows others why they should pay attention. Being able to write, “5% revenue increase in our subscription business” is much more persuasive than simply writing, “increased revenue.”

Think critically about your unstated assumptions.

A crucial — but sometimes undervalued — element of the Idea Flip is the Assumptions and Risks. What are you assuming will be in place or work in your favor as you pursue this idea? Are there risks that you might run up against and need to prepare for? Both of these are critical questions that an astute partner will ask before buying into the effort. One common pitfall is assuming that a certain percentage of a market (often 1% or 10%) will be easy to obtain, making your product an obvious success. This is the space for challenging that assumption and showing how you can test if it’s true.

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