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Re-thinking your toothbrush

I mentioned yesterday that we spent a morning out at Stanford and happened to run into Al Gore (see pic to the left!).

Today I wanted to cover the 'Design Thinking Workshop' which we participated in. The big thing I took away was how little it takes to re-think the 'norm' and by taking 40-50 minutes to follow a 12 step process of ideation how transformative it can be in the way you think about the problem your customer wants solved- not the problem you want to solve!

We covered what was a third of a 6 month course in just a morning, so a quick 20 minute blog post is hardly going to do the full process justice- but I'll do my best (hopefully I'm not breaking any copyrights by putting this up?). Also, a very important part of this process (as is in the real startup world), is go and talk to customers and get feedback. Its the one of the most valuable things you can ever do. Sitting in your chair, reading through a process and never getting in front of your customers or talking to them is NOT how to do it! No matter how much you think you know about your customers, it absolute b/s to think you know, without actually asking. Its really at the heart of a startup, the Lean methodology and Design Thinking. I suppose its more design by doing, not just thinking!

 OK- so we started off with a request from the course instructor to bring in a photo of our current dental hygiene experience - aka your humble toothbrush or for the elite toothbrushers, your electric toothbrush. Mine is normally electric at home, but on the road its a trusty old fashioned Oral-B $3 Medium bristled brush.. the steps were as follows, note each of the sessions where you asked/interviewed were reciprocated:

Step 1
Design the ideal oral hygiene experience (4min)
Sketch it out

Aim: Design something useful and meaningful for your partner. Start by gaining empathy.

Step 2
Interview (4min: note down what they do, what they love, dislike etc)

Step 3
Dig deeper (3min: nail down on their frustration, delight, what makes something great?)

Step 4 
Capture findings (3min)
-needs: things they are trying to do *verbs; desires, loves, wants
-insights: new learnings about your partner's feeling/worldview to leverage in your design *make inferences from what you heard

Step 5 
Define problem statement (3min)
"Ben needs a better way to feel the new/charged experience while leaving his brush in the shower because he loves a 'powerful' experience when he brushes"..but doesn't get that if he leaves his brush in the shower not charging (i'll explain below!)

Step 6 
Sketch 3-5 radical ways to meet your user's needs (5min)
write the problem statement and do 5 little sketches

Step 7 - I think this was the critical step!!
Share your solutions & capture feedback (5min)
- Ben liked one of my ideas in particular, the one he felt really solved his problem!

Step 8
Reflect and generate a new solution (3 min)
sketch it out

Step 9 
Design a business model (5min)
Customer segment

Step 10
Build your solution (10min)
make something your customer can interact with

Step 11 
Share your solution and business model and get feedback (5min)
+ What worked
- What could be improved
? Questions
! Ideas

Step 12 
Complete the following sentence with respect to one of the customer group (5min)
For ...(target customer)
who ...(statement of need)
(Company name) category)
That (statement of benefit) .... ..... .....

So there you have it! 
Design thinking- or my take: Design by Doing (& asking!)

So what did I end up designing for Ben?
Well his 'problem' was that he loved brushing with an electric toothbrush on full charge in the shower (admittedly not a major major pain point). But anyway, obviously he couldn't charged it in the shower, so I ended up designing something that would act like a holder on the inside shower side of the glass (held on by a suction cap), and on the other side of the glass would be a short distance wireless charger (kind of like how electric toothbrushes charge anyway). It would be a 'work with existing hardware' type product, in that he could charge his existing toothbrush with it, and ideally it would retail sub-$30 mass produced.

That is not a flawless product, but the point is more the exercise of creativity, thinking, doing and asking...without a doubt we were all buzzing coming out of that morning. I think the same processes could be applied whether you are a startup or Coca-Cola thinking about a new product or existing problem.

We also covered off a session around the Business Model Canvas (see pic of me below) and a "fishbowl" view of open discussion about a particular problem one of our group's company was facing.
All credits to Jenna at Stanford! Awesome morning all round...Think these photos on facebook from the day are open for anyone to view and also I found the official outline below:

As a style of thinking, design thinking is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.

From insights to innovation, this workshop offers you the chance to learn design thinking – a human-centered, prototype-driven process for innovation that can be applied to product, service and business design. We believe that innovation is necessary in every aspect of business, and that it can be taught. This workshop will enhance your ability to drive innovation in your organizations.

Key Takeaways
• Develop Deep Consumer Insights
• Reduce Risk and Accelerate Learning Through Rapid Prototyping
• Drive Towards Innovation, Not Just Incremental Growth
• Empower Your Employees To Be Innovative

Facilitator: Jenna Tregarthen, Innovation Instructor, Stanford

Written by Peter Cain

Peter Cain is the Founder and CEO of, a company committed to making it easier and cheaper to stay connected whilst travelling. You can find him on Twitter and Google+. You can also find dataGO on FacebookTwitter,LinkedIn, and Google+ for all the latest info on local and roaming SIMs and data hotspots.

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