Pretotyping Challenge, Step 1: Writing a market engagement hypothesis using a “story sandwich”

MMMM…. story sandwiches. Definitely tasty and sometimes salty… but always goooood. 🤤

Using your imagination to think about how someone might engage with your idea, product or service comes fairly easily to most people. You can think of the ideal engagement… where they might be, what they might be doing… and how your particular approach would be the perfect remedy or solution for their pains or problems.

But sometimes you can’t quite articulate it, or you’re not quite sure how to go about it. Maybe you’re not completely clear on the product-market fit. You might be unsure about which audience you’re serving. You could even be wondering if there’s already something out in the market that does what you’re thinking about.

For those situations where you’re stuck and you need to articulate how the market is going to engage your idea, I like using a writing technique called the ‘story sandwich’. It’s a helpful way to structure your thinking around your engagement model.

The basic components of a story sandwich that you would use for constructing a market engagement hypothesis (or MEH) are:

  1. The Explanation: A one or two sentence statement that explains what your product/service is.
  2. The Story: A paragraph (3–5 sentences) that tells a story of the current situation your target audience is in.
  3. The Remedy: A second paragraph that explains how your particular idea, product or service would help
  4. The Summary: A one or two sentence closing statement that combines the explanation of the idea/product/service from your first statement with the value proposition/promise from the previous paragraph.

Does that make sense? 😁
If not, no worries. I’ll walk you through an example.

Let’s start with a story sandwich for the Global Virtual Design Sprint… using this example that can help you formulate your own.

#1 — The Explanation
The Global Virtual Design Sprint is an international event that allows professionals and practitioners the opportunity to explore open innovation challenges for real-world implementation. It also allows participants to practice both the design sprint process and Alberto Savoia’s pretotyping methodology.

#2 — The Story
Many design sprint facilitators, user experience designers and researchers do not have the opportunity to practice the design sprint process online. Some invest time and money into getting certified on the methodology, but have no real way of showcasing what they’ve learned.

Additionally, the community for sharing and exploring design sprints is fairly small. In fact, some of these communities are paywalled or reserved exclusively for a small group of practitioners.

#3 — The Remedy
With the Global Virtual Design Sprint, you gain access to a wide variety of practitioners from around the world. You’ll collaborate, co-create and network with some of the best professionals in design, research, development, program management and innovation. You’ll also get the change to practice the design sprint methodology in a virtual environment, where everyone works from their own screen in the comfort of their surroundings. Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to join an open Community of Practice with others who have also completed a virtual design sprint experience.

#4 — The Summary
In other words, the Global Virtual Design Sprint is an international community of professionals and practitioners who practice the design sprint methodology in a virtual environment. It’s participants can collaborate, co-create and network with some of the best professionals in innovation and design.

Once you’ve created this story sandwich, you’ll need to extract it’s value proposition in order to create your market engagement hypothesis. Consider the following framework:

  • If (we offered the value we just described above in our story sandwich)
  • Then (our target audience that we described above will perform this action)
  • To (receive an item/service product to experience/acquire the benefits we described earlier)

And if we took what I’ve just written previously, my MEH might look something like this:

  • If (I offered an international event where practitioners could collaborate, co-create and network with one another while practicing the design sprint methodology in an online environment)
  • Then (facilitators, design and research professionals would pay $249 USD)
  • To (participate in the Global Virtual Design Sprint to learn how to do virtual design sprints)

The initial MEH above is just one of many options we can choose from. Maybe I’d want to narrow down my audience or redefine the value proposition in the ‘If’ statement a bit more. Whatever the case, the story sandwich should give you enough material to write a MEH (or several) that you can use for future exercises.

Try It Yourself

Now it’s your turn! Think about a big idea, a novel product or innovative service you’d like to propose and use a ‘story sandwich’ to elaborate on it. From there, create your own market engagement hypothesis that focuses on the value proposition you’re trying to sell.

And if you’d like to take part in our monthly pretotyping challenge, be sure to post both your ‘story sandwich’ and your MEH as a response to this article by Thursday, February 15, 2021.

Talk with you later, and good luck! 🍀



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Robert Skrobe

Robert Skrobe

I run Dallas Design Sprints, The Design Sprint Referral Network and Talent Sprints.