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TribalScale Ideathon with students from The Knowledge Society

Lean Ideation Strategies

By Natalia Zigante, Mark Zou, Jenarth Jegatheeswaran and Sean Lee

A few weeks ago we participated in the TribalScale Ideathon. We were told to identify and pitch a solution that would solve a problem in either the media or transportation industry, or in enterprise product. We had 24 hours to come up with a solution, which was really challenging given the open-ended nature of the question.

In those 24 hours, we spent a lot of time discussing many, many problems and brainstorming solutions. For a solid 6 hours, we purely spent our time generating ideas. We came up with about 15 ideas, 5 for each vertical. We talked about supply chain management, fleet management, esports, and everything in between. We went from topic to subtopic, to sub-subtopic, but still, we were thinking too broadly and didn’t know how or where to start narrowing down. The problem was that we were focused on finding ideas, not problems. Fortunately, we had mentors that really pushed us to hone in on the problems and to not become overly wedded to any single idea.

In the end, we came up with a solid, winning solution. To do this, we:

  1. Drew upon personal experiences. We focused on the problems we faced in our day-to-day lives and we were able to narrow them down to 2 main ideas.
  2. Thought about feasibility. We simply asked ourselves: What could we actually do? What can we crank out in the next 10 hours?
  3. Reflected on TribalScale’s strengths. We believe that innovation is leveraged upon what’s in existence, so we thought about what we could offer based on TribalScale’s capabilities and networks.
  4. Took advantage of the mentors. Thankfully, our Design Strategist introduced us to a really helpful exercise (basically role-playing confused, satisfied, positive and negative customers) to identify the core features of the solution — the minimum viable product (MVP).
  5. Considered the criteria. We were given the judging criteria and pitch requirements ahead of time and then followed them to a tee.
  6. Told a story. For the pitch, we created a narrative (case-study) to illustrate the problem and draw the audience’s attention.

Once the 24 hours were up, and we successfully pitched our idea, it was interesting to see how much time we actually used ideating versus pulling it all together. So much time was spent brainstorming, but once we knew what we were going to do — the features, the market, everything — came together seamlessly. This is probably a key difference between a hackathon and an ideation. It’s not just about nailing down the technical aspects and leveraging emerging tech, like you would in a hackathon. With an ideathon, you have the time to focus on the idea, reflect on the pitch, and explain the value proposition of your product. Another advantage of an ideathon is that the teams are very multidisciplinary. We all have different experiences and perspectives, which led us to challenge each other’s assumptions and push ourselves to the best idea. Further, on pitch day, there was a lot of variety in terms of the solutions and problems solved — this range was also due to the open-ended nature of the ideathon itself.

Based on our experience with the ideation, we have the following tips for other organizations interested in hosting something similar:

  • While the open-ended question was great because it led to a range of pitches and ideas, it is also helpful to have a few narrow examples of problems or issues that could be solved.
  • Mentors, mentors, and mentors. Have people that know the industry, understand the user, their experiences and flows to advise all participating groups. This way, the participants will get on the right track.
  • Equip groups with sample pitch decks — we used Airbnb’s — so they can follow a tried and true plan.
  • Remember, an ideathon is different from a hackathon. Make sure the instructions, advice, and judging criteria reflect the unique aspects of an ideathon.

All in all, we had a great experience with the TribalScale ideathon. It was an incredibly valuable experience and it encouraged us to think about a product through its full lifecycle — everything from the market to the MVP and build capabilities. Our experiences and learnings from the ideathon will surely help us each as we continue to innovate at TribalScale for our partners, within TribalScale Venture Studios, and throughout our personal careers.

Sean Lee is a third-year student majoring in Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He is currently interning at TribalScale as an Agile Software Engineer for the Fall 2018 term. Outside of his internship, Sean plays the trumpet for his school’s symphony orchestra and trains for powerlifting competitions.

Natalia Zigante is a fourth-year student studying Sports and Business at the University of Waterloo. She is the Spring-Winter 2018 Marketing Intern. Outside of her internship, Natalia is working with Take Care, an app-based platform that is improving the lives of young adults with cancer.

Mark Zou is an Agile Software Engineer at TribalScale, with over 8 years of OTT industry experience. He has worked with industry partners such as DIRECTV (now AT&T), and he’s an advocate for engineers having a design thinking mindset.

Jenarth Jegatheeswaran is an Agile Software Test Engineer at TribalScale. He recently graduated from the University of Waterloo where he majored in Legal Studies and minored in Computer Science. As a student, Jenarth interned at TribalScale in the summers of both 2016 and 2017. Outside of work, Jenarth is a passionate basketball fan with a love for the Toronto Raptors.

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