Rethink your business and be innovative.

It’s easy to say, but how can media managers be innovative when they’re drilled to match the key performance indicator (KPI) goals over years? They have to learn as kids do – by trial and error.

Or they can use the guide developed by the smart guys of Stanford University and the Hasso Plattner Institute, which includes eight steps for rethinking your media business. It’s called “The new city experience: An Introduction to Design Thinking.”

Step 1: Create a quick interview guide – with open-ended questions. First, chat with someone and ask him anything about the latest experience in a new city. It’s just to build a bridge to him. “How are you today?” Or: “Tell me where are you from?” 

Next, seek stories. “Tell me about your time in…” Or: “What would I find surprising about how you…” Then, go deeper. Talk about feelings. “Why do you say that?” Or: “How did you feel at that moment, when…”

You see: It’s far away from product development. Please wait and take notes. Yes, you need time.

Step 2: Imagine the meaning to gain insights. It’s all about thinking of what might be the deeper meaning behind what you heard. First, write down statements that were particularly interesting or surprising. Just a few sentences are needed.

Then think about those statements: Which thing seems to be very important to your interview partner? Just one thing! Was it a specific place? Was it a special situation? Was it the way difficult circumstances were handled?

Now, think more deeply about this one thing, and write down three possibilities about what it could mean. Why is this one thing so important for him or her? Please, stay playful! No one expects an academic solution. Was it joy to discover the place in the new city coincidentally? Or was it the result of a good plan fulfilled? Why was it important?

Step 3: Create brainstorming topics. Just complete the following the sentence three times: “How might we….” For example: “How might we repeat this good feeling next time?” Or: “How might we spend more time on traveling without a plan to discover things beside official programmes?” There’s a lot of room to create just a thesis to discuss. No answer needed yet.

Step 4: New ideas! Share your work, then brainstorm in a team. You’re still far away from any product or business solution, but you get closer and closer. You have some idea of the needs of the person you interviewed and clustered these needs in topics.

Recap one story, share one inference, and brainstorm your question with a group of people – and then wait. You will get new ideas you would never have thought about. Guaranteed.

For the moment, collect and structure the ideas provided. Don’t judge on your own. Let the people decide which idea is worth exploring further.

Step 5: Now choose one idea and flesh it out into a product or service. Try to visualise your solution. Work with material from the kitchen (paper, aluminum, nails, wool, whatever), and draw, paint, tinker, stick. The more concrete your visualisation, the better other people can imagine what you’re thinking of.

The recommendation is: Pick an idea and stay in a generative mode as you work out the details. What is it? How does one use it? That’s fun!

Step 6: Build your solution. Just a reminder of Step 5 not to finish too early. You know the needs of your interview partner. You got some ideas to help and focused on one of these ideas. You collaborated to find a product or a service.

Now you’re on to product development stage. It could be a new Web site for news or travel information. Could be a device to navigate through a new city. Could be an app on the iPhone. It doesn’t matter. Enjoy!

Step 7: Test with your partner. The partner is the one at the beginning. Do you remember his or her needs? Explain your product or service to him or her – and listen!

You gain plenty of hints about what is needed to match the needs better. Is every detail really necessary? Did you ignore the wrong details? What’s the product worth? Write down all the details of the feedback, so you’ll be ready for Step 8.

Step 8: Adjust. Improve. Ask more. Now you have something in hand that someone else really needs. And you can work on that. Fix it. Make it better. Ask more people.

Even if it isn’t ready for the market and cannot make any profit, your team will benefit from the process of collaboration, feel free to become innovative and be encouraged to create the next idea. That’s more than you had before this little innovation guide you’ve learned on my blog here!