KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources

Learning how to redesign a successful product

with 6 comments

[I know I’ve been terrible at posting lately, ever since I started back in UNICEF – I’m going to try to post more and shorter pieces, also within the idea of “working out loud” or sharing what I’m working on – whether or not it’s a complete piece of work to share – let’s see how it works]
On Monday I was asked to facilitate a workshop organized by the UN Millennium Campaign to help redesign MyWorld2015 (the global poll on what should be in the #post2015 development agenda). The aim of the workshop was take in lessons learned, but more importantly to figure out how Myworld2015 can become a citizen feedback and engagement tool for the #post2015 development agenda after the priorities and targets have been agreed (and so the current question no longer makes sense).

What I wanted to share here is not the insights from the discussion itself (which I hope the MyWorld team will share themselves), but the methodology for the meeting which I think could be a useful approach for other similar situations when you need to stop, reflect and redesign an existing product or process.

The workshop was titled as a collaboratory, but I think it’s more accurate to say it was a reflect and redesign session. Basically the workshop brought together all the different stakeholders that have an interest in the tool and in the process of mobilizing people to vote and to use the results (primarily civil society, parliamentarians/politicians, policy wonks/data nerds, UN staff and a few private sector).

We started with a couple of very brief (5 minute) presentations to set the context – what  MyWorld is, and how it sits in the broader post-2015 accountability discussion.

This was followed by group work to identify the key lessons learned – particularly i) what worked well, ii) what didn’t work well, and critically iii) what was the core essence or unique value of the project that needs to maintained.
In this and subsequent sessions participants were asked to think of the whole process not just the tool i.e. the technology and platform, the questions and methodology, the outreach and communication, the partnerships developed, the resources used and needed – the management and governance aspects as well as how the results were used, by whom and what their impact was on the political process.

The next session people were asked to work in their stakeholder groups to identify what the  specific needs were and how they could best benefit from a revised MyWorld2015, what their needs/requirements were and what they would be willing to offer to support it.

After that people were randomly assigned to cross disciplinary groups and were asked to  develop a “pitch” or design concept which was a 3 slide/page presentation, a headline of what they want to achieve a couple of years into the future and a visual representation of their idea (using play dough, model cars etc.). Kind of like a rapid prototyping but with the idea of creating a business pitch.

Each team then presented their ideas to a “shark tank”/”dragon’s den” i.e. a panel of senior experts who ask difficult questions and challenge their ideas. At the end of this the panelists were each asked to select their favourite proposal and we also did a “people’s choice” to identify the most promising concepts based on expert and crowd views. Finally everyone was invited to write down on a card one idea they heard the day that they think will either be critical to the success of the project or something they think would really add value in the project.

I really liked this approach because

i) it created a good reflection on the current process
ii) it clearly identified the different perspectives of different stakeholders including contradictions iii) it got different constituencies to work together to create solutions based on the reflections and lessons learned
iv) it created an element of friendly competition (gamification!)
v) it was fun and people were very engaged
vi) in the end we were able to identify some of the best ideas from each proposal which will be taken forward in a smaller redesign group. 

I intend to write this up more thoroughly as an approach to be part of a “Knowledge Exchange” methodology toolkit we are working on, but I wanted to share it now because it worked really well and I think this would have a lot of potential application as an approach to get stakeholder input and buy in when there is a need to redesign a project or approach.

Interested to hear your comments, and from anyone who has used similar approaches.

Written by Ian Thorpe

July 16, 2014 at 10:48 am

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Ian,

    The methodology that you are describing here sounds similar to what we had in an innovation workshop involving dragon dens and pitching ideas. I had captured good lessons from that workshop here: You have outlined really useful steps for redesigning a product, especially involving stakeholders It comes close to the idea of democratization of innovation :).

    Cheers, Ifoda

    Ifoda (@Ifodakhon)

    July 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    • Hi Ifoda – that’s because it is similar. The Dragon’s Den idea actually came from Mitchell. The difference here is that the overall aim of the workshop was to redesign or adapt something rather than design something anew, so the combination of a reflection exercise (to establish common ground about the past) and the innovation lab type approach (to design the future) meant that this can be used for course correction or adaptation. Also I think switching between stakeholder groups and interdisciplinary groups is a nice methodology for ensuring the end design is really something that addresses needs of all stakeholders (This idea comes from the “future search” methodology ( for building change programmes with broad based buy in and collaboration between diverse groups.

      Ian Thorpe

      July 16, 2014 at 4:21 pm

  2. […] [I know I've been terrible at posting lately, ever since I started back in UNICEF – I'm going to try to post more and shorter pieces, also within the idea of "working out loud" or sharing what I'm …  […]

  3. Thanks for the write up Ian – as a participant of the workshop in question I can confirm it was really worthwhile – of course having a great facilitator had something to do with the success too!

    Mitchell toomey

    July 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm

  4. […] key ideas will then be pitched to a panel of science and policy experts in the form of a dragons’ den. To keep the format fun and interesting, pitches may involve a three slide presentation, a headline […]

  5. […] key ideas will then be pitched to a panel of science and policy experts in the form of a dragons’den. To keep the format fun and interesting, pitches may involve a three slide presentation, a […]

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