Over 15 years building brands, pilots, and platforms around the world. Managing Partner at Black, a global design and innovation agency.
As a former engineer, founder, sales director and strategic consultant, I’ve spent the better part of two decades honing a unique approach to solving creative and corporate challenges. From creating ideation processes for the largest Latin content provider in North America to repositioning a Middle East leader in healthy eating, I’ve been in the middle of it all.
Over the years I have discovered that most, if not all, organizations face a higher-order challenge of getting started and moving. In fact, our incredible team has taken on this challenge over and over again in widely different contexts.
The best way to describe our approach is “scaffolding.” For us, scaffolding is an indispensable tool for getting any idea or project off the ground. While our clients don’t always believe the same approach used in a different industry will apply to their needs, scaffolding has proven time and again to be the best way to start laying out a plan and getting to the core ideas.
Different industries have different names for this concept. The science world calls it “first principles thinking,” boiling things down to the most fundamental truths and then reasoning up from there. The tech world refers to it as “rapid prototyping” or “design sprints.” In reality, it doesn’t matter what you call it; all that matters is that you understand how to put it into practice.
MORE FOR YOU
Most of us are familiar with scaffolding in construction — the platforms that allow you to work securely, getting the shape of the building right, before tackling the inside. The concept of scaffolding isn’t limited to buildings and can be applied to a wide range of subjects and even physical skills, like learning to ride a bike or cooking. But, as it turns out, scaffolding is really useful in the world of business.
Here are three practical uses to apply this concept in the business world:
1. Creating an Idea for a Business, Operation or Project
This is the time to download everything at a high level, so grab a whiteboard or large piece of paper. Note down the major contexts this business or idea will operate within, including target audiences and potential milestones. Don’t worry about the minute details just yet. Next, take a step back and see how things interact. If you have some data or a subject matter expert, you can start putting rough numbers to get clear on potential revenue and unit economics.
In practice, it looks something like this: Say you have an idea for a smoothie delivery service. Capture what kind of smoothies you would make, who your early adopters are, how you will engage with them and what makes your smoothies special. Then, think about where you make them, what goes inside them and how you’ll deliver them. Tap into subject matter expertise (or Google) to put numbers on things.
Having done this for a while, my colleague synthesized this into a tool that we now use regularly: the One-Page Project Pilot. This is essentially a tool to capture your big idea, enablers and accelerators, key players, resources and milestones to get started. As part of this, you should also define the minimum effective dose, or Phase 1, of the project by trimming and reducing the scope and idea.
If the unit economics don’t work, the idea isn’t solving the real problem, there are too many moving pieces relative to the impact, or the market responded differently to the pilot, do not move onto Round 2. Worse than discovering your idea won’t work is discovering it won’t work in six months and half a million dollars in investment — I’ve been there, and it hurts.
2. Creating a Portfolio of Content
Grab that whiteboard again and define what you’re looking to achieve with your portfolio of content — attention, conversion, perhaps an upsell? Once you have the outcomes, move on to writing down and prioritizing the top target audiences and their needs.
Finally, brainstorm as many different content ideas as you can within a set time frame. Write down any ideas on Post-it notes (one at a time) and start sticking them on the board. Keep writing. The ideas don’t have to be good; you just want to get them all out. No idea is too big or too small — however, it is important to be specific. Simply writing “interview” is not enough. Instead, write down something like “15-minute Zoom interview with John Cleese on the anatomy of a joke.”
3. Preparing To Enter a New Market
I’ve worked in a variety of markets with different people, products and needs. While it’s true that every business has its own pain points and challenges, the fact is most markets have more in common than you would think. A great example of how to successfully scaffold a new business is by using the business model canvas, created by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. The model uses nine essential building blocks to help visualize a business’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers and finances. This helps to align actions and also highlights any potential trade-offs.
Bringing It All Together
The next step is to connect all the ideas in your scaffold to the bigger picture. By scaffolding, you’re kick-starting the creative process, finding the shape of what the project will be and then building enough momentum to be able to take off with it. Much like the movie Inception, when you’re dreaming, you’re actually creating and experiencing the dream at the same time. As you perceive something, your mind is already constructing it. Putting it all down on paper allows you to see your thought process more clearly and where things belong within your envisioned structure.
What’s so interesting about the scaffolding process is that it is unique to the individual. Some people need to be in a good mood whereas other people just need to show up. But what I have observed is the more experience you can mobilize in the scaffolding process, the higher quality your output and ideas will be. If done well, the results of scaffolding at a high level are truly remarkable, slashing time to market and creating new value centers.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
Go to Source
Author: Cheyenne Kamran, Forbes Councils Member