November 16, 2006

News & Opinion: You are now entering the Hypothesis Zone

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:49 PM – Filed under: Marketing & Sales

The Hypothesis Zone gives you a chance to look around and see all the different possibilities that exist for any challenge without having to worry exactly how they will play out. The most important element of successful hypothesizing is to be free from negatives. Were not judging ourselves, were not looking for the precise answerwere just trolling for the clues.
I find it quite liberating to come up with ideas with the pressure off. There could be a name I like and I dont know what to do with it, or an area Id like to explore, or simply a question that I like to have answered. Actually, I write a lot of mine as questions because they are still guesses to me.
Moving on from yesterdays list, try thinking of some hypotheses to your project. Ill do the same with my stapler:

Hipper than the standard Swingline black-armed version.
Borrow from success of iMac or iPod?
Explore colors- maybe translucent?
Colored staples?

Create cool extra feature- mini Polaroids? Digital camera?
Charge more for a nicer design.
Make designer or designer inspired?
Make shape more elegant or funky.
What materials besides metal or plastic?
Make match desk or office dcor.

Easier to load staples and actually use.
Create the one-touch stapler.
Borrow some functionality of electric stapler?
Motion sensor?
Create signal before you run out of staples.
Replace whole staple cartridge at once.

Dont hold back on writing the amount of ways to solve your idea. Think now, judge later. Your list will naturally cull down. Youll see repeat thoughts and ideas, and ones that dont seem as interesting or promising as others. And because a lot of these ideas are questions, a good rule of thumb in reviewing your list is if you cant imagine at least one answer, then you might skip that hypothesis.
If good branding and new product invention was solely about thinking of some good ideas, a list of twenty or so hypotheses would be a pretty good jumping off point for creating concepts and potential strategic areas to explore. Most companies will write some standardized concepts and run a few focus groups to test the waters. But why walk away from creative momentum? Strategic hypothesizing identifies where you want to go, gives you a few ways of getting there, and puts you in the perfect state-of-mind to begin solution hunting, which well get to next.
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By Lynn Altman, author of Brand it Yourself.

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.