Recently I read an interview with Ian Spalter, the director of design for the Foursquare mobile app. In the article Spalter talked about his use of the creative process and how he kept his design team on their feet. I was happily surprised by the techniques he used to push his team further in the development of the foursquare app. I've listed the three methods he used below.
Pre-Press Release |
One technique had his team develop the press release for a product that hadn't even been created yet. He describes the process as "mad libs" - putting down the frame work and having people fill in the details so that the entire team was on one page - working towards the same goal. After the press release was finished, then the team would begin work on the product.
Customer Sketch |
Another exercise required his team to really visualize the end users of their products. By visualize Spalter really meant it - he expected everyone to create a person, name, personality and one sentence description. The team's "customer sketches" would then be put on a board for inspiration. Designers could focus on these actual people rather then nebulous demographics for design insights.
Most interestingly, Spalter took a Monopoly board and replaced all the properties with "foursquare scenarios" - ie. checking into a movie theatre. The team would roll the dice and land on a scenario and everyone had to sketch up how they expected the user to interact with the mobile app.
Improvisational techniques (as those listed above) really do work. They help individuals work to break up assumptions and innovate past unsolvable or unforeseen problems. I would highly recommend any team to take one hour off every week to practice one of these exercises above or any of the example improv exercises here on my website.