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Testing ideas…

…by Tearing them Apart

There are dozens of references and guidelines on ‘how to present a good idea’. But, how do you determine if it is a good idea? I will share a technique that expounds on an interesting method of testing ideas, namely; by tearing them apart in a meaningful manner.

When it comes to presenting ideas, proposals or strategies my experience, garnered in numerous boardrooms, is that the ‘pitch’, i.e. method and format, enjoys far more preparation attention than the idea itself. No matter how polished, ‘hi-tech’ and well-rehearsed a presentation delivery is, if the idea itself is unsound the outcome will probably, at best, be the implementation of an inept idea and, at worst, be an ill-fated presentation. By an unsound idea, I mean a proposition that has not been sufficiently tested, at the very least by the relevant internal stakeholders, in terms of viability, pitfalls, logistics, costs, ROI, etc. I have certainly been at the casual, and the receiving, end of this phenomenon. So, how can you do this expediently? By tearing it apart.

A previous colleague of mine (Craig Yeatman of WorldsView Technologies)  introduced me to a simple and powerful idea testing method. My understanding is that this technique is a combination of two ideas, namely (1) A liberating structure called ‘Wise Crowdsand (2) A reference made by David Snowden associated with his work on complexity around Cynefinregarding identifying ways in which an idea can fail. The technique is called ‘Shredding’.

We implemented the Shredding technique as follows:
  1. A team, or individual, composes the relevant idea or proposal as a presentation.
  2. A group of selected influential and affected stakeholders is assembled.
  3. The presentation is delivered to the group. Only the presenter is allowed to speak. 
  4. No questions allowed.
  5. Once the presenter has completed the presentation he/she sits down on a pre-placed chair that faces away from the group.
  6. The group then openly discusses all aspects, concerns and support they have regarding the idea or proposal. Viability, pitfalls, logistics, costs, ROI and resource requirements for example. (10 minutes)
  7. Unless the idea is thrown out completely by the group, the presenter listens and makes notes. No interaction from the presenter is allowed.
  8. The presenter takes the notes and refines the presentation (30 minutes)
  9. The presenter then presents the revised presentation to the same group.
  10. The group again openly discusses the presentation and the presenter makes notes.
  11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 two to three times.

At this point, you should have a presentation based on an idea which the stakeholders have bought into and a feasible proposal that can stand up to viability scrutiny.

Happy Shredding!
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