Welcome to (almost) Fall!
We are moving our publication date to the first Wednesday of the month so that you can have the WHOLE month to enjoy it! Since we just sent an update two weeks ago, today’s newsletter will offer something a little different: a look behind our work. As we have been doing this work of “trying,” many people have asked about HOW we do what we do. What is the process that TryTank uses in creating innovation? We have a method to our madness! Our framework is based on the work of Design Thinking (sometimes also called Human-Centered Design). Simply put, we follow a three-step process is 1) Insight, 2) Idea, and 3) Try it.
Step 1 - Insight. Because the world is always changing around us in unexpected ways, there is always something we can learn that will lead to innovation. Really! No matter how well you know your city, community, or even your congregation, you can always glean insights by intentionally seeking to learn more. A lot of my work at TryTank is research. I read (OK, skim) 6 newspapers a day and many magazines to see what’s new in the world. I also review journals on behavioral science, economics, and even psychology. The key is to bump into something where my interest is piqued. Once there’s an area where I say, “hmm, that’s interesting…what if we did…” then I do more focused research. From interviews with experts to interviews with the public, the key is to keep an open mind and be inquisitive. When was the last time you asked, “what if we did…”? Once there are insights that lead to “what if we did…” questions, we are ready to be playful in coming up with ideas.
Step 2 - Idea. While there are several ways to come up with ideas, one of the ones we try (and love) is the old familiar brainstorm. But this is more like "brainstorm plus"! Here’s how: first, with your team, change your “what if” question to a “how might we” question. The difference is that while one is more about curiosity, the other is more focused on the action of making it happen. Then, brainstorm for at least 30 minutes seeking answers to the “how might we” question. But—and this is the plus part—you must come up with at least 35 ideas. (You can even go longer; the formula for the number of ideas is time plus 5.) As with a regular brainstorming session, at this point don’t worry about the feasibility or anything regarding the ideas. Just come up with the required number. Now, from that list of ideas, select your favorites (2-3) that you want to explore further. I bet you that the ideas you like the most, the ones that will be most creative and that excite you, will be toward the end of the list. It’s amazing how that happens!
Step 3 - Try It. Now, it’s time to try it! At TryTank, we developed a one-page "Mission Canvas" based on the popular Business Canvas used in business. It’s basically a one-page mission business plan that forces you to explore your idea from nine different angles just to make sure you holistically consider the idea. It's limited to one-page is so that you don’t overthink it. This is when most ideas will fall by the side. The key is to get to the minimum viable prototype as quickly as possible so that you can try the idea. Why? Because it will NOT work as you plan. Once an idea hits reality, it will have to adapt. So, think this way: what’s the easiest, fastest, least expensive way we can try this to see if it’ll take? And then try that. Hand-in-hand with trying is evaluating. Nothing fancy, just some metrics to figure a way to see if what you are trying to do does happen. Then you either iterate and try again, or it didn’t work and move on to the next idea (at TryTank, we’ve had both kinds).
Insight, Idea, Try it. Innovation is very much something we as a church can and should do! Are you ready to try new things? How can we help?
The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is the founding director of the TryTank Experimental Lab.