Skip to main content

Quick Start

Tool KitQuick StartI have an idea

I have an idea

Ready to take your idea to the next level? Check out these tools to keep the momentum going and take your ideas further toward implementation.



When it comes to problem-solving, what people do is just as important as what they say.

For example, people will sometimes forget steps when describing how they do something. Or, they may explain something one way, and do it a different way… without even noticing!

By observing people, you can see exactly how they engage with your challenge.

Example: If you’re designing a new shopping cart for a supermarket, a shopper may describe how they shop but forget to point out that they often carry a cup of coffee, which makes it hard to push the cart with one hand. If you observe the shopper, you’d notice that detail.

Three Steps for Observation

  1. Identify what activities you want to observe and where to do it. Natural environments are ideal because they allow you to see how people are really interacting.
  2. Let the users know you’ll be observing, if necessary. In settings like stores or malls, you can unobtrusively gather information by observing from afar. If you’re watching someone use a website or a similar close-up observation, you’ll want to set it up ahead of time.
  3. Take detailed notes about what you observe, so you can refer back to them in your Research Download.


One of the best ways to understand people is to talk to them.

Conducting interviews is a key part of doing primary research and learning what people want and need. Interviewing also helps identify barriers and obstacles that provide an opportunity for improvement.

Three Steps to Ace Interviewing

  1. Think about what you want to learn and use that as a starting point to write a list of five to seven questions.
  2. Schedule 30-minute time slots with interviewees and go prepared with your questions.
  3. Let the interviewee know that you’ll be taking notes. You can also ask to record the interview if you think you’ll want to go back to refer to it later.

Top Tips for Interviewing

  • Make sure to think about everyone who has a relationship to your challenge. People Mapping will help you identify those you need to connect with.
  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no.
  • Use the phrase “tell me more” to get your interviewee to elaborate and provide additional information.
  • Stay on track! You may be enjoying your interview… especially if your interview subject is interesting and engaging. But, don’t forget the reason for the interview. Your goal is to learn as much as possible.
  • Ask the interviewee to tell you a story about the last time they were in a situation, used a product, followed a service, or did anything related to what you’re trying to learn.
  • Take very detailed notes of your conversation so you can refer back to them. If you only jot down the theme of your conversation, you may lose the substance of what your interviewee shared.
  • Consider going as a team of two to each interview — one person can speak and the other can take notes.
  • Write down your interviewees’ age, gender, and whatever else might be noteworthy about that person (Does the fact that your interviewee is a mom of two inform her opinion?). This will allow you to segment your insight and better develop solutions for different populations.


Ready to talk? Use this worksheet to guide your Interviewing.

Download PDF


Need/Know Matrix

The Need/Know Matrix helps shake out what is critical for the success of your idea and what should be tested before moving forward.

There are two things you need to think about here:

  1. Critical vs. non-critical — Is this item critical to the success of your idea? If the assumption is wrong, will the idea still be possible to execute? If not, then it’s a critical assumption.
  2. Known vs. unknown — Do you know, or can you easily find out through simple research, if this assumption is true? If you would have to do a test to validate or find out, then it’s unknown.

Three Steps for the Need/Know Matrix

  1. Using sticky notes, jot down all your assumptions (one per sticky) about the challenge or project.
  2. Using a quadrant chart (each point should be labeled with the following: Critical, Not Critical, Known, and Unknown), plot each sticky note in the appropriate quadrant.
  3. All the assumptions that fall in the Critical Unknown quadrant should be tested before moving forward to ensure that the idea is realistic and feasible for implementation.

Here’s an example of how the Need/Know Matrix works: When the founder of Zappos was building the company, he designed his plan on the assumption that people would buy shoes online, sight unseen — a novel idea at the time. Before investing loads of money into implementation, he needed to test this assumption.

Because his assumption was critical to his idea, yet unknown at the time, you would place this assumption in the upper right quadrant of the matrix, Critical and Unknown.

Need/Know Matrix

Get started with your own Need/Know Matrix. Use this worksheet to guide you.

Download PDF

Rapid Prototyping

You don’t know if an idea will work until you try it — that’s where Rapid Prototyping comes in.

It’s a quick and dirty way to test out your idea to better understand what works and what needs work.

A prototype can be made of anything — it can be a block of wood to stand in for a new design for a phone, a skit to act out how a new service would work, or a hand-drawn storyboard that maps out each step in a new app.

Think about what your idea is all about and test it with something tangible for people to react to.

Three Steps for Rapid Prototyping

  1. Experiment with different ways to make your idea real. There is rarely one way to express your idea to others. Here are some ideas: Tell a story, perform it, draw your idea, build it, create a comic strip, or make a collage.
  2. Unveil your prototype and share it with as many people as you can. Get their feedback! What works? What could be better?
  3. Make the changes you hear from your users. Then, repeat the process!