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The Innovation Process
Activity 4.3 A

Develop concepts

The exercises in this activity will help you develop your ideas into working models and protocols that can be used to evaluate the feasibility of your ideas.

In order to create change an idea must gradually grow and take shape in the real world. Concept development is about cultivating ideas so that they gain more depth, nuance and detail, and recording them in a way that is easily shared with others.

In this activity we provide a number of tools and methods for concept development which can be used in combination. Some of these are focused on creating visual representations of your ideas, while others are focused on capturing your ideas in writing.

Building on the most promising outputs from your Ideation activities, use these tools and methods to develop a number of different concepts. If you are looking to design a solution based on research, this is also the point at which you need to start translating that knowledge into a tangible idea.

Draw It

Draw It is a tool to help you develop a visual representation of your idea – as the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words!’Participants do not need to be great artists for drawing to be a highly useful tool, especially when language barriers might make it difficult to articulate ideas clearly in writing. As IDEO suggest, drawing can help “organize thoughts visually and generally spur ideas and conversation in a different way than talking.”


Storyboarding can be used to create a visual narrative across 6-8 pictures (think of it like a cartoon). This is particularly useful for service design or for imagining each stage of a users’ journey in their interaction with a problem and an envisaged solution. As Mozilla’s Open Innovation Toolkit suggests, Storyboarding can be used to make early ideas concrete, help with feature articulation, and provide a reality check on how a solution might function.

Design the Box

Design the Box is a tool that aims to get you thinking about how a solution might look and feel if it was packaged in a box. This can be done for services as well as products and is a way to help you focus on the most appealing and important elements of your solution. The design of the box itself can be used to gain feedback on the different elements of the concept.


If you are designing a service or process it can be a useful exercise to role play or simulate the way in which users would interact with your service, thinking through where they would be and how they would behave. This can be a fun exercise, but try to make it as realistic as possible, involving potential users and target groups if this is feasible and appropriate. Nesta and IDEO’s Designing for Public Services toolkit provides two similar exercises based on roleplaying (p59) and simulation (p60).

Service Design Concept

If you are designing a service or a process it is a good idea to map out the key activities and touchpoints from the first interaction to the end of the journey in order to add detail to your concept. The Service Design Toolkit provides a useful Service Design Concept tool to work through each activity and touchpoint; this can be completed after using roleplaying and simulation to provide inspiration.

Creating Concepts

Throughout all your activities to date, you will have generated and captured lots of ideas for a potential solution. Creating Concepts is about capturing the richness of your ideas in one place, bringing them together in a ‘Concept Capture Sheet’ to provide a single overview of the various aspects of your concept. Nesta and IDEO’s Designing for Public Services toolkit provides further guidance on creating a concept on p47.