White & Dark Horsing

The white & dark horse terminology originates in horse racing and was widely adopted in politics. In innovation, white horse ideas are more conventional solutions to your challenge. Dark horse ideas are solutions that may seem unfeasible but have a chance to be great. Typically, when we ask people to think of a solution, they come up with white horse ideas due to cognitive fixation (i.e., focus on solutions that have worked in the past or small tweaks to existing solutions) and fear of judgment (i.e., self-censorship for the fear of being judged by others). That is why we use the dark horsing symbolism to push participants to develop bigger, more impactful, and less conventional solutions.

White & dark horsing typically follows the How Might We (HMW) phase, in which innovators develop different solutions for their HMWs. A few important tips when white & dark horsing:

  • Go for quantity: The more ideas you have the great the chance of a great one
  • Place a time constraint on ideation: Avoids people getting stuck on one idea
  • Defer judgment: It’s all about developing ideas and not killing them
  • Build on each other’s ideas: Use the ‘yes, and…’ theatre technique
White and dark horsing tool download
  • Mix group and individual work: Work in groups, but allow for time to think individually
  • Bring people clearly in the mindset of dark horsing: For example, put a picture of a dark horse, have a different coloured post-it for dark horsing, set out time for dark horsing, …
  • Prime people to think wilder: For example, ask them what would be the ideal solution, think of analogies from other industries, don’t underestimate science, …

Download the White & Dark Horsing tool

White and dark horsing tool download