Innovation Ideas on a Napkin: How to Make It Work?

An idea napkin is the written equivalent of the elevator pitch. An increasing number of our clients is using them as an intermediate step in ideation. They bring ideas to life for the first time and can be used for initial idea screening. But what are idea napkins? And how do you develop them?


What is it?

An idea napkin looks as follows:


How to make an idea napkin?


An idea napkin is a very simple tool that forces you to synthesize the main value drivers of your solution by describing it in simple terms across the following five steps:


1. Give the idea a name: Finding a title for your idea forces you as an ideator to clarify, in very simple terms, the key benefits of the idea. It also stimulates ownership and ease of sharing.

2. Describe the idea in one sentence: In just one sentence you clarify the general idea proposed.

3. Explain what issues the idea solves: To give further details, it is important to clarify which customer needs or issues are solved by the proposed idea. This step requires you to synthesize and clarify who the target customer or user is, and what needs of such user the idea being described addresses.

4. Clarify how the user profits from the idea: The next step is to explain how the idea tackles the needs and how it benefits the customer or user.

5. Sketch how the idea solves the issue: The last step is for you to visually sketch how their idea solves a customer problem in three steps, making the idea come to life. This step is important to stimulate ideates to tell a story from the perspective of the target customer – what she goes through and how the proposed solution works and looks like. Areas that we typically focus on in this prototyping/sketching include clarifying the user experience and the solution or user interface. The sketches/drawings can be very simple (see the figure below as an example).




An example case: Baloise Insurance’s B-Tonic

This example comes from an insurance company, Baloise Insurance, whom we work with. A team at Baloise had an idea: Why not expanding Baloise’s services to help people live heathier lives?


By constructing an idea napkin, the idea started to come to life. Let’s take a look at the different components of an idea napkin applied to the B-Tonic case:

1. Idea name: Even though the original idea name was different, over time the team came up with the name “B-Tonic”.

2. Idea description in one sentence: A digital platform that offers solutions for people who would like to be fitter, to improve their health or to improve their performance in terms of sports and healthy lifestyle.

3. Issues that the idea solves: Many people willing to be healthier face problems such as feeling they do not have enough time, do not have enough motivation or lack of expertise.

4. Clarifying how the user profits from the idea: The idea proposed is a platform that offers fitness tests, personalized training advice, subscription to running events and tips for healthy eating, thereby helping people who want to improve their health and performance a way to do so.

5. Sketching how the idea solves the issue: The figure below shows an original sketch done for B-Tonic’s idea napkin, which includes three steps (needs – problems – solution).



Eventually, in this case, Baloise Insurance – together with other partners - took the sketch to market and ultimately launched B-Tonic, a platform that helps people be more physically and mentally healthy.



To Conclude

It is very important to bring your ideas to life and ensure they are captured in a systematic and easy to share and to compare format. Idea napkins help you achieve these goals.

This is just a high-level example of one of our ideation tools and templates. We described here a pretty general idea napkin template that we use to capture early-stage ideas. Depending on the context of each specific company, in an actual ideation and innovation trajectory, we sometimes customize tools like the idea napkin and combine them with several other tools and frameworks to allow us to ensure a seamless and complete harvesting of the relevant ideas and identification of the best ones to pursue in subsequent stages.


Want to start using idea napkins as a tool yourself? Download our idea napkin here.

© 2020 MTI² (The Marketing, Technology, & Innovation Institute)

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