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Students benefit from learning to test their ideas


Maria Haukka

lehtori, HR ja johtaminen
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Päivi Käri-Zein

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 12.12.2023

We have organized a lot of different kinds of creative processes, innovation projects, and hackathons. This blog is based on our own experiences of which tools work best when testing new ideas during the innovation process.

In hackathons or innovation processes the students create lots of new ideas that could be the solution for solving the customer’s problem. Since the problem itself is always customer-based and they vary a lot, so the teacher must have different kinds of tools in the toolkit when testing the ideas. One tool rarely fits all. However, in our opinion, there are plenty of good tools to test business-related problem, but less versatile tools when testing other problems.

Materializing ideas

After ideating and prototyping the students should start materializing the thought ideas. Before choosing the best working tool, the students must decide the ideas they want to test. In hackathon, lots of ideas are being created, but all are not tested. There are also different tools how for choosing the best three ideas. The students can vote or asses the ideas with what? What is the teacher’s role in advising which is the best idea?

One thing is sure about a good tool when working with students; it is simple and unambiguous. It is easy to understand and easy to use. A teacher is not able to facilitate the student teams all the time, so simple and clear instructions are needed. Yet still, the tool must be effective.

Six Thinking Hats – Separating thinking

One tool we find useful with almost all Hackathon problems is Six Thinking Hats. It is a tool that helps to distinguish different angles in thinking. Sometimes the problem in our thinking is that we try to think everything at the same time, and this tool helps us to separate feelings from different styles of thinking.

Many students prefer Six Thinking Hats, and they say that it has helped them in everyday life, too.  They say the tool helped them to understand that their feeling is not a fact, but it is purely a feeling. They find out that what they have thought is analytical thinking is at the end mainly pure criticism. They see how little in our thinking involves clear facts and data and there is a lot of distortion involved.

Other general tools

If the customer’s problem is business-related, the tools we have used most are Business Model Canvas, Lean Model Canvas, Customer Journey Map, Value Proposition Canvas, and Business Value Canvas. Or Five why’s, where you try to get into the roots of the problem. Not all tools are possible to use in one course due to lack of time, but the teacher chooses the best.

How the tools are chosen, depends very much on the situation and the time one can use. Design thinking methods for example can be used so that each time you take a different role. The roles are discovery and definition (one understands the challenge/problem of the company), ideating and prototyping (one explores the challenge) and finally testing (one materializes the challenge and work done). The aim of using these tools is to boost the imagination and give a push to collective wisdom.

Conclusion about testing the ideas

The main point is, that no matter how splendid ideas the students have created, it is advisable they will be tested out thoroughly. That is the only way to find out the missing links, loopholes, or thought distortions during the hackathon process. The diversity of creating ideas could be less exciting, but it might be very important to the participant to understand the process and how to solve problems in a hackathon method.  In addition, the tools teach the students important analytical thinking skills for the future to succeed in the ever-changing environments of businesses.

The HACK-IT project is multinational project and funded by the EU Eramus+. In addition to Haaga-Helia, Kaunas University of Technology, University West, Polytechnic Institute of Bragança and University of Granada are involved in this project.