As a structured show and tell technique, use Lightning Demos in your next design process for a simple way to gather ideas and inspiration for potential solutions to the challenge your organisation is looking to solve.
The purpose of Lightning Demos is to share ideas and spark the team’s imagination before thinking of solutions for your own projects. By drawing inspiration from something that already exists, you can gather useful components from a variety of contexts and consider how you could adapt them to serve as a springboard for solving your organisation’s design challenge.
Lightning Demos are used during the empathy and research phase of a design process. With a rough idea of the challenge you’re looking to solve, this technique acts as a way to gather inspiration to give you a wide range of concepts to choose from when you start the creative ideation process.
Start by giving everyone on your team time to individually research ideas, find inspirational solutions and good designs. 25 minutes tends to work well as a time limit, as it allows enough time to gather inspiration but is short enough to keep the research focused and concise. Depending on how you’ve structured your design process, you might ask your participants to do this research in advance (eg: the night before) and come ready to share their top ideas at your next session.
Ideas that spark the best solutions often come from similar problems in different environments outside your industry, so remind participants to think outside the box. Additionally, the ideas don’t have to be visual - they can be concepts, things you’ve heard somewhere or even something that your team are working on that you think might be worth sharing.
Once the 25 minutes is up, your team will then take turns giving three minute demos of their favourite solutions. One at a time, each person gives a tour of their inspiration, showing the whole team what’s so cool about it and encapsulating one “big idea” which is what they love about it.
As each person is presenting, one person will act as a scribe to capture this big idea. To do this, use sticky notes and write the big idea as a headline and make sure to note the source of the idea. In summarising it, try to focus on answering the question of “What’s the big idea here that might be useful?”. The key is to keep the ideas concise - summarise the main ideas presented without capturing details that detract from the primary takeaway. It can also be helpful to include a high-level sketch of the idea on each sticky note too. You can also get participants to prepare their own sticky notes before they present if you wish.
You can put these notes up on a whiteboard or wall as you go. At this stage, don’t worry about which ideas should be discarded and which ones are worth exploring further, just capture anything that might be useful. After everyone’s had a turn, you should now have a big board of ideas that can act as a source of inspiration as you dive deeper into the design process.
It should be noted that Lightning Demos can easily be conducted remotely if you are running a virtual design process. People can share screenshots, images and videos that you can easily upload to a virtual whiteboard such as a Mural or Miro.