Nearly all stories in entertainment – books, films, plays – follow a pattern.

The three-act story forms the basis for most of written literature and has been refined over centuries into five acts. You’ll find most stories go something like this:

  • Act 1 No knowledge / Awakening
  • Act 2 Doubt / Acceptance
  • Act 3 Experiment with knowledge / Breakthrough
  • Act 4 Regression / Doubt
  • Act 5 Re-awakening / Mastery

The concept of the theatrical Dramatic Arc follows a similar form and you may recognise this structure:

  • Act 1 Call to action
  • Act 3 Initial objective
  • Act 3 Midpoint
  • Act 4 Things start going wrong
  • Act 5 Victory or defeat

Whether or not you notice it, the climax of a story regularly comes at the midpoint: the part where the hero’s partner dies unexpectedly or she/he has to overcome another devastating event. After this, the story is about resolution or revenge. Sounding familiar? It should be. It doesn’t matter if you watch Seinfeld, Friends, EastEnders or Hamlet, the structure is the same.

Switch thoughts (but don’t forget this). We’ve discussed before that creative thinking doesn’t need a process. Innovation does, however, need to exist within a framework so we can capture the potential the creativity might promise.

One framework is Design Thinking. Classically the process looks like this:

  • Act 1 Empathy – with the customers
  • Act 2 Define – the problem
  • Act 3 Ideate – examine solutions
  • Act 4 Prototype – make some and…
  • Act 5 Test them

The parallels with familiar literature structures are clear except, in the case of innovation, we tend to think of the product launch as the climax of the process, Act 5. In literature, it’s the third act. The midpoint.

Who has it right? Well, rationally the ideation phase is always the fun part but one that is usually limited to a single (or a very few) workshops. If it were possible to have repeated innovation denouements and to rate concepts easily on the spot, the act of ideation would become the main event.

room44 has developed a Sprint workflow that focuses on the theatrical ‘midpoint’ and the essential creativity that we believe must sit behind great innovation. The idea of a Sprint isn’t necessarily to conclude the whole process in a week (although that does happen), but to establish what is truly and strategically important. Our Sprint process goes:

  • Act 1 Insight – examine what you already know about a problem
  • Act 2 Research – look deeper into the issue
  • Act 3 Create – ideation by another name
  • Act 3 Review – assess the ideas comparatively and agnostically
  • Act 5 Select – choose some to prototype and look at them again before you do

Is this making a meal out of trying to understand the consumer need?

Absolutely. It’s a kind of contemporary version of the adage ‘measure twice, cut once’.

Successful innovation depends on being creative and focusing on the need of consumers now and in the future market they will occupy.

Average company life expectancy is fast approaching a single decade. To survive in the new world of fast start-up, fast demise business, the innovator with longevity in mind has to maintain an evolving understanding of the future.

There is no shortcut to getting this as right as you can. If it means extending the ‘process’, so be it.

Future thinking. Future proofing. www.room44.co.uk

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