Written by S’bu Msimango, student of Master in Customer Experience and Innovation at IE University

Impact Hub Madrid provides space for co-working and events, as well as specialised professional and support services for entrepreneurs who form part of their community.  It makes perfect sense, then, for the hub to have an interest in an incubation programme, as this would plug right into the entrepreneurship ecosystem the hub has already created.  The real challenge for our team with respect to an incubator programme, was how to design something new and competitive, in a space that is so saturated.  There are thousands of incubator programmes around the world.  What would make this one stand out?

In part 1, I spoke about the ambiguity and complexity that characterises innovation and human-centred design work.  This project, at its very onset, was no exception. 

The first step in overcoming uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in any design and innovation challenge, is to invoke HCD’s cardinal principle of empathy.  We thus set out to understand the needs of our customer (Impact Hub) and the end-user (entrepreneurs).  Finding out what pains, frustrates and motivates them was our first task.  The entire process that we followed can be summarised with the following steps of the Design Thinking approach: 

  1. Empathise

We undertook research in order to understand the people we were designing a solution for and the environment within which they operate.  This involved interviewing multiple entrepreneur profiles within and outside of Impact Hub.

  1. Define

We reframed the challenge in terms of the insights from our preliminary research.

  1. Ideate

We had multiple ideation sessions which included brainstorming, user journey  mapping, as well as co-creation workshops with Impact Hub’s management team.

  1. Prototype

We narrowed down to the ideas which had the best combination of high impact and high feasibility, and we designed service blueprints which allowed us to visualise how the incubator model would be operationalised.

  1. Test

To test the critical activities which we had built into the proposed incubation programme, we simulated the activities with real start-up teams of entrepreneurs.  Based on the results we iterated and fine-tuned the solution.

 Following this best practice process in HCD, is what helped us to deliver a final product which may not have been a reinvention of how incubation is done, but it was certainly designed to fit snuggly into the purpose and broad objectives of Impact Hub, while meeting the needs of a vast array of entrepreneur profiles.     

About the author: S’bu Msimango is Business Strategy and Design professional from Johannesburg, South Africa.  He is currently based in Madrid, where he is studying towards a Master in Customer Experience and Innovation through IE University. 




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