Surprise yourself with ideas you didn’t yet know, you know
Reading lenghts: 15min;
Content: Usage example; Personal case
Keywords: #planning; #structure; #ideation; #strong sides; #risks and issues; #solutions; #kick-of activity; #personal goals
In this article, I will describe how I used the sailboat method to help myself
plan the achievement of my goal. Whenever we start something new, our thoughts
often bounce from one question to another. Should I do this, or maybe I could
do that. All of these ideas are without any doubt good and worth to be written
down. Yet, even if I see all of them in front of me written on A4 paper, it doesn't
mean this list gives me a holistic picture of the situation and all essential
factors impacting it. To gain such a view, I can use methods like the sailboat.
The sailboat method will help structure known and hint at the areas still to
When it's worth using this method?
It is always worth spending time and energy on the initiatives or goals significant for yourself. They say that the most important step in the right direction is the first step. From one side, I do agree since the first step is often the hardest. In the meantime, I disagree since the wrong first step can happen to be the killer of the idea and motivation. That's why I believe that the first step should be the right level of assessment and planning. And I don't mean work breakdown here– a list of things to do, start and due dates of these things, etc. Not because I'm against the work breakdown structures, but because I think it's even more important to understand WHY some of these tasks should be in the plan. Why they are needed, what will be the benefit achieved after the job is done, and to what extent it really impacts the achievement of the goal. And again – sailboat is one of those go-to methods for such analysis and planning.
By the way, it's valuable not only when we start something new. What about projects and goals we wanted to achieve but are stuck somewhere in the middle? Do we dedicate too little energy to these goals or focus on the wrong things? Hard to say? The same happens with me, no worries. And wouldn't it be a great idea to refresh the dream -> goal strategy using a different approach like the sailboat method? At first, it will give you a framework to sort out things you already know. And second – not less important – allow rethinking and discover several new aspects regarding the goal achievement.
What were my thinking and actions?
Further in this article, I will describe how I used the sailboat method to structure and plan a go-to-market strategy for this blog. I'll explain each step and give some examples of the discoveries and ideas I've generated. It took me approximately 45 minutes to finish the whole exercise. As it often happens, also I felt that I should spend more time generating ideas in the last steps. Yet, the steps are time-bound on purpose, and I've followed the rules. I can return to the exercise anytime later with the new ideas that cross my mind.
I'll also give some reminders about key focus points in each step to make it more transparent.
Before I jumped in and got my hands dirty with ideas writing, I needed to prepare the workboard and all the materials I would use during the game.
If I would have used digital tools, I could enjoy using pre-made templates and not need post-its and markers. Yet, since I know digital tools are not accessible or comfortable for many, I've decided to give an example using the pre-Covid normal. We used to use a whiteboard (or white paper) and post its + markers for these sessions, so that's what I have done this time. The picture of the article gives a visual representation of that.
Island – what do I want to achieve?
The objective or the goal I want to achieve needs to be as simple and clear as possible. Preferably it also should be measurable. Otherwise, a broad description will steel my focus, and an unmeasurable formulation will make it hard for me to understand if I'm on the right path to reach the goal later on. Therefore it's worth investing time and finding the proper formulation. To give an example, I've described my thinking below.
At first, I need to understand WHY I am doing this.
The essence of why I am writing this blog and these articles is to share my ideas and experience of using these methods to, hopefully, inspire others to try them too. It can happen only if people know about my blog, so my core focus is on "People do know about my blog." But would it be a suitable formulation of the goal?
No, it would not yet. First of all, knowledge doesn't mean that people would visit and read the content. Second, I haven't added anything that can be measurable and thus help me understand if I'm hitting the plan. So I have to be more concrete and specific. After meditating around the objective, I've formulated an alternative, "Mingler has 10 000 visitors by September 2022" which fits better. Yes, I know 10k sounds a lot from where I come from. Yet we should dream big, and more challenging targets mobilize more, so I stick with it.
The boat – what will help me reach this target?
In the same way, the definition of the driving force towards the goal achievement needs to be specific and concentrate on the core. It's worth investing the time to find a fit definition instead of picking the first that comes into mind. My thinking is below.
So what would be the core driving force to help my blog reach 10 000 visitors by September 2022? The first that comes into mind is "Me," isn't it? Yet it's not correct since I'm not going to find 10 000 and drag them one by one into the blog. But what would be then?
The next obvious is paid advertisement, isn't it? That would be easy – nice slogans, tempting call to action, and visitors do arrive. Kind of, yet it's not my target to have paid traffic. And I don't plan to spend the money on advertising at all. My target is to inspire people and engage them in using these approaches for their problem-solving. And the only way how I can do it is through exciting and engaging content. Only content can convince people and raise interest to come again.
So "engaging content" would be the proper driving force, do you agree? I think not yet; this formulation is not yet good enough. I don't have plenty of content in front of me to choose from; I still need to create it. And that's quite important in this context, so I stay with the formulation "I'm creating valuable and engaging content." Now feels comfortable to proceed.
The sails – what can help me boost the driving force?
If it was worth spending time to think and rethink the formulation and ideas in the previous two steps, then starting from this step is the opposite —the more ideas about the boosters of the content, the better. Don't waste time thinking about what is right or wrong, fit to the case or not. Simply write down all that comes into your mind on the post-its. Therefore sure will be the use of any idea.
I give myself 8 minutes and generate eleven aspects that could help my driving force "I'm creating valuable and engaging content" reach the target "Mingler has 10 000 visitors by September 2022".
I can see straight away that there are a couple of clusters my ideas are flying around. First, how I could use my experience and knowledge in the field. Second, the importance of site visitors' feedback. Third and then the majority, of course, is regarding the different content and topics I could write about to make it relevant.
Anchors – what obstacles could prevent me from reaching the target?
Still the same – more is better. No paralysis by analysis. Set a time limit, and off you go writing down all that comes into your mind.
I use the same amount of time, and this time I came up with five potential issues that could make it harder for me to reach the target.
I've generated fewer ideas than in the previous step, yet it's not a sign that there are fewer blockers are than boosters. Blockers like "People don't have time to read the content" could be more powerful than multiple boosters combined. Other blockers I've come up with also are significant and touching the relevance, interest, and availability themes.
Interestingly enough, I've included topics like "accessibility of information" in the boosters and blockers as well. It's not the same formulation in both cases, yet the underlying idea is the same. I am mentioning it to say it's not wrong, precisely the opposite – it is very good. It shows me how important this point is for my target. I can focus on this one instead of two different ideas, and, if done right, I can strengthen the driving force and eliminate the risk with the same effort. Can shoot two rabbits with one shot.
Buoys and the scissors – how can fight the anchors?
I typically spend more time on potential solutions generation since there are multiple aspects already in the anchor area, so there are more questions to think about. I spent 10 minutes on the scissors and 10 minutes on the buoys. The quantity continues to be the king, and I write down every idea that crosses my mind.
I can figure out at least one potential scissor for each of the anchors. For example, to minimize the risk of "People will not have time to read my articles," I thought I could develop alternative, shorter formats to pass the core idea with the hope to trigger curiosity in more people. Or, to minimize the risk of "People will not see significant value from the standalone method" I could create a series of methods or receipts for different circumstances that could help people see it through. Because often one method indeed might not be enough. Including this session – there are many ideas, but it would be even more valuable to continue with the other methods to sort and group these ideas, ideate about attractive implementation solutions.
I've figured out also some of the buoys that could help where scissors wouldn't. One good example regards the risk of "People will not find value/interest in content I've created" is the idea of an effective feedback mechanism allowing me to get more insights. Pure feedback mechanisms wouldn't eliminate the risk but would help me mitigate it for sure.
I've generated 32 ideas and focus points in 45 minutes. While some of the ideas I wrote down were kind of obvious, others weren't. Especially buoys and scissors. So I'm pretty satisfied at this point. Yet it's not the end; it's only the beginning. First of all, I could spend extra effort on grouping and prioritizing all of the ideas. Second of all – there is plenty of work to do regards designing and implementing these ideas. But that's another method that will follow.
Wouldn't it be better to involve more people in this game?
Indeed, it would be precious. More people, more perspectives, and more ideas are always helpful. Not only would we generate more ideas, but we would also have a chance to discuss the ideas and see which ones complement each other and which ones on the opposite are confronting.
Yet, if you don't have or don't want to involve other people, it shouldn't stop you from doing the exercise at all—better something than nothing.
Did you like this method and the description of it?
Do give me a note about it.
I will appreciate it if you include in your message what you did like, what you think should be improved, and of course, any other ideas that would be worth experimenting with.
Maybe you want to join me in some of the method experiments?
Do you have interest or experience in this method usage?
I would love to hear your example. Let me know.