Design Thinking Toolkit, Activity 22 – Cover Story

It’s time to think big and envision a grand future for your project or organization. Cover Story asks participants to suspend reality and dream up a story worthy of the cover of a major publication.

Primary Goal To dream big about future goals
When to Use As a jump start for ideation
Time Required 20-40 minutes
Number of Participants 1-10+
Who Should Participate? Any members of the team
Supplies Magazine template and drawing utensils

Cover Story is an activity that requires vision, imagination, and wit. Participants will dream of a future state that is so mind blowing, it lands the organization on the cover of a famous magazine.

Interestingly, the strength of this activity lies in the fact that participants will pretend that this future has already taken place — the goal has already been achieved! This line of thinking helps people envision how big ideas can become a reality. All you need is a little imagination.

Prep the Template

To get started, choose a publication that’s appropriate for the organization’s industry. For example, a financial institution might land the cover of The Wall Street Journal. For a medical-focused business, it could be The New England Journal of Medicine. You can also allow participants to choose a publication where they’d like to see the company featured. They may even surprise you with an unexpected, aspirational, industry-jumping choice.

Now make the cover story template. You could create this on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper, on large Post-it canvas sheets, on sections of whiteboard, or even digitally for remote collaboration by using tools like Mural or Miro.

The template should include the following sections:

  • Brainstorm – Initial ideas and notes for the cover story
  • Cover – An image showing the company’s success
  • Headline(s) – Punchy quips describing the substance of the cover story
  • Sidebars – Notable tidbits from the cover story
  • Quotes – Comments from relevant organization members or famous fans
  • Images – Illustrations, graphs, and/or photos that support the article

Organize the template however you see fit. Feel free to get creative and add additional sections.

For smaller groups (six or fewer), each participant should have their own copy of the template to complete. For large groups, break participants into teams of two to four.

Run the Activity!

Pass out the templates to individuals or groups. Describe the activity and the purpose of each segment of the template. Then guide the group through the process of completing the template.

  1. Brainstorm big stories. Encourage wild and wacky ideas. If you’re working with large groups, have everyone do this step on their own. Then add another five minutes for each person to present their ideas to the group. (5 minutes)
  2. Select one story to use for the rest of the activity. (3 minutes)
  3. Push the story a little further. What would really send it over the top? Challenge participants to dig deep into their creative reserves. (3 minutes)
  4. Complete all sections of the template using your chosen story. (20 minutes)
  5. Present your story to the group.

Once all stories are shared, circle back and have everyone dot vote on favorite stories or discuss which ones really resonated. Note any common vision themes and areas of agreement. Ask for observations, insights, and concerns about the future state. If any stories really stick, discuss what steps the company would need to take to achieve that goal. OKR would be a great activity to follow this one.

Dream big! And let us know in the comments how you ideate with teammates.

This activity is based on the The Grove Consultants International’s Leaders Guide.

Atomic’s Design Thinking Toolkit