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Story Line Development Guide

How To Identify The Significance Of Your Concept

The Story Line

An effective story line is one of the most important keys to a successful proposal. A "winning" story line successfully addresses each of the following questions. Satisfactory responses to these seemingly simple questions are deceptively difficult to generate. One procedure for generating substantive answers is to "Ask WHY three times." Consider, for example, the question, "Why is this an important idea?" Take your first answer and ask yourself, "Why is THAT important?" Take your second answer and ask again, "Why is THAT important?" If you can "ask WHY three times," you can be sure you are finally getting to important issues and concepts. In short, beware of the quick answer; strive for clarity of thought; look for higher organizing principles.

Key Questions

  1. What is the perceived opportunity? Consider both technical and commercial opportunities.
  2. Why is this a significant idea? Consider the technical, economic and social impact.
  3. What is the key insight? Diagram the insight symbolically.
  4. What specific technical innovation is proposed? Illustrate it schematically.
  5. Why hasn't it been done before? Why don't we do it today?
  6. What are the key technical risks? Label them high, medium or low.
  7. How are you planning to address each risk? Summarize each plan as an objective.
  8. How will you know if you've overcome the technical risk associated with your approach?
  9. Define a measurable milestones for each technical objective? Be specific.
  10. What evidence can you provide that you have a chance of being successful?
  11. What makes you uniquely qualified to do this research? "Nothing" is not an acceptable answer.
  12. Why is Phase I an important precursor to Phase II? How does it "set the table?"
  13. How do you define "proof of practicality?" That is, what will you do in Phase II?
  14. What's the Phase II deliverable? Can you "sweeten the pot" for your technical monitor?
  15. Is the proposed effort synergistic with corporate goals? How so? Be specific.
  16. Does the proposed effort involve any new technology tracks? If so, they must be justified.
  17. Broadly speaking, what is the Phase III commercialization plan? That is, at this time:

What is the product? What are its marketable advantages? What will it sell for?
How much product development will be needed beyond Phase II? Are investors needed?
What will be the first market? Who will be the first customer? Who will be the competition?
How big is the market? Who will manufacture/distribute the product?

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