Three Cakes

A fun warmup and ideation hybrid to show that Design Thinking is an iterative process, and each phase must produce actionable building blocks that get better and better over time.

What It's Best For

  • Warmup and Introduction to Ideation
  • Learning Design Thinking Concepts

Time Required

  • 10 mins10 mins

Required Materials

  • (3) Blank Sheets of Paper
  • Sharpie or Pen


  • Remote or In-person

Ideal Group Size

  • AnyAny

How to use or facilitate:

  1. Ask each participant to grab three sheets of blank paper and a pen.
  2. Starting with the first sheet, give the group 30 seconds to draw a cake. The idea here is to keep it short and simple.
  3. Once everyone is finished, ask them to put away the first sheet and take a fresh, blank one. This time, give the group 2 minutes to draw a cake. They can add as many layers, candles, sprinkles as they choose, but they must use the full 2 minutes.
  4. Now, using the third and final sheet, give the group 5 minutes to draw a cake. Again, they can add anything they like, but they must use the full 5 minutes.
  5. Time to share! Ask 1-2 participants to share all 3 of their drawings. Note the differences between each iteration. Was everyone able to draw a complete, tasty-looking cake in 30 seconds? With extra time, what were they able to add that they couldn’t before?
  6. Explain to the group that ideation is a process that gets better and better over time, but each iteration should at the minimum solve for the problem at hand. With 30 seconds, they may have only been able to draw a cupcake, while in 5 minutes they may have created a 3-tiered wedding cake. The experience differs depending on the time and effort they can spend on making and delivering it, but either version is a complete, delicious treat.


The Takeaway:

Each go-round of any product or project you’re working on should be bigger and better than the one before it. Your first idea may not have all the bells and whistles, but it should be a satisfying piece of value on its own. You may not create a wedding cake on Day 1, but at least you?ll have a nice cupcake to enjoy while you continue to iterate 🙂

The diagram below by Henrik Kniberg is another great example of the Minimum Viable Product concept, or the cupcake to your wedding cake. Instead of building a car one wheel at a time, start with a skateboard. This way you have a viable mode of transportation as you continue towards your ultimate goal of a BMW.



To transform this exercise into a full ideation session, add a Step 7. In the extended version, select an actual product, service, or experience and replicate the same activities to create three actionable concepts that range from simple to complex.

Need help facilitating your Three Cakes?

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