Skip to content

Fast and Furious – Don’t Fall in Love With Your First Try! Perfect Rapid Prototyping?!

By Karla Schlaepfer
design thinking, ideo palo alto, prototyping, fail forward, creativity, innovative solutions, user needs, customer perspective

As a Design Thinking facilitator, I love the enthusiasm that is fired up when teams start building their prototypes! SO much creative energy is generated – fast and furious.

SO many teams want to add loving details to their objects, skits or digital mock- ups. They even become a little possessive. These are often the same participants, who want to explain to the testers or potential customers the intention or meaning of their prototype and how to use it. It is sometimes hard when potential customers don’t get just how great the idea is (!), or to accept criticism, however constructive, as a useful and necessary part of this learning process. Finding out the weak points or what’s missing from the users’ perspective is SO essential. Icon test prototypeThis shows us where to tweak, what to improve or adapt!

In any case, in order to get genuine, honest feedback from the tester, you have to let go. The tester should feel invited to discover the uses on his or her own. Ideally, the design thinking prototypes should tell a story and explain themselves.

There are different kinds of prototypes. Physical prototypes and service prototypes for example. A prototype could be an arrangement of post-it’s to simulate an app or software or an improvement of an internal company process. Or a role play where a service experience is acted out, like buying a something in a store or being a patient in the hospital. Or it could even be a landscape made of Lego where a future work office or learning center is shown. The prototype is a model and should not be too detailed or perfect. This is one reason it should be made fast (=rapid) with readily available everyday materials – anything, from paper plates to play dough is good enough.

Prototyping is a core part of the design thinking or human-centered design process. Rapid prototyping is a kind of experimentation. IDEO’s Tom Kelley called this kind of physical modelling of the service or product idea, “thinking with your hands”. This kind of fast prototyping lets you make your ideas real so they can be tested through the interaction with potential customers right away without too much cost or time invest. The user provides feedback and point out shortcomings which show if your model fulfills an unmet met or not. This lets you know if you’ve on the right way towards a viable or innovative solution that might even spark a “Wow” from the user.

Then it’s back to the drawing board to adapt what you’ve learned!

Here some cool links for prototyping insights:

More on Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a journey. It is used to change the way people work and how they develop creative solutions for problems. And how to seed innovation in a systematic manner. Born many years ago to an extended groups of innovative thinkers, designers and educators in and beyond Stanford, California, the method was back then and is still now grounded in the truly understanding the needs of customer or user. In order for this 6-phase process to take hold and become part of a company’s mentality, design thinking requires commitment and support from management and essential resources like time and flexible space. Why space? Because the physical environment where the ideas/solutions are generated by creative teams has to be versatile enough to support movement, visualization, experimentation and prototyping.

It is used by DAX companies like SAP, Procter & Gamble and Google. Increasingly, by smaller and mid-sized companies, non-profits and governmental and state agencies. And continues to win supporters.