Things have definitely gotten out of hand. Executives in suits are rummaging around in the LEGO box, a tall man is putting on a wig and speaking in a high-pitched voice, and a group has hijacked all the furniture to build what looks suspiciously like a fortress. Not a scene from an asylum, but the Prototyping phase of THNK’s Creation Flow. It’s time to turn new ideas and visions into something tangible, a product that can be used and tested, broken up and rebuilt a dozen times. For innovation leadership, this is a crucial step in the creative process.
It is virtually impossible to develop creative solutions to complex challenges and get this perfectly right the first time around, hence prototyping. Prototyping is about quickly fabricating the envisioned solution, then going through multiple iterations of testing it with users and fabricating new versions. The cost of fabrication should be low and the process of making and testing should be rapid. This is why a more accurate word for prototyping would be polytyping – it’s all about iteration.
There are three important advantages of Prototyping:
- Prototyping makes a concept tangible. One can use all senses to design the proposed concept. It allows thinking with one’s hands.
- Prototyping allows us to see if and how the various elements of the solution work together. It enforces consistency and completeness.
- Prototyping triggers concrete and pointed feedback.
Innovation leaders should be champions of prototyping and many that have visited us are. Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels states that the customer’s reaction to the prototype is crucial, so get a prototype out to users quickly, preferably within days. Pixar tool creation director Michael B. Johnson stresses that it should not be a description of the prototype, but the actual thing, a working product, no matter how ugly or clunky – otherwise you are working with assumptions all the time.