Prototyping is well-known for product- and ICT development. In other cases, prototyping is rarely done.

Do you know prototyping can be extremely valuable? For every solution!

Here are six reasons to prototype.

(and tools and templates you can use immediately)

The system

In most ‘traditional’ organizations, when new processes, services, cultures, missions, workplaces or strategies are developed, it often happens by making a detailed plan first, next the solution is developed fully and then the whole thing is “rolled out” (we’ve written about these pitfalls a lot…). Sometimes there is some testing involved, but this often takes place when the solution is already largely developed. Prototyping is rarely done. What a pity.

What is prototyping?

Prototyping is aimed to test concepts quickly and cheap. It consist of two elements: creating and testing. Making the idea tangible in order to test and refine. Embodying the new and test it in an iterative way. An iterative process of shaping and feedback to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea. The focus is on exploring the future through action, involving the integration of head, heart and hands.

How does it work?

First, it’s about creating a prototype. “You cannot have brilliant ideas in the abstract”. This is about making (abstract) ideas tangible. Possible solutions are made explicit in forms that other people can see, hear, feel or experience in other ways.  To communicate about what could be. To try, to experiment, to test assumptions at an early stage and encourage people to add and contribute opportunities.

A prototype is nothing more than a visible or tangible representation of an idea. It can be anything people can interact with. What matters, is to bring the idea (a process, policy, service, product, …) to life. This can be done in many ways, through many kinds of prototypes, such as sketches, models, stories, videos, etc.

The word comes from the Greek prototype: πρώτος (protos), “first”, + τύπος (typos), “impression”. So a prototype provides an first impression: an initial overall impression of the main features of the idea and is a way to communicate ideas to explore, to test and to generate feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea .

Prototyping means presenting your idea before it is fully developed. This does not need to be complex and expensive. And it certainly does not need to be ‚finished’. The more “finished” it is, the less attention will be for feedback and the more the possibilities are limited. So, when we are talking about prototyping, we do not mean ‘beta-versions’ of ICT. We are talking about the cheapest form, before time and money are sunk into development. It’s about: “Failing as soon, as fast and as cheap as possible“.

When ideas are turned into feasible solutions, they will be developed and tested in a rapid and iterative process. On the basis of the feedback, the solutions are adjusted. The ‘test mode’ is a rapid and iterative process involving symbiosis between designers, users and other stakeholders. The goal is to try to refine, to ultimately create the most distinctive and most valuable solution.

Why? Six reasons to prototype

fail fast and cheap

  1. You can quickly eliminate the approaches that don’t work and focus on the ones that do. The bottlenecks will became visible at an early stage. This helps to reduce risks and uncertainty.
  2. When bottlenecks and failures are discovered at a later stage, the cost to implement change are higher (see the graph). Prototypes are tools to fail cheaply and quickly. It will save you (a lot of) money.
  3. Adapting ideas based on feedback lead to the most distinctive and most valuable solution, that matches the needs of people ‘in the real world’.
  4. It helps to get better understanding, identify new directions and sharpen your assumptions.
  5. It also helps to reduce miscommunication (abstract language is a killer).
  6. It promotes active involvement of (all) stakeholders, which will also have a positive effect on the implementation.

Unscrew the system

So, prototyping is extremely valuable.
For everything!

However, in many organizations, prototyping isn’t used very often.
Not only because we are not used to it, but also because it doesn’t fit within our mindset.

You can see prototypes as tools to fail cheaply and quickly. Ideas will get lost, will be criticized and will appear not as brilliant as expected. Owh. Prototyping involves the willingness to experiment, to make mistakes, to embrace failure, to be open to feedback and letting go of perfection. This requires a different mindset > Read our blog about the value of failure, where we explain this.
This ‘other’ mindset maybe doesn’t come easily.
But prototyping is easy. Really.

In Plan B we have a special zone in Plan B. It’s called B Experimental.
This is all about failing as soon, fast and cheap as possible.

You can learn to act different.
Try it. Do it.
Experience the power of prototyping.

Read more & try it

We’ve made two Flipboard magazines for you!
All about prototyping.

One is filled with tools for prototyping: tools and templates you can apply immediately.
In the other magazine, you’ll find articles and videos about prototyping.

Articles and videos about prototyping

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Tools for prototyping

View my Flipboard Magazine.

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