Prototyping is worth a thousands pictures

From ideas to action. Give life to concepts through design thinking and prototyping.

 

I’m coming out from a 5-week course from ideo.org titled “From ideas to action” and I’m very excited to share my impression about this experience. It was an online course but very practical and concrete because the aim was exactly to generate creative ideas and to bring those ideas to life through practical skills and interactive processes. An online platform allows you to share with other people all over the world your project and collect opinions or working online in discussion groups.

 

Through the Design Thinking method we have worked exploring new ideas, going beyond the classical brainstorming, we have prototyped one of the chosen ideas and then learned about how to get faster results iterating on something tangible to generate a more desirable, feasible and viable idea.

 

I already knew about the design thinking process, but this time I’ve directly experienced how valid is the motto “fail early, to succeed sooner”. In the consultant work, we should never think that there isn’t time to make a prototype, because prototyping is not a waste of time at all, rather allow you to share and verify your idea and collect information about how to improve it.

“If a picture worth thousand words, a prototype worth a thousand picture”

– Brendan Boyle of ideo.org

But before to learn in deep about what does it mean to prototype an idea, I will give you some useful advices about the art of ideating and which techniques help for coming up with innovative ideas.

The art of ideating

 

Working in a group of people and brainstorming about a challenge is the start point of ideating. A fundamental teaching I’ve learned by Brendan Boyle and that fascinated me a lot, is that playing and having fun are essential part of the ideating phase. Indeed if there’s a lot of people laughing means that is going very well. The ideation phase brings people to explore options in quantity, including, at the beginning, also the funniest and ridiculous ones, this is, according to the design thinking method a diverging phase.

 

Tools: An important advice I give you to be effective in ideating is to be visual, sketching, writing and shortly presenting your own idea in a group with a couple of sentences and then hanging the everyone ideas on a wall. This methods will help you to stay focused, to have a limited time so everyone has the same opportunity to express himself and at the end you can look at the great quantity of ideas to comment them.

Take a look at how people at ideo.org ideate:

IDEO Brainstorming Video from IDEO U from IDEO U on Vimeo.

Digital brainstorming: If you work in a virtual team and you can’t meet the others in person, you can profit about some of the digital platform of collaboration available online or simply launching an e-storming, asking people via mail or skype to propose their ideas about a theme.

 

Converging: once you have a long list of post-it on the wall use insights, judgments and the group’s expertises to select one or two ideas and then diverge again. Ask you some questions: which are the ideas you love or you are passionate about? which are people’s needs and how the ideas answer to them? Which one are really risky or hard to implement? To facilitate the decision the group can vote, cluster or combine the ideas for similarity, discussing with the team, listening the other opinions, will guide you to choose which idea to prototype.

 

Now that you have all the necessary instruments to generate ideas, it’s time to give them life. Let’s start to discover how prototyping can have a very positive influence on your work!

Rapid Prototyping

 

Rapid and Raw Prototyping is one of the best way to share and test your idea. Whether is about a product or a service, to build something tangible helps to think about an idea and is an opportunity to learn early and inexpensively. Making your potential user interacting with your prototype prompt great feedbacks and allow to collect datas to move your idea forward. Instead of spending a lot of time planning on your idea you should build a prototype to have immediately feedbacks from real people.

 

Tools: A raw version of your idea can be a physical carton model, a sketch, a mock-up, a storyboard, a stand, an advertising or even a retail environment prototype. You will notice how showing to other people your idea physically, can provide you a lot of useful informations. Don’t be too attached on a particular design or style, is the value and the core idea that have to be tested. You can also choose to test only a part of an idea or of a project, maybe the more difficult or the challenging one.

Here an idea of what can be tested: a product, a process or an organizational system, a service, a shop business model…

 

During the sharing try to tell a story about the product, speaking to your stakeholders, but don’t try to sell your idea defending you from critics, accept and collect them as feedbacks.
Once you have done confronting you with people, take time to reflect on feedbacks: make a list of them, prioritize them and include them in the next steps.

Iterating

 

After you have shared your idea and collect feedbacks with your prototype, it’s time to refine your idea! If you want to manage and control risks you have to repeat your idea testing more and more, checking your assumptions.
This could mean that you must repeat your process, listing your doubts and questions, finding the critical ones and maybe ideating and prototyping again. You can’t just stop after the first idea or prototype.

 

To converge again and test the solution, return on your question and analyze them through the lens of Design Thinking:
Is it your idea desirable? Who will profit about it and how? Does it answer users needs?
How is it feasible? Is it simple to be realized with available material and technologies? How can be affordable and good functional?
How is your idea viable? Can your idea be economically sustainable?

 

The answer to these questions will be your Way Forward to transform your idea into action.

Let’s recap the main phase and goals of prototyping ideas:

  1. The Art of Ideating: Go beyond brainstorming – learn techniques for coming up with innovative ideas
  2. Rapid Prototyping: Make your ideas tangible, so you can gather feedback from others
  3. Iterating Your Way Forward: Get results faster by evolving your idea to be more desirable, feasible, and viable
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