Testing Prototypes

22.08.2018 |

Episode #9 of the course Integrative thinking: A practical guide for leaders by Jennifer Riel


Welcome to Lesson 9!

We’re now on to the final stage of the integrative thinking process: prototyping.

We prototype because we need to overcome a fundamental challenge to any new idea: New ideas are unproven and feel risky. In most companies, when presented with a brand-new idea, leaders tend to want proof. Unfortunately, if an idea is truly new, there will be no existing data that can unequivocally demonstrate that it will work. All data, by definition, is from the past.


The Power of Prototyping

Fortunately, just because something can’t be proven doesn’t mean it can’t be understood, and just because we can’t know for sure doesn’t mean we can’t know anything at all. With prototyping, we can find ways to generate the data we need to improve our odds of success over time.

Rapid prototyping is the design practice of building quick models of a new idea, then testing that model with users and using the feedback to create the next version of the prototype design. This works well in product, service, and experience design because it combines early action with robust feedback. This same mindset can also be applied to new solutions to organizational and strategy problems.

In integrative thinking, we adapt the rapid prototyping process in our fourth step: assessing the prototypes.


Building Your Prototypes

In order to prototype a solution to your challenge, begin with one of the ideas that came out of the three questions last class. For example, in the LEGO Movie example we explored in Lesson 6, the choice was between maintaining strict creative control to ensure that the brand was protected and giving enough freedom to the filmmakers to make a truly great movie. The new solution was to give creative control to the filmmakers, but only if those filmmakers would first spend substantial time with LEGO’s biggest fans, kids. Using this solution, let’s go through the prototyping steps.

1. Taking the possibilities that you generated in step three, begin by sketching out each possibility a little more fully. Concretely define each possibility, more completely articulating how it might work. For example, tell a short, three-line story of how the new approach to creative control would work, explaining how engaging with the kids would help the Lego Movie filmmakers feel real responsibility to do right by those kids.

2. Then, work to understand the logic of the possibilities, asking: Under what conditions would each possibility would be a winning integrative solution? Describe the world in which you would choose each possibility. For example, it would have to be true that the LEGO Movie filmmakers would be willing to spend meaningful time with the kids, it would have to be true that the kids could convey their love of LEGO in a way that would inspire the filmmakers, etc.

3. Finally, design and conduct tests for each possibility, to determine if those things that would have to be true, are or could be true. These tests will help you generate the data you need to prove your ideas over time. For example, the LEGO team could start by asking the filmmakers to meet just a few kids and then talk with them to gauge the effect.

In our next and final session, we will talk about bringing integrative thinking into practice, at work and at home.


Recommended book

Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio


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