5 steps you can take to establish a culture of prototyping at your office
Posted by Anna Ostwald
First: a story
At my first „real“ job after university I worked as a project assistant in a brand consulting agency. I wanted to do everything right, often stayed longer in order to finish tasks for a client or a project - you know the drill. One day my boss asked me to do visualizations for a report he had just conducted and which we were about to publish. I was a project assistant, not a designer, and I had no idea how to even start the challenge. I spend a lot of time, trying to find out what to google and also started some half hearted attempts, but long story short: I failed. The report was published without my visualizations.
I guess this happens many of us: we are challenged with tasks and need to find solutions often for things we have no training for. We live in a complex world, where you really cannot train for everything. Only few make it to experts (and are they really?).
How can Prototyping help?
Prototyping helps you to explore different possible solutions to a problem, without wasting too much time and resources. Here we can learn from designers and architects: they start with a sketch and a model, continuously exploring and testing different solutions - their final work is always the result of a prototyping process.
David Kelley, design thinking evangelist and awesome mustache wearer, describes „prototyping as thinking with your hands“. We are trained to get our work done with just our brain power, the only physical action we do at work seems to be typing. I pledge: It’s time to get moving again, to really try things out, and to stop overthinking. Here is how you do it:
These 5 steps help you to get there
Stop spending time on finding the best solution - use it to define your problem.
When you have a clear problem definition, you gain a bigger focus for possible solutions. They will be more to the point and there does not just have to be one.
Accept the fact that there is not just one ideal solution to your problem.
Map out your possible solutions and test them with a role-play, a costumer journey, or just a simple sketch. Don’t overthink it, the goal is to test your solution with little resources in little time. Half an hour and a pen and paper. Done.
Shut down your computer and get into the doing mode.
There is a point, where Google cannot help you anymore. You don’t have to be an artist to sketch down a process or to doodle your rough slides for a power point presentation.
Allocate time to show work-in-progress to your team.
To really live a culture of prototyping at the office, you need to get your team on board. You can help each other early on if you share rough and unfinished concepts. People will give you more honest feedback when they see that you have not put a lot of effort into the solution. They won’t be afraid to „destroy your effort and work“. Make a point to be less perfect and train to tame your team’s strive for perfection.
As a linguist I know how your thinking shapes your behavior. Often we get frustrated when something we developed does not work the way we envisioned. Try to say „Oh, interesting!“ when you fail. This will put your attention on learning and you won’t be absorbed by your „failure“.
There are two big benefits of adopting a culture of prototyping at the office: you will develop solutions that are feasible without wasting too many resources, so your boss will be happy. Also, you will be more motivated to take up new challenges. So yes, work will be more fun, especially in teams.
And me? Well, if I could do it again I would high five my boss and say „challenge accepted!“. I now have regular offline work slots and constantly look for ways to try out something before implementing it. I work with an awesome team, who will help me with honest and constructive feedback.
How did prototyping help you in your daily work? When did you try it out? Please let us know, which other topics connected to innovation and design thinking your would like to read about.
Oh, and if you need prototyping material, check out our prototyping box.