I want to focus on one -- one powerful idea.
He who makes the quickest, coolest prototypes reigns!Prototypes help people experience the benefits of your idea and instigate innovation. Still, some managers lose their compass and wander into a thicket of procedures.
(Think: Demos. Stories. Heroes.)
Message: Plans do not make the world go ‘round. What does? Demos! Heroes! Stories! Tests!
Palpable examples! Experiments! Prototypes!
File this one under “What were they thinking?” About three years ago I was in a meeting where it was agreed -- we would build a prototype.
Then, after two seconds, an executive chimed in, “Who will write the requirements document.” “Oh yes,” another agreed, “we'll need a complete list of requirements.”
I glanced at one fellow known for his common sense, we rolled our eyes and looked skyward. We had a zealot on the top floor of the Requirements and Loan Building, threatening to jump.
For the next ten minutes we calmly tried to talk this well-intentioned procedure partisan back to earth. We wondered, where's his wife? Surely, she'd be able to talk some sense into him, “Remember our mortgage, our kid's college fund, and our family vacation next month to Disney Land.”
If he did jump, the prototype, the project, and the customer would crash along with him -- and his folly. In the end, we somehow convinced him that documenting a prototype that changed by the hour was a fool's game.
Serious Play, a book by Michael Schrage, describes the benefits of models and prototypes. He writes of a Silicon Valley company where the engineers' experiences inspired a prototype mantra -- “Never show fools unfinished work.”
Past experiences with senior executives showed that they would brush aside unpolished prototypes. The higher up someone is, the lower chance he has of making the connection between product ideas and customer benefits.
You'd think that creating a prototype would be easy enough -- and it is -- and yet I've been amazed by the actions some people take to guarantee failure. For their desire to hold fast to procedures exceeds their desire to succeed.
Here's three key principles that will keep your prototypes on track:
And the masterstroke of demonstration?
Min specs - If you don't have a solid understanding of how an idea benefits your customers, talk with customers and draft a short list of features (no more than seven).
At the speed of light, build the prototype, show it to your customers, ask for feedback. REPEAT!
Source tools and resources - Provide your team with the tools, frameworks, and platforms to build out-of-this-world prototypes. Tools should hide technical details and highlight product benefits. Where the tools meet the designers' abilities you'll be flying. Periodic prototype - Once a week -- or some other period of time -- have the design team demonstrate the prototype. The result? Design decisions are made earlier in the process and problems are center stage.
Position a polished prototype so that executives discover the idea, support the idea, and visualize the connection between idea and benefits.