Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Rise of Rapid Prototyping

Do you remember building with popsicle sticks? Pipe cleaners? Construction paper? Could you ever imagine bringing a bag full of those materials to the workplace during a brainstorming meeting? Well maybe you should!

A growing community of innovators is practicing what is called rapid prototyping -- a way to maximize learning and new ideas in the shortest amount of time, removing barriers like full-scale production and the need for cumbersome business requirements documentation.

At InsighTech on Monday, I was enthralled by Robin Beers' presentation on her experience with this new innovation style, where she told the room that "perfection is the enemy of rapid prototyping." A new product, which could take months or longer to brainstorm, spec, and prototype could come about much quicker when the team focuses on fast ideas and non-working prototypes literally made from arts & crafts materials.

The theory behind this is that the more iterations of an idea we have, the quicker the best features or solutions rise to the top and the others die off. Robin referred to Tom Chi as one of the pioneers of this method -- you can see him explain it in his talk at TEDxKyoto in the video below

Tom Chi discusses rapid prototyping at TEDxKyoto

Aside from wanting to participate in a rapid prototyping sessions because it just looks like so much fun, I thought it would be great to see some of these ideas applied to research with consumers. A lot of research is already embracing consumer co-creation as a part of a qualitative tool set, but if we can effectively combine that with a rapid-fire iteration model, the rewards could be big.

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