Ghislaine Guerin

UX Consultant | User and Design Researcher

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Increasing Prototyping Capabilities

Moving from Ideas to Results

A process is only as good as the things it allows those that follow it to do. Following steps blindly and expecting consistent results would only work if you knew exactly what the outcome would be. However, this is hardly the case when designing new products or services. There are many risks and assumptions lurking in the background during the earliest stages of development. Minimizing their will depend on how fast ideas can be generated and applied. The process in which these ideas are generated will allow those that follow it to evaluate the ideas, incorporate those that work, and then make decisions based on their results.

How can product teams deal with idea generation whilst remaining focused and agile?

Methods like design sprints to discovery phases have been touted as the answer to creating innovative products. However, they often disrupt the teams and over-stress them to the point where they want to move to build the product as quickly as possible. Often, the problem is that ideas are generated in contexts that are too separated from their own. These sorts of processes end up restricting the productivity of the entire team.

One alternative is to create an environment where ideas are catalyzed. I am mainly referring to integrative prototypes, where teams do not directly implement ideas but instead transform them from concept to product in a participatory way. In this way, ideas become the product from the outset. The integrative prototype method promotes the whole team's problem-solving capabilities because it helps them draw a picture of their ideas to enhance collaboration. Therefore, assisting teams to have a much better chance of generating creative ideas and innovative products.

What are prototyping capabilities?

We can measure prototyping capabilities by how many decisions are informed through experiencing prototypes of what needs to be built. Of course, this works better when the prototype can convey aspects of the reality that simulate real-world conditions. A prototype is only as good as the experience of reality it provides, no matter how sophisticated it technically gets.

For that reason, I choose to approach prototyping with different tools and levels of definition. Whatever it is that might help make cost-efficient decisions should be considered during prototyping—things like integrating with external APIs or representing various scenarios can make all the difference in prototype effectiveness and cost.

Why should we build up our prototyping capabilities?

Prototyping capabilities matter. A business that can sustain a mature prototyping practice over time is better adapted for change and more likely to have innovative ideas. Could innovation happen without this? Of course, but most other methods aren't as quickly accelerated or put in people's hands for immediate feedback.

Businesses must learn to be smarter and flexible if they want to succeed in an increasingly competitive market. When it comes to B2B, success often depends on demonstrating greater efficiency, providing a better user experience, and communicating capabilities more effectively than competitors. In some cases, a prototype built in a matter of hours has helped clients land deals that they would have otherwise missed. Potential, when tangibly demonstrated, is one of the greatest motivators for success in B2B.

How would we work together to increase prototyping capabilities inside my organization?

Businesses can jumpstart their prototyping capabilities without changing much of what they do or alter their processes in drastic ways; because of how versatile prototyping is, it can be included at any point and still deliver significant impact.

When I engage with clients, a first step is to understand their business and how they are currently working towards their goals, what they have tried, what worked, and what didn't. With that information, I can assess the high-impact points where prototyping might help and make a proposal. For example, a client that wants to launch an entirely new product might benefit from prototyping in an altogether different way than someone with a consolidated offering. The impact might then be more significant if prototyping helps open up sales opportunities or if it improves a pilot project's results by anticipating potential failures before they happen. That's why business understanding is so critical and why I try to involve every stakeholder as part of that process.

How is this related to UX Design?

UX design is focused on how users interact with a product, system, or service. In this context, prototypes can help validate user needs, test the usability of designs, and more. On the other hand, prototyping as a process goes beyond just the user experience; it encompasses creating and sharing knowledge and ideas among team members, exploring new ways of doing things, and questioning established assumptions.

Is this Design Thinking?

Any design can be prototyped somehow, but before it can become a prototype, it needs to be thought by someone or some group of people. Prototypes aren't magical artifacts that work automatically. To accomplish their goals, they require iterations, trial, and error. Design thinking is then a process for establishing an iteration cycle that keeps prototypes from just purposelessly existing in a void.

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Ghislaine Guerin 2021