Prototyping in Design Thinking: How to Avoid Six Common Pitfalls

the design thinking process cannot be done without prototyping and testing. however, for companies or teams unfamiliar w'da design thinking method, there mite be some common Ψsets bout prototyping that potentially undermine its effectiveness in helping you craft the optimal design solutions. let’s look at 6 of the most common misconceptions bout prototyping, and how to combat each so that you can avoid these pitfalls and build better essentialisms or srvcs.

if you were not (or if yr team aint) familiar with design thinking, you mite ‘ve some ideas bout prototyping — wha’ it’s meant for, when it ‘d be done, etc. — tha're actually counter-productive to the process. thankfully, we ‘ve listed belo 6 of the most common misconceptions or incorrect Ψsets, swell as solutions to each to help you reframe yr Ψset or rethink yr process. let’s get started!

1st pitfall: diving inna'da 1st good idea

it’s attractive to wanna grab atta 1st glimmer of lite you see and run with that as yr final solution. this is often inspired by a senior manager, not necessarily involved inna process of prototyping or ideation, who mite not ‘ve enough cogging of how it works. often, teams try to save time and move headlong into implementing their very 1st promising idea.

this leads to an issue, cause most problems we're trying to solve are + complex than they look onna surface. the way pplz be’ve, constraints inna environment, and a thousand other factors mite cause matters to turn out ≠ly from yr or yr team’s expectations. a promising idea, pushed all the way into a fully formed solution without any prototyping or validation, may turn out to ‘ve a couple of assumptions wrong (if ur ♣y). the result is a solution that doesn’t work, and lotso' time and energy wasted.

solution: explore a range of ≠ approaches 1st

1-odda keys of successful prototyping is working through a № of models and exploring ≠ approaches, b4 finally including the best toonistics and removin the problematic ones for the final solution. test out many ideas. test them by building prototypes — no matter how rough and simple — and test them on team-mates, internal stakeholders, and usrs. test many alternatives even within one idea, explore variety, and don’t discount possibilities til you’ve tested them. most times, you ll'be inspired to create + ideas, or merge a few solutions into a better and + successful one, by testing alternative ideas and making quick and dirty prototypes.

2nd pitfall: falling in ♥ with yr prototypes

the endowment effect, otherwise referred to as “investment bias”, can interfere significantly w'da val derived from prototyping. the endowment effect happens when pplz ascribe + val to an object simply cause they ‘ve ownership over it. in prototypes, the endowment effect can create the dangerous situation wherein prototypes become too “presh” to fail or give up on.

this is when the creators offa prototype becomes overly vested'na their creation, resulting in their overlooking of faults and insistence on implementing the current model due to the amount of time, effort or resrcs vested'na creating the model. it can happen when designers become too emotional bout prototypes or ideas t'they ‘ve conceived, even when it becomes clear that the ideas are problematic. this usually happens when designers spend too much time creating and perfecting a prototype, when a rough and dirty model ‘d suffice. additionally, executing early prototypes at too high a fidelity may result in this kind of bias. if we were to do this witha prototype, the effort we’d put into making it as realistic and looking as refined as possible (without reckoning on refining the actual faults in it) mite help us dupe ourselves into believing we’d landed na' miracle discovery—a victor that ‘d be sure to resonate with usrs. usually, lo-fidelity prototypes, s'as paper mock-ups or sketches, are sufficient for early stage testing. 1-ly towards the end of the project do you nd'2 create higher-fidelity prototypes that require + energy and time investment.

author/copyrite holder: teo yu siang and interaction design foundation. copyrite terms and licence: cc by-nc-sa 3.0

avoid the endowment effect by creating quick, lo-fidelity prototypes using cheap materials.

solution: start with cheap and fast prototypes

start simple. make quick and fast prototypes. make use of lo cost, readily available materials in early-stage, lo-fidelity prototypes. always make sure that yr prototype has just the lvl of detail required for wha’ ur testing for, never too much. this ‘d prevent you or yr team-mates from becoming too attached to a prototype.

also, be prepared to break, completely destroy or throw those models away once the ?s they pose are answered. you can achieve this mentality by using lo-cost materials in yr prototypes. test out a № of ideas and models as rapidly as possible in order to avoid becoming anchored to one stream of thought. having an expendable prototype is a million times betta tha' having an expendable concept—i.e., one that won’t latch with any-1, least of all yr usrship, no matter how mythic the model of t'looks.

3rd pitfall: wasting time explaining and pitching

another problem you ‘d avoid is spending too much time pitching and explaining ideas — and too lil time making things and figuring out issues with and challenges to yr ideas. this results in a theoretical focus and ‘d lead to movin forward with ideas that you will not ‘ve tested. show; don’t tell. to explain how a solution works, create a model and show how 'twill work. if ur unable to show it working, you may find there are holes inna idea — and that’s a learning opportunity rite there!

solution: ‘ve a bias towards action

embrace the bias towards action Ψset by opting to show the val of the ideas instead of telling everyone how gr8 yr combination of these notions ll'be. when you build simple prototypes to show wha’ yr ideas are, you also make them much easier to cogg and allo others to build on'em. illustrate wha’ you wanna explain physically. it’s the best way to know whether you’re onna something or not.

for instance, when ideo was approached by gyrus acmi, a med visualisation and energy systems company, the team met with speshist surgeons so as to cogg their needs better. after 1-odda surgeons explained (or tried to explain) how their surgical instrument ‘d be improved, an ideo designer immediately created a rough prototype of the idea. the team was able to cogg instantly wha’ the surgeon meant, na discussion was brought forward, thereby saving the team many + meetings. prototype to show, cause showing is much + productive than telling.

4th pitfall: prototyping without a purpose

rushing a promising idea into a solution is a bad idea, but creating prototypes without a purpose is =ly bad. prototypes exist for a reason: to test and validate assumptions, test our ideas for solutions, or explain and flesh out ideas. prototyping for the sake of prototyping can result in a lack of focus, or prototypes with too much detail (i.e., a waste of time) or too lil detail (i.e., ineffective in tests).

solution: ‘ve a ? in Ψ

b4 you create a prototype, ask yrself, “why am i creating this prototype?” make sure you ‘ve a central purpose (i.e., to test my assumption x, or to test the usability of my solution, etc.), and then build yr prototype to match that purpose. for instance, if you nd'2 test yr assumption that yr usrs will not be willing to use a piece of equipment heavier than 2 kg, then you mite not even need to create a functional prototype. simply create a prototype that weighs belo 2 kg, and another that weighs above 2kg, and test both on usrs. you’ll save time by creating prototypes atta rite lvl of fidelity, and still be able to learn exactly wha’ you wanna learn.

5th pitfall: the failure roadblock: feeling discouraged by failed prototypes

when prototyping, you mite feel a sense of failure at times. this is cause the steps involved in prototyping mite fall into wha’ we generally label as “failure”, espeshly when tests reveal yr false assumptions. however, bein’ disillusioned when yr ideas don’t work out can cause a neg state of Ψ and inhibit progress. the point of prototyping is to ensure ideas will work and to validate the assumptions made when conceptualising the ideas. to be productive when prototyping, we ‘d unlearn wha’ we're taught bout failure. when doin’ design thinking, you ‘d embrace the rite kind of failure. failure provides massive learning opportunities, which will eventually lead to new insites and eventual success.

“fail faster, succeed sooner.”
— david kelly, founder of ideo

solution: reframe the idea of failure

author/copyrite holder: teo yu siang and interaction design foundation. copyrite terms and licence: cc by-nc-sa 3.0

“i ‘ve not failed. i’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– thomas a. edison, american inventor who developed the motion picture camera na electric lite bulb.

reframe the idea of failure in prototype testing into a learning mentality. reΨ yrself that wrong ideas and failed prototypes allo you to learn + than successful tests and prototypes do. embrace the principles of learn methodology by working validation into every decision that you make or ‘ve a hand in making. validation reframes the concept of failure and makes it pt of the process of learning instead of bein’ a destructive influence. when you think of prototypes and tests as learning opportunities, you set yrself up for a kind of + failure that leads to a new, + informed experiment.

6th pitfall: seeing prototypes as a waste of time

by constantly having to build prototypes for every idea and assumption that you ‘ve, ‘dn’t you be wasting time? many times, designers and teams who aint used to design thinking feel that prototyping is a waste of time and resrcs. “’dn’t building prototypes slo us down?” they ask. “’dn’t we be better off to stay focussed onna drawing board b4 we get round to putting things together inna real realm?”

the truth tis opposite. although we mite spend time whn'we build prototypes, they actually allo us to move faster inna long term. it’s cause, through prototyping, we ray'vel to see whether our ideas ‘d work out, and be able to refine or tweak them further… or abandon them whn'we’ve realised that wha’ seemed good on paper won’t hold wata inna sea of harsh reality and unforgiving consumers. inna long term, we ll'be able to reach the ideal solution faster.

solution: adopt a long-term view

build witha long-term view in Ψ. when making prototypes to test yr assumptions or learn bout yr usrs, remember that the lil amount of time ur spending now will help you save dys and even weeks of time inna future. communicate to internal stakeholders who maybe concerned bout the time “wasted” on prototypes, so the whole team (and ideally, the whole company) s'onna same page. it maybe counter-intuitive, but spending time on prototypes will save you time. tim brown, ceo of ideo, says it best: “they slo us down to speed us up.”

the take away

prototyping is crucial in every design thinking project. however, there are pitfalls that ‘d undermine yr efforts to let prototypes work for yr team. specifically, you ‘ve 6 of these to avoid, everything from becoming discouraged by the insite-giving nature of failed prototypes to putting inordinate amounts of effort into yr 1st prototype and clinging to it cause it seems infallible. learn to embrace the idea of constantly and rapidly prototyping, and make sure you ‘ve the rite Ψset when making prototypes. the old saying goes that nothing is + uber than an idea whose time has come. that may seem all very well, but a series of prototypes will bring such an idea inna'da real realm where pplz can make it truly uber.

references & where to learn +

tim brown, change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation, 2009

peter manzo. sep. 23, 2008. fail faster, succeed sooner. stanford social innovation…

tom kelley and dave kelley, creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all, 2013.

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