Learn how to use low-fidelity, rapid prototyping to your advantage.
Welcome to Part 2 of this 10 part mini-series. This time we are looking at the role of the Experimenter. So who are the Experimenters?
Well, classically you might recognise inventors within this persona. The people who love to build and test and try and try again until they eventually find something that works.
Let’s take James Dyson as an example, the global inventor turned billionaire and my old boss. He famously created 5,127 prototypes of his cyclone vacuum technology, before getting his first vacuum out in the market. This drive to find a better way of doing something and using prototypes to iterate his design makes Dyson, by definition, an Experimenter. (Now, by all means, I am not suggesting you need to create 5,127 prototypes before you find success. It’s just that his spirit of exploration is that of an experimenter.)
What Experimenters all have in common is an unquenchable thirst to build ideas into prototypes. They explore with curiosity and even invite some serendipity when it comes to experimentation. This tenacious spirit is motivated by the chance of coming across the right solution.
Deep Dive #2. The Experimenter.
The purpose and value of the Experimenter is someone who takes an idea and makes it tangible. Prototyping is their superpower. Whether it’s a quick sketch, a storyboard, nailed together bits of wood or a crude 30-second video, the Experimenter does not shy away from the possibility of conveying an idea as quickly, and as simply as possible.
“I have not failed, I have merely found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison
Prototyping doesn't just work for new product ideas. Experimenters can prototype anything (think big). A good Experimenter will enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to deliver quick and cheap prototypes. Their main goal is to deliver a clear, concise message of what the idea is and why it would benefit you, the user.
How to channel an experimenter in your design challenge?
- Lower the bar for prototypes. Allow your team and organisation to prototype with low-fidelity. Make it culturally acceptable to show ideas as rough as a stick-man drawing on a post-it note, that’s a prototype! It doesn’t need to look like a fancy design in some fancy software to get across the bare bones of an idea, so don't let this hold you or your team back. Creativity is for everyone, not just those who are talented artists.
- Prototype quickly and cheaply. Don't get held back by budgets and drawn out timescales. You can prototype a new idea in hours, even if you just start with pen and paper. The experimenter brings ideas to life as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going and creates something tangible that you can discuss, even if it’s made out of bits of office stationery lying around.
- Make many. Experimenters make hundreds of prototypes. The more you make the more conversation you can have and the more feedback you can get. If you present one prototype for review your response will be limited. If you present 5, you can start to get more colourful feedback. Perhaps the combining of 2 of those then sends you off to make yet another prototype to test. So remember, the more you make the more chances you have of finding success and ironing out any early mistakes.
- Mistakes are OK. The fear of making mistakes has no place in prototyping. When you spend a few hours and some paper making a prototype if it doesn't work there's no real loss. So make mistakes, they’ll help you move your idea forward and iron out any issues before you start investing big money.
Taking on the role of the experimenter can be a fun new challenge for your team. Introducing this approach into your culture can show your team and your clients that you can deliver ideas quickly. Having these quick reflexes and ability to explore can really set you apart from the competition!
If you missed Part 1 — find it here.
About the Author.
An experienced Innovation Strategist with a passion for human-centred design. Working with brands big and small to discover the value of combining innovation and design with the ability to connect the dots with big picture strategic thinking. On a mission to share lessons and findings in a digestible approach to proliferate the wonders of human-centred design.