How to increase your innovation speed thanks to prototyping

Helbling Ideation Blog

Making good decisions quickly is a core competency in innovation. “We always come to a point in the innovation process that calls for a decision. The challenge here is to make the decision and its consequences as comprehensible as possible for everyone. This is where prototypes are a crucial element in our daily work,” says Thomas Siegrist, Senior Project Manager Ideation at Helbling.

It is essential for efficient prototyping that a clear core question is formulated at the beginning. The clearer the question, the clearer the result. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend 7 hours grinding the axe!” what this means for prototyping in a figurative sense is that you should spend 7 hours sharpening your question and considering exactly what decision you want to bring about. Then consider which prototype and test will help you answer the question.

The nature of this is that there are as many different prototypes as there are different questions. Along the innovation process, however, there are three basic questions to answer:

  • Does the innovation meet a customer need? (Desirability)
  • Is the innovation technically feasible? (Feasibility)
  • Is the innovation economically viable? (Viability)

A prototype that tests customer appeal replicates the product interface to lead the user into the decision-making situation for or against the product (e.g., a website or flyer of a product that does not yet exist, a simple cardboard layout, a wireframe, etc.). A prototype that tests feasibility reproduces the technically critical functions – without a nice user interface, purely technical. A prototype that tests economic viability summarizes the key financial data in a business model canvas or a rough business case.

It is important not to deviate from the original question. And there should never be an attempt to answer two questions with one prototype. With a desirability prototype, you emphasize customer value and don’t show the function yet, so you can iterate quickly. With a functional prototype, it’s the other way around, so you can quickly learn about the technology. It’s not about perfection, but about making the best possible decisions as quickly as possible. Because innovation thrives on speed.





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