Intro To Prototyping
What it means to prototype in the context of low fidelity prototyping for this stage of design thinking. So prototyping stage happens after ideate. You see here that we came up with a lot of ideas, now we're trying to narrow it down to one idea that we wanna prototype in a fairly lo-fi way in not a whole lot of time. So this is one prototype. It's a static prototype that's made out of a bunch of art supplies, craft supplies, similar to what we have in this room. This is from a workshop I conducted with a pharmaceutical company in New York, where they were working on internal tech project that was meant for their sales reps, and they were six months delayed on this project, they were over budget, and the code that had been developed wasn't really delivering on servicing the needs of the sales reps. So it just didn't work, it wasn't the right project. And so what we did, was to help them restart by bringing people in from sales, from marketing, from IT, from all over the organization, an...
d just had them design what should the intranet look like that actually worked. And obviously this is not gonna be produced as the physical thing, but it's a starting point as a reset. And this allowed people, regardless of their technical skills, to really articulate what their needs were. So it may not literally have a panic button, but the design concept behind that is like, hey, if a sales rep needs help and doesn't understand how this works, they can just press one button and it's that simple. Another way to prototype is through some sort of storyboard, so this is deliberately meant to be lo-fi, and this is something that I've created for a totally made-up startup of mine called Sandwich Squirrel. And so this is really about telling my story as a user, of starting out, in this story, I'm working in my coworking space, it's quite late in the afternoon, and I realize I haven't had lunch yet 'cause I've been busy. I fire up the Sandwich Squirrel app. And I see what they have for the day's specials, I order what I want, and then the Sandwich Squirrel drone comes and delivers my sandwich, right? And then I get the sandwich, I enjoy it, it's delicious, and then we can also think about creating a world around this, of like what is the setting, what does New York City, where I live, look like when Sandwich Squirrel exists? We can also look at some of these broader social implications, like what happens to these delivery guys, what happens in terms of trash and sustainability. So it's really about telling the user's story in a few very simple slides, but brought to life in a way that is easy to understand. So you kind of grock the concept right away. And you can critique the concept in terms of sustainability, in terms of the business model, all of that, but now you have a concept and six or seven slides, and we just get it right away, there was no sort of advanced graphic design skills there, and we're gonna just do the same thing but non-digitally, we're gonna do something with our craft supplies later on. But that's the idea of this prototyping phase based on this concept here.
So, how much, you had made allusion earlier about how much time you'd spend in this process, and how much time you'd spend ideating. And obviously it's different per project. If the challenger handed down is complex and, in this case, we've all been talking about one single stakeholder that we're generalizing to then a population of people. But suppose that you have a much higher number of stakeholders. Does the time necessarily kind of balloon out for the amount of time that you'd spend in this? Or do you feel like the time is invariant to the number of stakeholders and the complexity of the project, in terms of the time of ideation?
I think you can use time as a constraint to force you to make decisions, right? In this case, because we're not, there's no real business schools or business model behind it because it's a client of one, you know, we're just doing this as a demo. But even in real organizational context, if you deliberately have a very short turnaround deadline like with the pharmaceutical company prototype example, it was just a two day workshop. That doesn't redesign their whole intranet, but it does at least hit reset, and then rather than turning it into this user needs document, they have a sort of iteration zero, which is like the lowest fidelity prototype of that cardboard and post-it thing, but at least they know, right? Like, even if it's not literally a red panic button that's big and bright, people just want to talk to a human or be able to ask for help if they don't understand something. So in some ways, making the time constraints as short as possible allow you to go through more cycles, too, of the design thinking process. So I think that's really, to answer your question, you're always gonna go through the cycle, and the faster you can go through the cycle, the more cycles you go through depending on what the stakes are.
I see. And then, the other question I had was, a lot of what we've been doing has been in-person. Suppose that you have a team that's across two locations. I know there's software to mediate this process, but what have you found works best for doing this process with teams that are across locations, like not in the same room?
Yeah, I mean we've used a variety of different tools that we experiment with, whether it's like, using Trello and just having each card in Trello be a post-it note, or like MURAL, there's different platforms like that that are the digital version of this. But I think it's also helpful to do multiple workshops. So we had like one ideation workshop that was super compressed, and oftentimes when you have different stakeholders that are located in different geographies, but also sometimes you deal with power differentials, right? Like, some organizations are super flat and you can totally have like the receptionist and the CEO in the same workshop. But in other places that are more hierarchical, you might separate people out a little bit, and then just run ideation processes, and then as a design team or working with a client, then narrow things down. So I think it's really scaling it through, just repeating the same process but in multiple geographies or in multiple stakeholder groups, and then also figuring out the digital means of capturing this. Yes, Dean?
Question about the decision making process as you converge on what you're gonna go forward with, 'cause you can't prototype everything, at least not all at once. And you've talked about democratizing the process, and you had that Venn diagram at the beginning where there was some business and some feasibility aspect. So the people in the room may or may not be the best ones to vote on what's feasible, differentiated, meeting a market need, yet you kind of have to make a decision on how you're gonna move forward. What are some other techniques you can use, maybe, in addition to voting to help move towards something that's gonna converge on something that's likely to be feasible and valuable.
Yeah I mean, it doesn't have to necessarily be totally democratic all the time, and that's not always realistic for every organization. So the voting is really just a mechanism within a small design team. But I think the point of the prototyping and the low fidelity prototyping that I demonstrated and that we'll be doing is that it's a way of de-risking things, right? So even if we created five low fidelity prototypes that look like Sandwich Squirrel or look like that intranet from the pharmaceutical company. You can make those in like an hour of time, and then use that as your presentation to the executive or to the decision making team, and they can bring in some of these other factors of what actually works with the business model and what works there, but it's really, the point of prototyping is to get us from telling to showing and coming with a story so people can grock it immediately as to how it works. With Sandwich Squirrel, you saw that the UI was super basic, but you get the point of how it woks just like that, and that's what we're trying to do, so that we have a story that we can work around, and then we can debate it and design the details and figure out the business model. Yes.
I have a question about this process of ideation leading up to prototyping. So the idea is, for prototyping we select one idea, but during the ideation process, the post-it notes here are very specific things, and it felt like we selected, we wrote down three things, we kind of scaled up and said, okay, these are kind of the different themes that we could potentially focus on. Is that what's happening? Or are we trying to get a specific thing which we wanna prototype?
I think the specific thing, honestly if we had more time, we could hash out like a specific idea, and then we'd prototype. That's like the ideal way of doing it. But the whole point of this accelerated process besides just being able to show it in one day is that by having to make something right away, it has to be one thing, right? 'Cause that's the deadline we're working towards. You saw earlier today, when we did the three design challenges, you guys had six minutes each, and you produced something, and in the last group there was actually a couple different prototypes that emerged, so you don't need a lot of time. But I think this is showing the limits of language and talking about it. At a certain point in time, you just have to stop talking about it and set the timer and start making things or multiple things to make it work. And so it's really the same dynamics of what emerged from six minutes, we can do with a few more minutes using these words. I don't know if that makes sense to you.
I guess the challenge that I foresee if I was working with a team is like, at this point in time, we're still trying to decide what we're gonna prototype.
Definitely, and that's gonna be something you have to deal with sort of on a team-by-team basis or an organizational basis, right? So this may not be super satisfactory to a client. Matt's kind of an easy client to deal with, he seems cool with a lot of these different things and it's like, but it's still pretty vague and open-ended, so maybe we actually do need more clarity before we prototype, but having, if we're thinking about these as cycles, and sprints, like this idea here, having that really kind of, tightly controlled time of like, we have to come up with some idea even though we don't know what it is yet is part of the incentive of like, we have to come up with a prototype even if we don't even have a name or have narrowed down the concept, 'cause eventually the time's gonna run out and we have to present him something. And then of course the idea is that it's not gonna be perfect the first time around, but it was a relatively low risk effort, but we thought by doing and by making rather than just sitting in a multiple stakeholder meeting where we hash out the details by debating the details. Yes.
I think this is sort of related, but I remember when our pair was up there, and it was around kind of beauty and aesthetic, I knew we didn't have a lot of time so I just started putting the patterns on the table and actually I didn't even, I was gonna ask you, what are the three that you would like to, just kind of like arbitrarily just choose three just so we could start somewhere. And I mean, even before I got there you pointed out the pattern that kind of called to you and that kind of necessarily led us in a direction even though, I mean, the final product had nothing to do with the pattern in the end, 'cause I mean, but anyway, the point being.
But it kept the discussion going, just as with the example of the party planning with the "yes, and." We didn't have to use any of the particular ideas, but the cake idea led to the person dressing up and jumping out of the cake, and to some of these other ideas. So the point is, sometimes the doing is the thinking, and that sometimes teams get stuck here, right? Like we could debate this and come up with some very well-defined user needs statement. And that's okay, and that's totally valid. But because we're forced to move on and prototype, maybe just by looking at the materials will spark something, and we'll have to come up with some idea.