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How to Start Prototyping in Your Business

Wednesday, January 13, 2021
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Prototyping, at its core, is the simple act of testing your ideas. As you bring tangible form to an idea with a prototype, you experience the idea in a whole new way, and can learn key insights for improvement.

But where do you start? Do you need to take a class or read tons of books on it? Do you need to organize a big meeting with your most key stakeholders? Do you need to be a mastermind with foam core or sticky notes?

No—the best way to learn to prototype is by doing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing resources that help build a good foundation.

The Standord d.schools Design Thinking Bootleg Document is a great free resource, and there are affordable classes like this Basics of Design Thinking course on Udemy. Once you have the general framework, though, you need to start experimenting, learning what worked well and what you want to change for next time (you’ll have a lot more of the latter!).

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The easiest way is to start is with a small experiment:

  • Pick a project where you can create a light version of your deliverable or experience.
  • Decide which assumptions about your product you want to test in the wild. Be specific about what you do and don’t want feedback on.
  • Pick someone you have rapport with to test and avoid your most critical stakeholder. Meet with someone that’s open to new ways of approaching work.
  • Tee up the meeting in an informal way and set expectations. For example, “I normally show fully baked products for feedback, but I wanted to get more feedback early on so I could create a better product faster. I’d love to talk about XYZ facets.
  • Learn what you can and apply it to the next version.

One of the reasons we don’t try prototyping is because we think we have to build complex prototypes, or we think we have to start by changing our entire team’s instructional design process.

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First focus on running small experiments that can be done without needing tons of buy-in, yet can give you really valuable information on your deliverables and improving your processes. See what works for your instructional process and your organizational culture, and then improve the processes from there.

Happy prototyping!

To learn more, join me during ATD TechKnowledge 2021 for the session Prototyping Mindset for Beginners.

About the Author

Jeff Lowndes is a lifelong learner with a background in tech and professional services. He started out on the talent management vendor side and then transitioned over to an internal L&D team after discovering his passion around helping people and organizations flourish.

He's an end to end learning professional most passionate about evolving the L&D field in areas of human centered design, strategic measurement practices, and learning tech. You can reach him on LinkedIn to inquire about speaking engagements, writing requests, or simply to strike up a conversation about L&D!"

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