“The value of prototypes resides less in the models themselves than in the interactions they invite.” Michael Schrage

In today’s complex business environment, organizations are often paralyzed by the number of options and the difficulty of change. One of the best antidotes for confusion, overwhelm, and complexity is embracing the pattern language of prototyping.

Prototyping is not just for designing new products. As IDEO points out, prototyping is a powerful means to facilitating organizational change. The mindset of prototyping, more than the process, helps narrow the focus and reduce the friction that is inevitable with any organizational development or innovation effort.

The Mindset of Prototyping

Preparing for something new comes with the pressure of “getting it right.” When the research and planning phases linger on, the pressure builds and often the energy becomes more diffused.

Scaling back when appropriate and viewing the initiative as a series of experiments rather than a big, hairy project shifts the energy of the team. When we move into quick cycles of learning and adaptation rather than long cycles of research and planning, we can also stay more connected to changes in the business environment as they happen.

Conventional ApproachPrototyping Approach
Big rolloutSmall rollouts
Research comes firstLearning is ongoing
Planning is prioritizedAction is prioritized
Big Investment in "certainty"Small investments in curiosity
Failure is disastrousFailures are relatively quick
Slow implementationFaster implementation
Can drain capacityCan build capacity
Discourages riskEncourages measured risk
More rigidMore adaptive

The mindset and practices of prototyping helps build capacity as a team for listening and innovating, with greater speed and connectivity.