Test prototyping a silly idea

2 October, 2016 Innovation

In parallell to Strategic Thinking, I often use Design Thinking methodology to approach relevant business problems and challenges.

Design Thinking originates in design, but has developed into tools that are applicable to all sorts of business problems. In short Design Thinking provides tools and methods to turn abstract ideas into practical applications for business growth. It is normally human centered and focuses on the end-user, wether we are thinking about your team internally or about your customers and end-users.

Not all problems are design problems, but the methodology can be successfully used in the most interesting ways. Also, design thinking approaches can vary. In common is however a strong focus on humans and end-users specifically.

A commonly used model – originating from d:school at Stanford University – looks like this, and involves you and your team, and even your customers and consumers, in large parts of the journey.

Design Thinking

Keep it simple as a start

Design Thinking is a great methodology that can help you go from insight, to idea to action pretty fast with the help of rapid prototyping and testing on your customers.

When I say prototyping, you probably think about something rather technologically advanced. Well, here it isn’t. It’s as simple as it can be – using cardboard, post-its, pens and paper. At an early stage it is mainly used to gather feedback on your idea and learn from others.

This Sunday afternoon I spent some time with my 6 year old daughter in sketching out and prototyping a few silly ideas. My daugther loves animals and would really love to understand them better – from her favorite shetland pony, to our new puppy, to our 80 000 friendly honey bees in the garden. So what did we do?

Well, we sketched out a simple idea and then helped each other build a first very rough prototype. Then she had a second idea, we sketched that out and built another prototype around that. Her idea was a ‘anti-biting-device’ for our new puppy, who keeps on biting on everything, from shoes to furniture.

I doubt this will turn into a multi billion business, but at least we had a fun Sunday afternoon together 🙂


I’m not saying that innovation is all about play, but maybe we could all think about how to infuse a bit more fun and experimentation into your everyday work. The idea is to start out simple and then develop your idea along the way, failing fast and continuously iterating with your targeted user. Internally or externally.

A few sources of inspiration

Below, you can find a few sources of related prototyping inspiration taken directly from IDEO U “From Idea to Action”.

Prototypes as (Design) Tools for Behavioral and Organizational Change

“Check out this article that explores the relationship between prototyping and behavioral change. Some IDEOers co-wrote it (one of whom taught our course Insights for Innovation), so you’ll see some similarities in how they discuss the theory behind prototyping.”

How to Build a Prototype in One Hour

“Check out this excerpt from David and Tom Kelley’s Creative Confidence on prototypes, failing early and cheaply, and thinking on your toes.”

Strategies for Learning from Failure

“Why is learning from failure even more important than learning from success? In this article from Harvard Business Review, you will explore this question and other strategies for embracing failure.”

Anne Lamott on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity

“In this article from Brain Pickings, you will take a closer look at how creative writing relates to prototyping and life in general. As you read, pay special attention to the passage describing Lamott’s brother and the bird project. Why is it important to sometimes throw caution to the wind and just get started?”

IDEO Shopping Cart

“In 1998, ABC’s Nightlight asked us to redesign the shopping cart in five days. Then, they filmed some of our designers in action. This video is almost twenty years old but the collaborative spirit of prototyping still remains relevant.”

Today everyone – from IDEO to Nestlé – are already applying the methodology successfully. Why wait?