Friday, October 22

The Power of the Prototype

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Stimulating and gathering ideas is one thing, but making them real is quite another.   It can be extremely hard to make an idea come to life in the minds of your stakeholders, and more often than not there's only one chance to get that right.  If your vision of the future doesn't stick in people's minds, or if it takes entirely the wrong shape there, then a very valuable idea might be discarded for good.

So it's your responsibility to communicate ideas effectively.  If you fail to do so, you'll disadvantage not just yourself, but also anyone else who tries to resurrect the same idea ... ever!  If I fail to convince my boss first-time that there's a mass market for elasticated carrots, then elasticated carrots will always have a bad name, however good an idea they might become.

Words alone might not do the trick.   Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) tells us that different people have different sensory preferencesthat is they each prefer to absorb information and ideas using different senses.  So even if you're highly clear and articulate, you're really only appealling to people with an auditory preference.

Most people's preference is visual, so most of the time a visual articulation of the idea will be much more powerful.  I've recently experimented with 2D mock-ups using simple office tools, and have found that I get much more traction in trying to explain my ideas.

Of course the nirvana is a 3D prototype with moving parts, which can be touched and manipulated by hand.  This appeals to people with either a visual or kinesthetic (i.e. "touchy-feely") preference.  Your investment in a 3D model will tend to be higher, but you only get one chance to get this right, so take care to ensure a compelling demonstration whatever format you choose.   The less well you know your stakeholders, the more investment you should prepare to swallow in order to win them over.

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