Lessons Learned 4: Prototyping
Definition and Ideation Phase
Prototyping is one of the project requirements, and we combined the requirements with our way of framing this project, by choosing Design Thinking as methodology. In Design Thinking, one of the main aspects is to prototype fast and to fail early and often in order to produce valuable results. To fulfil the task, we needed to create a new in-truck system that can load and unload autonomous, and can answer key challenges in transportation automation.
During the project we’ve built several iterations of our prototypes. We started to iterate our truck concept since the middle of the journey, when we finally established the collaboration with our industrial partner (the last one). We had some difficulties with this collaboration part (I wrote about it here: “Re-make management”), so we went very fast in the prototyping phase, because we really needed him to give us feedback as early as he could. When we presented our ideas, he was interested in want we wanted to do, but he also advised us to be more specific on our thoughts, to draw our ideas more clear. It was very useful feedback, especially because he opened our eyes to the importance of creating a solution that would be easily understandable even for someone outside of the field we tried to innovate.
We started early and had continuous changes and iterations, both with our partners and within the team. By having a rapid response and sharing even the very first rough sketches with the other people involved in this project, it allowed us to generate a solution that best fits our problems, and to give something valuable to the stakeholders, instead of sticking with the initial solution that, in our case, proved not to be needed by the partner company.
The most relevant learning to bring with you from the prototyping perspective, is that it is very important to communicate your ideas to your partners as early as possible, to get along on different aspects right from the beginning and not do work in vain.
Don’t be afraid to share all ideas, even if some of them might sounds not that smart. You never know what they can trigger in order people’s minds. Also don’t spend too much time on the first prototypes. Share even the rough sketches.
Still, even if you use rough sketches, it is important pay little attention on how you explain your ideas. Especially when you deal with distant communication, the manner in which you present them it’s essential.
Be flexible and open for changes. Adaptability is highly needed in today’s society and even if you think your one and only idea is best, that might not be fully benefit for your partners/ users/ customers.
Ask for validation from your partners, supervisors or other influent parties, so you can develop the idea further and transform it into an end result.