Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reality prototyping

Two IDEO folks advocate the application of design thinking to management challenges in a book I came across tonight:

We read everywhere about rapid and constant change and, therefore, the increasing unpredictability of the future. And yet, we have seen little in the way of tools and methods to manage that change effectively and proactively. The tools of traditional business planning start with the assumptions that maintaining the current state is the best strategy and that incremental growth is a satisfactory outcome. What if we can no longer base our future business on what has happened in the past? This essay suggests that organizations might look to tools from the field of design. [p. 188]
Below, we describe three tools in the designer’s toolbox that we have found effective in helping businesses to manage change. These tools include contextual observation, human-centered frameworks, and rapid prototyping. [p. 189]

Rapid prototyping helps people to experience a possible future in tangible ways. These include rough physical prototypes of products or environments, or enactments of processes and service experiences, as well as the internal infrastructure and business plans that will be required to deliver them. It allows a very low-risk way of quickly exploring multiple directions before committing resources to the best one. Prototyping is commonly used in design development to explore details of how a product, service, or experience will be manifest. It externalizes the project team’s thinking, allowing for quicker convergence and more useful feedback from stakeholders. This feedback is based in the reality of an experience, rather than in an interpretation of a description of that same experience. [p. 191]

While design continues to be seen as a specialized expertise, we have found that the tools of design are learnable and applicable to challenges that business managers face every day. When we couple design process experts (with no vested interest in perpetuating the current way of doing things) with business content experts (who are looking for ways to think differently about their area of expertise), we create a capacity to envision and realize futures that are both desirable for people and viable for organizations. The challenge remains for business schools to find ways of integrating design thinking into their curricula and for design schools to expand the purview of design to include not only products, services, and experiences, but the organizational means by which they are created and supported. [p. 192]

Quotes from Peter Coughlan & Ilya Prokopoff, "Managing Change, by Design", in Richard J. Boland Jr. & Fred Collopy (eds.), Managing as Designing, Stanford Business Books, 02004, pp. 188-192.

This chapter was hit number two in a google search this evening for the phrase "experience a possible future". The phrase "reality prototyping" was cooked up a couple of months ago by our design collaborators, Nathan Verrill and Matt Jensen.

1 comment:

Rick Maurer said...

Thanks for referencing this book. IDEO has a great reputation and this book looks like it may be well worth reading. Thanks for drawing it to may attention.

Rick Maurer (blog)