Successful entrepreneurs know that experimenting is one of the best ways to test out ideas. And the faster those experiments are, the more you can sample.
With that notion in mind, one team of inventors decided that creating a great prototype didn’t have to mean slaving away for days or weeks. In fact, it could take as little as one hour.
In “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All,” brothers Tom and David Kelley, who is the founder of global design firm IDEO, write about inventors, entrepreneurs, and business people that succeeded by ditching their traditional methodologies and thinking outside the box.
They tell the story of Adam Skaates and Coe Leta Stafford, a pair of toy and gaming experts who were working on an iPhone app for young children. Called “Elmo’s Monster Maker,” the app lets kids design their own friendly monster, and the two wanted to pitch a new feature. Shortly before a meeting with collaborator Sesame Workshop, Skaates and Stafford decided their idea could be illustrated better with a prototype. But they had barely any time.
Rather then let it deter them, the pair decided to make a rough, makeshift device. They printed a giant image of an iPhone on a piece of foam, and then cut out the window where the screen would be. Skaates stood in the phone “screen” space, and Stafford pretended to be the phone user. They acted out how children would interact with the screen and how the app would respond, and made a video of their demo.
When the time arrived to pitch their idea, the video of the makeshift demo helped endear the product to Sesame Workshop. It didn’t matter that the prototype was incredibly simple. By thinking non-traditionally and creatively, the team was able to succeed. Today, the app sells for $US2.99 in the iTunes store.
“Creativity requires cycling lots of ideas,” write the Kelley brothers. “The more you invest in your prototype and the closer to ‘final’ it is, the harder it is to let go of a concept that’s not working.”
That’s the trap the one-hour prototype helps you avoid. If the most you invest in a sample project is an hour, it’ll be far easier to pursue the ideas that succeed and scrap the ones that don’t. “Instead of making a big bet on one approach based on gut feeling (or what your boss says), you can develop and test multiple ideas,” they write.
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