Intervention Design and Iterative Prototyping

Memories of TomorrowYou all know my evangelism for iterative prototyping… Well, you can imagine my joy when I saw this month’s Harvard Business Review dedicated to “The Evolution of Design Thinking” and a great article by Tim Brown and Rodger Martin on “How to use design thinking to make great things actually happen.”

According to the article, Intervention Design grew out of iterative prototyping. In the traditional approach, product developers began by studying the user and creating a product brief then designed the product and launched it. Sometimes this would work out fine but many times they would miss the mark and loose market share and revenue.

There are millions of details that need to be understood from initial market and user research to designing products and services that people love. Intervention Design took a more ethnographic approach to understanding the customer than quantitative and statistical.

No matter how deep our up-front understanding is of our market, we really cannot predict our customers’ reaction to the final product. With Intervention Design, target customers are engaged earlier in the process and more often. With this process, you start with a small sample size and low-fidelity prototypes than increase the sample group size and fidelity of the prototype. You learn more with each iteration so as the fidelity increases, the amount of changes decreases. According to Brown and Rodger:

“When IDEO’s client actually launched the product [following this process], it was an almost guaranteed success – a phenomenon that helped make rapid prototyping a best practices.”

Iterative rapid-prototyping doesn’t just improve the final product and service; it takes out the fear of the unknown of a new idea. The early prototypes can help investor better understand your vision for your funding and focus your organization on innovation.