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Try, Try and Try Again – Iteration and Prototyping

Let’s take a journey together. Imagine you discovered a problem.  You worked on a creative solution that meets all your needs. You are invested in fixing this problem, and want the best possible outcome. Then someone, without asking any questions, without giving you an opportunity to contribute, tells you what to do next. Do you like this new solution?  Do you feel like you contributed? Are you empowered? 

At SAP, Design Thinking embraces the ability to work in short iterative cycles of Look, Think, and Do with our customers.  I want to talk a little bit about what it means to “Do.” 

I’m a witness to the Do phase every day with my toddler.   When we are stacking blocks, assembling Legos, or building train tracks BuildingBlocks.jpghe is actively testing out the feasibility of his latest invention.  Even at the young age of 3, he quickly learns a strong  foundation is needed to build a high tower and that the train will break around a turn if too many box cars are connected. He breaks his creation down, and builds it up again, maybe this time with a new turn or bridge or tunnel included.  It’s this observation and curiosity which leads to experimenting and doingTraintracks.jpg and allows him to see how different pieces work together. This creativity and exploration of our surroundings starts even earlier. I think about my younger son who persistently drops food out of his highchair indirectly trying to to understand gravity – he’s experimenting with a force that will soon become second nature to him. The learning done by our children in their early years continues on when creativity is nurtured, and we can learn from their experiences.

How can we bring this creation spirit into Design Thinking?


Combining the problems we’ve found through the look cycle and the ideas we’ve generated in the think cycle, we can then bring it to the next level by creating something tangible…by doing. Creating something that can be touched, felt, and experienced by others. A prototype allows you to actively see what works and what doesn’t work along the way and provides a unique opportunity to iterate and receive feedback from others. A prototype allows you to engage all of the senses when communicating a challenge or idea; instead of simply hearing about the idea, we are able to interact with the solution and become a part of the experience.  We can see, touch, feel, and maybe even the taste the progress. 

Remember that story from the beginning? Let’s reimagine it. /wp-content/uploads/2013/08/shutterstock_94296382_255690.jpg

You’ve explored a problem, looked at it from many angles, collaborated with others and are ready to implement a solution. Now someone carries your idea further by sharing something tangible. Something you can touch and interact with, build on and improve. The person asks for your opinion. Together you work to create a solution that surpasses the original. Are you happier with the result? 

Prototyping increases our collectiveness and cooperation and is a crucial part of Design Thinking.

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      Author's profile photo Krzysztof Dziembaj
      Krzysztof Dziembaj

      Couldn't agree more !

      When someone mentions prototyping phase of the DT process I have an instant recall of the marshmallow challenge 🙂 [embed width="425" height="350"][/embed]

      The Video is very worthwhile !

      Author's profile photo Anna D'Ambrosio
      Anna D'Ambrosio

      Thanks for sharing this video! It is really powerful to see how creativity and pressure affect our outcome. I'm glad to see architects are in the highest group, but surprisingly not that far ahead of kindergartners. Our mind develops in interesting ways.

      - Anna

      Author's profile photo Krzysztof Dziembaj
      Krzysztof Dziembaj

      I'm also glad that architects are the best, I can now sleep without worrying that children from kindergarten would design a more stable structure then the one I am currently living / working in 😀

      but regarding the challenge , I think I its missing one point, you can see these groups have members from the same line of business (except for children of course) , what If they made a diverse group with a member from each line of business, I wonder what would be the outcome.

      Author's profile photo Anna D'Ambrosio
      Anna D'Ambrosio

      That is an interesting thought. He does mention briefly that an executive assistant improves the CEO group function. Maybe that is evidence that with even greater diversity in the groups they will be more efficient.

      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      thanks for sharing the power of prototyping Charlotte Bui

      your images remind me of some images from a recent workshop. and your blog re-confirms that it's beneficial to have young moms in the rounds, who often bring the creativity and tools from their toddlers so a team can do the "do" and build a prototype their stakeholder can experience the ideas. 🙂


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Heike and Krzystof for your comments.  I live and breathe the power of protypting in my personal and professional life and see the benefits of idea realization every day.

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao

      Hi Charlotte, excellent blog! I like your message to collaborate and co-create with others by prototyping. And I can certainly see the opportunity we have to learn from toddlers and children. Following on to my recent blog Creativity - Nature or Nurture?, I guess we can say that prototyping is our adult-version of "play." 🙂

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Jason I definitely agreed with the message from your blog and it reminded me of an excerpt from Gordon MacKenzie's book "Orbiting the Giant Hairball".  He asked students, how many considered themselves to be artists and their response was in line with your own observations.  He noted the need to go back to our roots as "creative geniuses".

      "I'm curious.  How many artists are there inthe room?...

      First Grade: En Mass the children leapt from their chairs...every child was an artist

      Second Grade: About half the kids raised their hands, shoulder high...

      Third Grade: At best, 10 kids out of 30 would raise a hand.  Tentatively. Self-consciously

      And so on..."

      Author's profile photo Nicolle Gurule Sternberger
      Nicolle Gurule Sternberger


      Great ancedote - it reminds me of how eager folks are to tell you the ARE NOT artists when they first pick up a sharpie...getting back to play is a great advice