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(Photo – Experimental prototyping of table concepts by Beatrice Oh, Loren Jo, Jay Kim and Sophie Lee)

Designers are familiar with different types of prototyping across user experience and product design. Prototyping is a key element of the Design Thinking process, and also of great value for communication, as IDEO founder and Stanford d.school professor David Kelley explains: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a million words.” Prototyping helps transferring ideas into experiential forms such as user interface mockups, storyboards, role-plays, etc.,

Creating a Human-Centered Innovation Culture – Prototyping for Validation and Collaboration

What is the main purpose of prototyping? The answer is straightforward – validation. With ‘prototyped’ ideas, a team can test and refine their ideas based on customers’ feedback. Iteration of the prototypes throughout the design process improves the quality of the project outcomes that finally lead to market success in the future.

There is a second purpose of prototyping – collaboration. Design Thinking consists of teamwork-driven processes. Especially prototyping plays an important role in collaboration because it increases interaction between team members. In general, prototyping session is a highly interactive process while a team is achieving one goal (making prototyping happen!). Under such circumstances, their collaboration becomes closer and deeper. For instance, people share their opinion while making something tangible: Is it big enough? How about this color? Do you need any help? Let’s build it together… One’s personality and behavior can be shown to others through the casual interaction. Hence, this is the time for getting to know other colleagues and their way of working by making something together. I’ve learned a lot from this aspect of prototyping, because the process allows people to understand and empower each other. This is the moment when prototyping can bring human centered innovation culture to our life.

Recently, my team, the SAP Design and Co-innovation Center had an opportunity to think about a new type of workspace in SAP Korea. In general, most companies delegate entire design works to external vendors who have expertise in interior architecture. In this project, however, we tried to co-design the space where we applied our prototyping skills to design a better space experience ourselves. Having created the space prototypes, we could collect a lot of feedback from colleagues. After several iteration loops, initial ideas were refined to the final design plan. Job’s done, prototyping for validation was successful!

Growing as One Team – Prototyping as Hands-on Team Activity

Through the hands-on prototyping and experimentation, I learned a lesson in terms of prototyping for collaboration. The prototyping session was not just making cardboard furniture, but understanding other colleagues’ views and behavior, and growing as one team. As a new hire at that time, I was given the opportunity to get to know other team members in a natural way while engaging and interacting with them to build cardboard furniture. From my experience, prototyping can help a team build rapport between members by doing something together rather than just thinking.

Nowadays, more and more companies are applying prototyping process as low-cost ‘validation’ tool. However, the second purpose of prototyping – an interactive process for better collaboration – should not be overlooked, because the process allows people to understand others from their ‘actions’. Understanding between project members can be vital in order to work effectively within a team. Again, prototyping does not just provide moments for validation; it creates a space in which a team gets to know each other.

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