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The Innovation Process
Activity 4.3 C

Develop and test prototypes

The exercises in this activity will help you start developing prototypes that can be used to test hypotheses with users and target groups and gradually evolve your solution.

The next step in growing your idea into a fully-fledged solution is to start developing prototypes that can be used to test aspects of your idea with users and target groups. The idea of prototyping is to clarify assumptions that underpin your idea and to test hypotheses that will generate new learning and help you evolve your solution.

Prototyping does not require the whole solution to be created. The rationale for prototyping is to test as many aspects of the concept as possible before carrying out a pilot test of the whole solution, which can be costly and carry significant risks. Depending on the assumption you want to clarify or the hypothesis you want to test, you may only need to develop a simple representation of a particular aspect or feature of your solution in order to gather feedback.

In this activity we provide tools to help you prioritise the assumptions that you will want to test, before carrying out small tests and experiments with users who haven’t been part of your Invention process so far to learn about what’s working and what isn’t and to make improvements. You will want to carry out several rounds of testing, in order to gather feedback and make modifications and improvements to your design. In this way you will carry out many tests of aspects, of your concept, evaluating, learning and making changes as you progress.

If it is possible that any of the tests that you plan to carry out may risk harm, you will need to complete a risk analysis looking at all potential ethical, legal and safeguarding risk areas.

2x2 Priority Matrix

The first step in prototyping is to identify the biggest questions or most important assumptions that you have about how users will interact with your solution and whether it addresses a real need and has recognised value. These might be questions that arose during Ideation activities, or from assumptions captured during the Recognition stage. Give that your aim is to expend the least amount of time, effort and cost necessary to test the most critical elements of your concept, you will want to prioritise your research questions according to those that are most important and easiest to test. Use our 2×2 Priority Matrix to carry out this task.

Conversation Starters

Before you create anything, you can carry out a simple and easy test regarding your concept. That is, to present your ideas and discuss them with intended users. Discussing the different aspects with you users to see what resonates with them, what they are not interested in, or find absurd, is a cheap and relatively simple way of testing out your ideas. You may want to do this  using interviews or focus group discussions. It is important that you make participants comfortable with the fact that there are no right or wrong answers, and that this is just an exploratory conversation.

Lean Experiment

The Lean Experiment tool helps you with basic guidance on what you need to think through in order to test a hypothesis with a prototype. Once you have prioritised your research questions, you then need to describe how these will be tested and what level of evidence is required to validate or refute your hypothesis. It is important to note that this is not intended to be robust research, and the evidence threshold can be much lower than what might be expected in a pilot.

Prototype and Test Preparation

For any service elements of your concept, you can prototype and test particular touchpoints where a user will interact with the service. Identifying the touchpoint you want to test, how you are going to test it, and with who is critical. The Service Design Handbook has a useful tool to help you think through what props and resources you might require for the test and who needs to be involved.

Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz method is a way to create and test interactive systems using human operators when computers or mobile phones would normally play that role in a fully-developed solution. The approach is used a lot for digital products and services, or even for the marketing of new services and products, that have not yet been created.

The Wizard of Oz method can be used to a/b test different aspects of a solution such as the number of a product that someone wants, or the time of day that a service would be useful to somebody. It is also a way of assessing demand from potential users, but it involves some level of deception if the user is not aware that the actual product or service does not exist. You will need to make a judgement regarding what type of Wizard of Oz (if any) is ethically appropriate when engaging with communities affected by crises.