Originally uploaded by brian boulos
How do we make information tangible in the right way? To whom do we reveal it in order to elicit the right response? What do we mean by the right response?
The answers are important - they illuminate the experience in two ways- their response helps us understand what they are actually seeking; they test whether we have reflected and responded to them in the right way. Making ideas and information tangible... creating artefacts that elicit a response at the early stage of a project can promote dialogue... and are known as prototypes but prototypes with a purpose. Paul MacCready, a pioneer in human and solar powered transportation, in conversation with Michael Schrage for his book Serious Play, put it like this:
“When you're inventing something new,” says MacCready, “...prototypes are a way of letting you think out loud. You want the right people to think out loud with you. The first prototypes usually don't answer your questions. But they are very good at starting the conversations that answer your questions."
But why Ideas worth a glance? Thinking about prototypes (analogue/digital/physical models) that I have been involved with over the years, their longevity has varied from 2 minutes to two years, depending on the response they provoked in the people 'handling' them. A valuable or charismatic prototype will attract much more attention, increasing the likelihood of pertinent observation and increasingly valuable conversation. Blackbeltjones talks of information in a slightly different context in Glanceable<----> Pored-Over, but he does highlight the different uses of information. He said "Two images .....made me think that the best interaction and information design is stuff that can be glanced-at or pored-over but unfortunately, most commercial interaction design falls between these two stools, in the ‘don’t make me think’ category."
If we think of the outcome of a 'product' experience as the "what" experience; and the iterative experiences around the sketches, models, prototypes, etc. as the 'how', we can rethink the types and value that these forms of iterative capital catalyse in the interactions of the project team.
In the Design Fast Action school of rapid iteration, prototypes may be constructed primarily to elicit a response (glanced-at) or provoke conversation (pored-over) and may involve different but maybe overlapping sets of people; the actual quality of prototype will signal what sort of responses are expected; for instance a sketch has a different intent to a rendered CAD model. Without a wide range of prototype forms we can unwittingly restrict the scope of conversation and the creation of new knowledge. The output will therefore be of lower quality than it could have been, i.e. the product or service falls short of its potential. This is such a waste of scarce capability.
In a conversation with Michael Schrage, I talked of how we exploited our rapid modelling, visualisation and prototyping resources (our iterative capital). He reminded me of what he had said about iterative capital:
“Networked Iterative Capital is like networked financial capital: its velocity and impact increase as it hurtles towards opportunity.”
Our role as innovation leaders and design managers must be to maximise opportunity of any change project undertaken and shake off the view that our organisations are not only not opportunistic but are risk averse too and so