Plan less, prototype more!

There’s an image above my office white board that I created a few months ago to help remind me that the our department's focus should be more on “doing” then planning. But as I’ve begun to help my team reshape its processes around more agile and reiterative development, I’ve begun to realize that the image more sharply focus should really say ... [replacement image below]

Funny thing is, that no sooner had I shared with this realization (before the new image, of course, which I mocked up tonight) with a few colleagues this afternoon, Twitter drop this great related thought into my bb stream, “Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you're wrong.”.

The link led me to Metacool and this >

To make change in the world, we must constantly engage in a yin-yang cycle of prototyping. This implies a commitment to two behaviors:

1. Prototype as if you are right.
2. Listen as if you are wrong.

What is a prototype? A prototype is nothing other than a single question, embodied. In a way quite similar to the scientific method, productive prototyping is about asking a single question at a time, and then constructing a model in the world which brings back evidence to answer your question. In order to believe in the evidence that comes back to you, you need to prototype as if you already know the answer. A strong belief in your point of view will push you to find more creative solutions to the question at hand.

Once your prototype is ready for the world, it is important to listen as if you are wrong. You (and everyone around you) must be willing to respect the evidence that the prototype brings back, whether you life it or not. You must also go out of your way to put your prototype in to the world. Hiding it in a closet is only cheating the process, and ultimately, yourself. My colleague Dennis Boyle, who is one of the world's truly great design thinkers and a remarkable product development guru, has a saying which we like to refer to as Boyle's Law. It goes like this:

"never attend a meeting without a new prototype"

This serves to both push and pull. It pushes you to prototype earlier and with more frequency, because you want to (and have to) meet with other people in the course of life. And it pulls you toward a more productive state, because you can't have a meeting without having a new prototype, which means that you spend less time talking in pointless meetings and more time doing productive explorations. Doing is very important.

Indeed, agile and iterative web development is not for well suited for egos or diva developers. In order to deliver products faster and smarter you have to be able to put your best efforts forward knowing that the primary goal of your prototype is to actually give your users something to react to and tear apart so that you can move more quickly to the next step!

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