March 12, 2022

When you think of the terms prototype and test, you make associations to objectivity and the scientific method, at least after you stop humming the Andre 3000 song. You might imagine a lab, experiments, and a backdrop that looks eerily sterile. Some might imagine an inventor in a suburban garage putting things together. When folks start the journey of learning creative problem solving whether it is Design Thinking, Agile, or Human-Centered design they have pre-conceptions of prototyping. Honestly with most content about design thinking their bias is confirmed because often prototyping and testing are presented from that type of lens.

When it comes to solving wicked problems effective prototyping is an emotional act. One of the biggest struggles people have when solving problems is that they want to remove emotion from it. When you take the design thinking process and break down the elements many folks will compartmentalize each element. Define is define, empathy is empathy, ideation is ideaiton, prototyping is prototyping, testing is testing, and implementation is implementation. The magic does not happen in the separation of those elements which is a story for another day. A highlight for this conversation is that empathy should not be boxed in during that phase of the process.

The best way to think about prototyping and testing is exactly like empathy but with toys and props. Prototyping and building is emotional because you are attempting to convey the feeling you get from an idea. If you drew out detailed schematics for an idea it would not hit as hard as a cardboard prop and a great story. When it comes to testing it is like watching your favorite movie with a new friend. You are looking for their reaction, asking them specific questions, and trying to understand what worked and what did not. Prototyping is as emotional a process as any element of creative problem solving.

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