ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘Sketching’

How to Make Sure Prototypes are Useful, Even When They Fail

Posted by Plish on November 28, 2016

It worked flawlessly for 4 minutes and 25 seconds…

And then it didn’t.  The VP smiled and said, “I get the idea.”  After getting through the embarrassment of the failure, the team learned what went wrong, and got to work testing variations of the failed component.  The new versions didn’t fail, and the product went on to eventually make millions…

 

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffet

Risk and fear walk hand in hand with lack of knowledge.  The best way then to minimize fear and minimize risk is to understand,  to know what’s happening.  Prototypes are part of that knowledge building process.

The knowledge base that takes shape through prototyping is equally, if not more, valuable than the actual mock-up itself.

The challenge in most organizations is to make the shift from being object/success based, to process/knowledge based.  Then, even if a product never gets commercialized, the knowledge that gets created can be used for other products, other projects, and make those into money-makers.  Knowledge creates a bolder approach to the future!

What do we do to make sure we’re after knowledge, not just results?

Whether you are creating products, services, or even a new business model, don’t think of prototyping as a ‘testing an idea’ event, but instead as a learning process.   The best way to change into a process based mentality is to ask questions, and then create prototypes that will get you that knowledge.   Three basic questions guide how you get that knowledge as efficiently as possible.   Notice that nowhere are we asking,”Will this work?”  Instead, ask yourself these questions and then start prototyping!

  1. Which answers can I get to easily?  Easy translates into fast answers.  It doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, it just means  that there are few moving parts, so to speak.  The relationships are clear cut – there are anticipated outputs for each input.  Subtract a dimension from your  concept and test that.  For example, if a knob has three dimensions but you want to see how easy it is to grab,  cut it out of cardboard and build a two-dimensional model. Sketch when you can.  Is there infrastructure in place, such as test equipment, that makes it easy to test something?  Quick answers, that’s what you’re after.  You might not be able to go to the moon with your prototype, but you might be able to get more confidence that it’s possible.
  2. Which answers can I get cheaply?  Low cost doesn’t mean quick or easy, though often it does. These prototypes also often aren’t highly accurate. But that shouldn’t matter.  Can you build something out of polymer clay instead of 3D printing it, or molding it?   Find ways to duplicate function using cheap materials or techniques.
  3. Which answers  will give the greatest bang-for-the-buck?  Getting these may be neither cheap to test, nor fast to create, but, at the end of the day, they yield potential answers that could unlock future decisions.  To find these, ask what part, system or sub-system, if you eliminated it from the design, would cripple it hopelessly?  What is key?  The movie “Victor Frankenstein” is playing in the background as I type this.  The electrical charging system is key to energizing Frankenstein’s creations as none of his creations are possible without electricity. Those electrical systems are his bang-for-the-buck systems.  Those are the types of things you want to prototype!

With each of these three types of prototypes, make sure that you have back-up plans.  Make extra parts.  Make variations. Confirm that you understand why things are happening the way they are.

When do I prototype the final product?

Even though it’s often tied to ‘go/no-go’ decisions about a product, prototyping the final version is part of the prototyping process spectrum.   It’s still about knowledge creation, so if you’ve learned what you can about the systems in simple, cost effective methods, and you’ve learned about the ‘bang-for-the-buck’ systems, there shouldn’t  be many surprises.  Still, expect the best, and prepare for the worst.  Have plans in place to deal with those surprises.

Remember, prototyping is about knowledge creation!  That’s why failure is okay. (In fact,  believe it or not, you want some level of failure!)

Let’s summarize what it takes to make sure prototypes are useful.

Make various types of prototypes to answer questions:

Make easy prototypes.  Learn.

Make cheap prototypes.  Learn.

Make prototypes of your key components and sub-systems.  Learn.

Document your learnings.  Build upon what you know.  Experiment to find out what you don’t know, and document it so it can be shared.

Follow this process and your prototypes won’t just be an artifact tested in a one-time event.  They will be doorways to knowledge, and knowledge eliminates fear, allows you to deal with risk, and ultimately, leads to success.

 

Advertisements

Posted in 3D Printing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Pen *IS* Mightier Than the Keyboard!

Posted by Plish on May 11, 2011

 

click to see full size

Langen and Velay– This is a GREAT article on writing and the haptic experience.

Two summaries worth reading: Better Learning Through Handwriting and How Handwriting Boosts the Brain.

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, children, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, Information Visualization, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Sketching, The Human Person, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Creativity Stuck? Try These Tools

Posted by Plish on December 29, 2009

Click to see full size

Click to See Full Size

 

Just like your physical muscles, if you flex and use your creative muscles you get more effective and efficient at coming up with ideas.  One way to do this is by doodling and sketching.  

How do you start?

You can always grab a blank sheet of paper, but the blankness often stares back at you mockingly and the result is more frustration which in turn inhibits creative thought.

The trick?

Use something as a catalyst to get the creative juices flowing.    

To that end I’ve put together a couple of templates for you so you can practice being creative. 

Click to Download PDF Template

 

Print the template and make a point of sketching using these patterns at least once a day. If the above template isn’t your cup of tea then I’ve also create a spreadsheet that allows you to build your own sketching template based upon letters or shapes in the various fonts.  The Excel version is here and the Open Office version is here.  I used an obscure font in the sketch-sheet below.  If you find yourself still struggling in your doodling,  here’s a sheet with the letter “o” reproduced multiple times.   Sometimes a common shape is easier to use for this purpose. 

Click for Full Size

Click For Full Size

 

The drawings don’t have to be perfect, artistically or otherwise.  The goal here is to simply start sketching.   Whether it’s writer’s block, problem solving or composing music, drawing has an amazing capability to stimulate additional ideas and insights, breaking down those insidious barriers to creativity.   

Give these to your team before meetings requiring critical thinking/brainstorming and more importantly, encourage each other to use these tools once a day.

I think you’ll be surprised by the results.

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, imagination, Play, problem solving, Sketching, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Necessity of Reclaiming Drawing and Art as Tools for Communication

Posted by Plish on October 30, 2009

The Swimming Stags in Lascaux, France

Drawing -The Distinctly Human Endeavor

Long before humans were writing eloquent words with pen and paper, we were drawing pictures on walls, expressing our views of the world and even the future. 

The same thing can be said of each of us as individuals – we drew long before we could write words or sentences.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Yet our briefs, presentations, and books are filled with pages upon pages of words and often very few pictures.

Why is this?

Words that stir the imagination must be artfully combined to create effective and emotive communication,  or else they simply portray information in a boring fashion – they’re just words. 

It’s hard to convey emotions, information and perspectives with just words.

On the other hand, pictures, even the most basic, can convey information and emotion more effectively.  Take a look at these pictures made by children during the Spanish Civil War and tell me if you can’t get a pretty good idea of what was happening where and to whom in Spain.  How many pages would you have to read to get that information?

Children are great at drawing and illustrating.  In fact,  ask almost any parents and they’ll tell you that channeling the urge to draw and paint can be one of the most challenging tasks they have.  Drawing and communicating via art is natural for children.  As we get older we begin to judge our works more critically and receive more critical feedback.  We either deal with it and improve or we buckle under the scrutiny, say we don’t have any artistic talent and make ourselves masters of 75 page PowerPoint presentations filled with clip art and bullet points.

It doesn’t have to be that way. 

When in meetings, instead of asking people for opinions on what’s wrong, ask them to sketch it using stickfigures, finger paints, whatever!  The act of drawing it on paper will engage the person more than having them give a soliloquy. 

When submitting reports, make it a practice to draw the report and use that as the inspiration for words. 

We need to reclaim the use of drawings and other forms of art as communication tools. 

We’re Humans – We Draw!

If you’re still uptight about your drawing abilities, then check out the below three resources which I personally reference and recommend.

ID.Sketching – Fantastic website with sketching and drawing tutorials and information

Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)

Sketching: Drawing Techniques for Product Designers

Drawing – It’s not just for children any more…

Posted in Authenticity, Books, children, Conveying Information, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, Information Visualization, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Sketching, Society, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: