Working In Uncertainty

The IDEO system for innovation

IDEO is a successful product design company that has designed thousands of products, including a computer mouse for Apple and the stand up toothpaste dispenser.

One of the key features of their approach to developing good new product ideas is to use prototypes in a way that is 'Rough', 'Rapid', and 'Right'. They see time spent perfecting a sophisticated model as time wasted. Instead, designers and engineers make their own rough early prototypes from card, clay, putty, etc, to achieve faster design iterations. The emphasis is on generating and exploring lots of ideas.

The prototypes are used with clients, marketers, experts, and users too so that everyone can see what is being considered. Several models of particular elements may be used to get specific aspects right.

Their many experiments often fail but they increase learning. This is an idea that IDEO call 'enlightened trial and error'.

Working In Uncertainty observations

Experimenting quickly and cheaply is often a better approach than thinking for longer without getting any new information. Product design involves technical and styling choices and both are easier with prototyping.


(Source of information: 'Experimentation matters' by Stefan H Thomke, published 2003 by Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.)


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Words © 2011 Matthew Leitch