Disruption as the Norm? - Part 3 Experiential Prototyping

Life cycle S curve
Life cycle S curve

Quick recap

This post is Part 3 of the series on incorporating disruptive innovation approaches while optimizing the current business.

Part 1 introduced the tension of balancing a present and future focus, caused by the shorter technology and product life cycles.

Part 2 introduced a new paradigm for thinking about this balance while progressing toward a future vision. It was illustrated by the following model:

Ideal continuous disruption
Ideal continuous disruption

This model illustrated a discussion that the future of the business can be deliberately guided toward a vision, rather than leaving the future to chance. A good example cited was Netflix (delivery of ‘flix’ via a network) in that it provides a guiding vision while allowing delivery platforms to change in response to market conditions. However, these visions are often too abstract to guide the development and economic activities necessary to create or run the current business.

This post will bridge this gap by introducing Experiential Prototyping as a tool to make the future vision more concrete and actionable today. While Experiential Prototypes can be used in many ways, we will focus specifically on their use at a point along the progression toward the future vision:

Innovation window
Innovation window

What is an Experiential Prototype

This video is an example of an experiential prototype used by start-up company BeON Home. [Full disclosure: I am on the Board of Advisors to BeON Home.]

[vimeo 112955000 w=500 h=281]

Beon Home: A New Layer of Home Security from BeON Home on Vimeo.

This experiential prototype depicts the use experience and benefits the product platform will provide. It is used in the Discover and Framing stages in the product life cycle, depicted below, and described in Part 1 of this series:

Discover and Frame
Discover and Frame

In this example, the benefits and use context of a product platform are framed in order to guide activities in the Develop and Optimize stages of the product life cycle. It depicts a product platform (in this case, the lightbulb) as a vehicle to deliver the benefits, but does not specifically define any one offering within the platform. It also defines the benefits broadly enough that you could envision future platforms for their delivery.

In this post, I’m not going to get into the how-to’s of making an experiential prototype. A great resource for that can be found atPretotyping.org. [Pretotyping.org AuthorsAlberto Savoia,Patrick Copeland, andJeremy Clarkuse the term Pretotype to differentiate it from aProduct Prototype.]

What an Experiential Prototype is NOT

An experiential prototype is NOT a product spec, and should not be expected to define a specific product.

I often see projects get caught in the weeds defining product details before the benefits and use contexts have been worked out. It’s an easy trap to fall into, since products are tangible and easier to discuss and assign development timing toward than benefits.

However, when discovering and framing new value propositions, it really is the cart before the horse.

Five Criteria for a Successful Experiential Prototype

To fully capture the value of an experiential prototype, it should satisfy 5 criteria that I have developed over the years.

Connects the dots in the data  Can we explain how all the data sources fit?

Opportunities are found by connecting the dots between data sources that appear to contradict each other, and then resolving those conflicts. For BeON Home, the opportunity was found by asking why there was a significant population that cared about home security, but was not interested in a ‘home security system’. Their solution resolves this conflict for their target market.

Uncertainty is resolved  Do we know the difference between correct and incorrect solutions?

Once the opportunity has been defined, the experiential prototype makes it clear which additional features enhance the experience and which detract from it. This avoids the dreaded ‘feature creep”, by making it clear which features would be important to bring the benefits to life.

Ambiguity is maintained  Have we allowed for many correct solutions?

It will be necessary to pivot in the development process. When facing an unanticipated hurdle, a good experiential prototype helps the development team to know if a proposed solution is still on track to deliver the valued benefits in an appropriate use context.

Development plans can be created  Can the development teams plan their work, and allow for subject matter expertise and creativity?

A well-defined experiential prototype catalyzes the development process without over-constraining it. For example, instead of thinking, “how do I deliver the defined technology”, an engineer may think “what technology is available to achieve this goal?” This is truly where the Experiential Prototype acts as the bridge to bring the Future Vision closer to today’s business.

Future innovation can be envisioned  Can the company continue to deliver the desired benefits into the future, in new and better ways?

This is important, so I’ll repeat it: An experiential prototype is a tool to frame the benefits and use contexts that are valued by the market. It is not a product specification.

Fully embracing this concept allows for new technologies, line extensions, acquisition and partnership targets to be built into a robust development pipeline. An Experiential Prototype serves as a guide for continual platform optimization.

Right Form – Right Level

Experiential prototypes can take many forms. BeON Home did a great job with a video. However, experiential prototypes can also be represented by storyboards, narrative fiction, live performances, or whatever form is necessary to understand and experience the benefits offered by the new value proposition.

It’s also important to get the level right. An Experiential Prototype of the Future Vision should guide the selection and development of future technologies and platforms. An Experiential Prototype for a point along the progression should frame specific benefits and guide development of a platform of product and service offerings.

While an Experiential Prototype can inform whether or not a solution should be considered, how to do you know that the benefits it depicts will be valued? Part 4 will discuss Contextual Metrics used to assess market relevance.

Image credits: Frameworks co-created by Ellen Di Resta and Heather McGowan