Coaching Tool No. 6

Rapid Cycle Prototyping

Moving towards evidence-based solutions—and quickly.

By Flip the Clinic

Prototyping is a way to build, test, and refine a proposed solution to a problem without having to invest the considerable resources required for a large-scale initiative. It’s the process of deploying a series of small-scale experiments to quickly gauge an idea’s influence. Geared towards rapid action and quick learning, prototyping can be used to test unverified processes, new services, and developing programs. Both the framing of an idea—or in this case, a Flip—and its implementation strategy may be repeatedly revised based on feedback.

Prototyping embraces rapid iteration. Informed by feedback from members of the system it is trying to change, prototyping can take an unproven idea and turn it into one supported by feedback, data, and observation.

Diagram_RapidCyclePrototyping

Important ideas in Rapid Cycle Prototyping

  • Rapid Iteration
    Feedback on a prototype should lead to revisions, which should lead to more feedback and more revisions. It’s only with this constant process of iterating that the prototype moves into the “reliable forecasts” category—something proven worthy of testing on a larger scale.
  • Reflection-In-Action
    Prototyping is a learning process. It’s crucial to keep a record of the information, insights, and feedback gained as an idea being prototyped evolves.
  • Failure
    A key objective of prototyping is to create the space for ideas to safely fail, meaning that you want failure to happen early in the process so that they’re not repeated. Missteps often provide important lessons that inform and improve the idea. In time, confidence in a prototype becomes strong enough that the idea can be tested in a larger context.

Image Source: Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. “The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge,” Harvard Business Review Press. Boston, MA: 2010.

Further reading: Adapted from Monica Pohlmann and Brenna Atnikov. The Leading Boldly Network. Calgary, AB: Calgary United Way, 2014.

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