When we have an product opportunity in mind, and have started imagining potential solutions, it’s a good time to validate those ideas and their potential impact. It is very helpful, if not necessary, to bring stakeholders into the process so that they can contribute their ideas early, understand that it’s ok to be wrong initially, and see rapid results from the outset.

How do we:

  1. Engage stakeholders early,
  2. help them adopt an experimental mindset, and
  3. bootstrap a concept into something resembling a product?

Through collaborative prototyping, we include stakeholders at the very start of the design conversation, and also ease them into the idea that not everything will be right the first time. They have a say in the first iteration, and see something produced in real time, which will inform the design direction of the product or service.

In kicking off many design efforts, our team has experimented with different ways of co-creating with stakeholders, customers, and users. Full-length Design Sprints afford many ways to do this, but are not always practical, necessary, or affordable. However, there are some great playbook methods therein, as well as others, for shorter engagements.

Some of these may include:

  • Sketch & vote concept ideation
  • Departmental design & demo sessions
  • At-the-table card-based “wireframing”
  • Group user narrative / storyboarding
  • Build-it-basic super lo-fi cardboard “products”
  • Service & touchpoint scripting & role playing

Any of these will create quick & useful, if largely discardable, artifacts that we can look at together, make better decisions, test with users, and iterate further. The right exercise will depend on the people involved and solution at hand.

The takeaway is that almost any informal, physical engagement we involve people in can get us out of the seat and working together on creating something useful from the outset of the project. There’s no need to disappear behind the curtain and returning with “Look, our first concept!” While rough and disposable, collaborative prototyping enables everyone to participate in getting started, and sets the wheels in motion to make the envisioned outcome happen.

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