The Importance of Prototyping for People & Culture

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William Owen (Founding Partner and Strategy Director at Made by Many) talks about his experience with clients like ITV and the BBC, and how the process of prototyping and making products in a Lean way changes culture at multiple levels within the organisation.

Decision-Making and Culture Change

Trying to introduce innovation within large organisations with a lot of inertia and an established way of operating can often lead to a gauntlet of circular, risk-averse meetings that amount to bureaucratic procrastination. Building prototypes, especially working prototypes, are a very quick way of resolving decision-making blockages. Once you have a prototype, have real data on how it functions, and can get a real sense of how it differs from the status quo (and what it offers for the future), a lot of debates based on supposition evaporate.

In addition to resolving endless debates, prototypes can also change the behaviour and culture of an organisation. In his examples from ITV and the BBC, William explains how building a prototype for potential new CMSws for the news services almost immediately led to journalists and analysts changing the way they created content. At least part of this was due to the new CMSes being a more accurate reflection of what consumers wanted from the services, and being designed around those needs – short-form video content, more text-based news, more up-to-date reporting. At the same time a huge part of the change was due to the change in what was technically possible for everyone in the organisation – speed of content production, easy access to anyone, and so on.

Prototyping to Drive Change

If there’s one thing to take away from this fascinating talk, it’s that a working prototype can be the fastest way to resolve a debate. It’ll help stakeholders understand the vision, and the potential of that vision. More importantly, it can literally change the behaviour and culture of your customers (internally and externally), if designed and deployed thoughtfully.

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