Prototyping or the fourth phase of Design Thinking

- 12 September, 2023
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Design Thinking is a methodology that makes the most of “small data”. It offers qualitative-oriented data and provides small “insights” that will help us discover opportunities and turn them into innovative services or products. To do this, these five steps should never be lacking in design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and evaluate.

“Design Thinking has the ability to enhance people’s creativity and thus improve processes.” And it is that this phrase by Jeanne Liedtka in her 2018 article “Why design thinking works” for Harvard Business Review is the key.  Put in context, we are going to stop at the fourth phase, prototype.

And more carefully in industrial prototyping, since it is one of the most widespread tools before making a product a reality. That is to say, the ideas are grounded and become tangible so that they can be touched and not remain in the user’s imagination. It consists of reproducing the final product that is intended to be launched on the market. But be careful not to confuse prototype with design. And also, sometimes, it is not given the necessary importance and here is the key point to obtain a better product because you learn much faster from failures because it is tried and tested so that the modifications are almost immediate.

“Design Thinking has the ability to enhance people’s creativity and thus improve processes.”

For companies that operate with agile methodologies, focused on innovative processes or the development of technologies, prototyping is something integrated that is part of their DNA.

 With prototyping, short and iterative processes are sought with little cost, so that through “feedback”, they allow us to adjust more and more to the satisfaction of the needs and desires of the users.

“Fail fast to hit as soon as possible” would be the summary phrase. We see that thanks to prototyping we make the way of working be that of executing to think. There are many ways to prototype, from the fastest and simplest to others that involve more cost and time. The use of one or the other will depend on the team and the project in which we find ourselves, but basically, the main idea is to be able to identify failures or defects in this phase and, at the same time, evaluate aspects such as the viability of its materials, its usefulness or its functionality before proceeding with its final validation and verification.

And they are aware of this at Wehl & Partner, the prototype company where your product will be born thanks to the different solutions they offer to make your idea come true. “Everything starts with an inspiration. A new idea begins to mature. An idea that begins the path to success begins to take shape”.

We also found studies on how to “think with your hands” as it generates new types of connection in the brain that can inspire new ideas on top of the old ones.

And to help think, 3D printing is currently used for the manufacture of prototypes. But beware! It must be considered which technology is the most appropriate. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, so it is necessary to know how each one works and its limitations in order to find the most suitable one for each need.

Another important point is that, initially, three-dimensional printing was only used for the manufacture of prototypes. Now, it is also used as another manufacturing method.

We are certainly seeing a breakthrough in 3D printing for both prototyping and manufacturing. Even engineers at the University of Cambridge are already working on smart 3D printers that can quickly spot never-before-seen errors in designs or unknown materials, just by learning from the experiences of other machines.

As Roger Van Oech said, “It is not possible to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions”.

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