The DOs and DON’Ts of using models in early fieldwork.
Frankenstein prototypes are fast models mashed together from existing bits and pieces. Sharing Frankenstein prototypes with consumers in early research is a powerful tool. They can help get a bearing on the challenge, and even propel you down the path to the right solution, but only when done right. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way about how to get the most out of Frankenstein prototypes early in the innovation process.
DO: Go for breadth, not perfection.
Make models fast with relatively low fidelity. You’re there to learn not evaluate. Keep the models consistent—all the same color, level of detail, etc. The goal is to focus attention on what you want to learn and not have distracting elements. Buy what you can off the shelf then glue it together to make something that resembles what you’re thinking. Don’t expect anyone to think of it the same way, but that’s OK because every bit of information is valuable this early in the process.
DO: Use models to understand over-learned behaviors.
If you ask someone how he or she pours a glass of milk or juice they might say, “I open the lid and pour it into the glass.” What they can’t tell you is that they are unknowingly doing 100 other things like measuring how heavy the jug is to understand how far to tilt the container to get a comfortable flowrate of milk or juice. The things people do every day as a matter of routine are perfect opportunities to use Frankenstein models. Using models gives people a language through comparison to tell us what is good and bad.
DON’T: Assume you know why. DO: Always ask.
Using models early in research allows you to grasp some cultural basics and can help avoid missteps. For example, a matte finish on food packaging is generally considered higher quality in the US, but in Brazil glossy may be perceived as higher quality. Effervescent drinks might seem fun and kid-friendly in one culture, but medicinal in another. So, even if it seems obvious ask,“why?”
DON’T: Crown a winner.
People won’t be able to tell you the answer. They may love a bottle for all the wrong reasons, or hate a material despite having all the qualities they want. It’s our job to decipher the conversation and define the attributes, features, and criteria of success. Then go and design to that criteria.
DO: Throw in a wild idea.
Some people will write it off as silly, but most will try to find something good in it: A slight contour, outlet size, hand motion, etc. You can always learn something.
DO: Improvise and iterate constantly.
If you’re in the field, bring tools. Change anything and everything on the fly. Ironically, the beauty of Frankenstein prototypes is that they can be ugly. When you evolve your thinking, evolve your prototype.
DON’T: Try to get it right the first time… you never will.
You will get nuggets of potential, and with some effort you will piece together enough information to take a huge step in the right direction.