Recently, a product designed and developed by my company won “Best Product Award” for its category at a major trade show. This award was made based on the merits of a prototype that wowed the judges with style, function, and finish quality. But, the prototype did not start as a winner – in fact, many parts of the prototype didn’t fit together, assembly points were in the wrong place, and one of the big components was bigger than specified. It took many hours of hands on engineering and adjustments to convert the parts (which came from multiple suppliers) into an award winning, fully functional specimen.
Does this mean that the process was flawed, or that someone made a huge mistake? No! Adjusting prototypes is a normal and extremely valuable part of the development process. From a development standpoint, prototyping is really more about the journey than it is about the finished product. Design challenges and opportunities can often be identified and addressed far more efficiently through prototyping than they can in the theoretical world of CAD or paper. It is only by building the part that you can really see that it’s a little too small, or not quite comfortable enough, or it makes a loud clang when it does its job.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with many clients over the years. Unfortunately, some have looked at prototyping as a test run of production, rather than as an incremental and integral part of the development process. I’ve had clients that were disappointed when their first prototypes were too big (too small, too red, too soft, too masculine). Rather than realizing the value of the journey, these individuals focused on the fact that they had not yet reached the destination. It’s good for the prototype to be wrong! Then, you are much closer to making the final product right!