The prototyping process: apply it to your life


I know, the title of today’s post might seem a bit overcomplicated, and most of you might be a bit confused. What does prototyping have in common with our lives? Prototyping is something for engineers, for people who loves dealing with a lot of problems! We are just looking for ways to have a happier life, to rediscover the pleasure of simple things, so why should we care?

Well, in the previous posts I have been talking about ways to improve our life condition and I challenged you to try reducing the time you spend doing certain things, but we can’t deny that we often have some problems to deal with, that life isn’t always smooth and easy. Prototyping is one of the most effective problem solving approach ever invented and as a consequence it might be used also for our daily challenges. Of course you don’t have to look at this concept from a narrow perspective, in order to apply it to our personal situations we just need to broaden our perspective and to pick out the strategies and the techniques we can apply and get benefit from.

It’s not like you can build a prototype of yourself, put it in your life and see what happens, it would be too easy. We have to face our own problems, no one else can do it for us.

What we can learn from the prototyping process

When dealing with daily issues it would be really useful to have a sort of plan in our mind, just trying some random approach might but be useful as much as turn out to be a total waste of time. If we don’t know what we are doing and the reason why we are doing it we are most likely to end up with nothing as a result.

The fundamental concept on which the prototyping process is based on is the test/feedback approach and there are plenty of tips we should learn from it. Let’s see some of them:

1) Results cannot be reached all at once. When a company decides to start a new big project the planning process starts even 5 years before the first prototype is built. In order to develop a new product many steps are necessary and each of them requires time, big companies are aware of it. When you want to start a new habit or solve a personal issue you should always remember that you can’t expect to succeed instantly, the process will take time. Don’t blame yourself if it takes some months to start exercising regularly, don’t think you will never solve a bad situation if you can’t come up with a solution in a week;

2) Many different strategies should be considered. When dealing with big projects or hard situations we can’t be sure which one is the right approach to face them. Instead of just focusing on one strategy, we should try to evaluate different options and then find out which one is the most suitable for the situation If you spend all your time going in the wrong direction you will get nothing, if you spend a little time in order to understand which approach is the most likely to bring you to the success you will probably save some precious time;

3) Feedback is essential. The primary purpose of building a prototype is to have a feedback: once you have something to analyse it gets easier to understand what is working and what has to be improved. You can do the same with your daily situations: once you do something, say something or try something new you get a feedback, don’t underestimate its value. If you manage to understand the pros and cons of your actions you will be able to refine your plans and therefore understand which skills or knowledge you need to develop in order to reach your goals. If you don’t have any feedback you just keep walking in the dark;

4) To reach a great result a great effort is required. Sometimes many prototypes are required before you get a working one. Nonetheless companies continue to put effort and to spend money in a project if they see that prototype after prototype the final goal is getting closer. When you go after a really big goal or you are trying to handle a particularly tough situation you shouldn’t get discouraged if you keep failing. Failure is part of the process. Only by facing many difficulties you will be able to eventually reach your goal. If it were easy anyone would have his dreams come true, but it is not. If you really want to achieve something great, never settle, boost your motivation and get ready to face many failures;

5) Sometimes the fist strategy is not the right one. It might happen that after many attempts the you can’t see any result, that even if you keep doing your best you are unable to make any step forward. In this situations it is a good idea to rethink about your strategy. If after many prototypes a problem still cannot be solved the only way to go on is to change something, to challenge the problem from a different perspective. Admitting that the way we have taken wasn’t the right one is an act of wisdom. When you change your approach you get rid of your previous failure, you don’t get stuck by it. Be always ready to change;

6) Asking for advice is always a good thing. Big projects are based on teamwork, no one would ever be able to develop something great just on his own. Science is so complicated that it’s impossible to have a comprehensive knowledge of it. The same goes for life: there are so many situations, so many variables that one can’t be sure about what to do in every circumstance. That’s why we have friends: be always ready to ask for or give a suggestion. Only by sharing our knowledge with others we will be able to overcome situations we have never faced before.

How to apply to this process to your life

As we have seen there are many strategies we should learn from prototyping. If we slowly understand that the test/feedback approach can really help us in daily life situations we will be able to learn from our mistakes and avoid doing them more than twice (ok, maybe we will do them three or four times or even more). In order to apply this mental approach to every problem or goal I suggest you to follow this simple steps:

1) Define a goal or clarify the problem you want to solve;

2) Draw a list of possible solutions/strategies;

3) Ask for suggestion, so you will have more available strategies;

4) Evaluate the different options and decide the ones you think are the best;

5) Take action;

6) Get feedback;

7) If the results are good keep following the same strategy;

8) If they are not, try to adjust something or change approach;

9) If after some time you realise that something has changed or that the strategy is not so effective just go back to point 1 or 2;

 Your opinion

What do you think about this strategy? Are you going to try it? Do you need any clarification or want to add something? Please let me know in the following comments.

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