Using prototypes to gradually build commitment

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How early-stage prototypes can help build commitment

Early-stage prototypes are a way of gaining early feedback. Using low-fidelity models, which capture the essence of how a particular part of the project will look or work (although not be visually identical), can help gain initial comments that can shape the project. 

While later-stage prototypes may illustrate the details of the product, low-fidelity prototypes are much more amenable to changes. Once you have a fully detailed prototype, individuals are reluctant to make suggestions of changes. They may sense that it is past the point of making changes,s and in turn have to accept key aspects of the design the way that they are. Not only are early-stage prototypes cheaper, but they can also spur individuals to make suggestions that they otherwise would not.

Getting key stakeholders including management, sales, or even customers involved at this stage in the development process can help build commitments through their involvements. Not only can their concerns be taken into account, but they will also feel involved in the development process, further increasing buy-in. 

How later stage prototypes can further build commitment

Later stage prototypes can also help build commitment by demonstrating a more realistic version of the product, as well as how it will integrate with other parts of the product. This can be powerful at resolving lingering uncertainties before the product launches.

At later points, the product can be used more directly – allowing customers to try it out. Being able to operate a near-final product can help illustrate that it works – helping to allow suppliers, investors, and retail channels to make commitments to the product.

Final thoughts: Focusing your prototypes on areas of uncertainty

One of the key ways that prototypes can help gain commitment is by reducing uncertainty. In a new project there will likely be multiple areas where individuals are uncertain whether the project will work – the technology, interactions with other components, or aesthetics of the product may all be points of uncertainty.

Prototypes are a way of reducing that uncertainty. By focusing your prototypes on areas that key individuals have specific concerns, you can help resolve their uncertainties by demonstrating and refining key areas of uncertainty.