Home > For the lieutenants: Drive the innovation process > Rapid prototyping enables you to start small and move fast

Rapid prototyping enables you to start small and move fast

Rapid Prototyping allows an idea to take shape at a fraction of the cost of field-testing, so that many versions or options can be tested and either discarded or selected. With the advent of affordable 3D printers, Rapid Prototyping has become a very popular technique for the design of objects or parts.

But before being a technique Rapid Prototyping is a process that is critical to the successful implementation of an innovation funnel. It is a critical step that enables the ideator to turn what they picture in their mind (or on paper) into something that can be physically manipulated or experimented by others – colleagues, customers, manufacturers. The most striking example of rapid and direct translation of an idea in the mind into a 3D object is the process used by the Swedish design group Front Design (pictured above).

Not all rapid prototyping requires cutting-edge technology, though. Prototyping with play-dough can be a good first step. Some handheld devices were first made as wooden prototypes to test how handy (or not) they were.

And it is not only objects that can benefit from rapid prototyping. Services, even strategies, can be prototyped through role-playing. Churchill was routinely role-playing negotiations, not only to rehearse, but to gain insights into what might work and what might lead to disaster.

Whether they are dealing with auto parts, electronics, video games or insurance services, Rapid Prototyping is a key step that innovation managers need to implement. It is particularly crucial when the innovation is a new-to-the-world, which requires customers to experiment the product or service in order to develop a feel for the yet unknown need it will fulfil.

When you think big, Rapid Prototyping allows you to start small and move fast.

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