Prototyping Ninjas

October 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm Leave a comment

by Lesley Anne Gundy

On my second day working at the Innovation Unit, I had the opportunity to attend a prototyping workshop given for the Transforming Early Years project. Representatives from the six sites involved with the project travelled from all over England to participate in the day’s activities. The different Transforming Early Years workshops are designed to represent steps in the Radical Efficiency model. Prototyping is a later step in the model.

Like many of the participants from the localities, I was unfamiliar with prototyping and did not know what to expect from the workshop. Sean Miller and David Townsend from Nonon walked us all through the concept and process of prototyping explaining its importance. The day began with everyone being divided into several groups of four to six people and embarking on service safaris. Groups either travelled to the local post office or the British Library with the main goal of analyzing the service provided with a hypercritical eye. After critiquing anything and everything from actual face-to-face contact to the appearance and layout of the buildings, the groups were asked to think of one thing they would change and develop a prototype of the proposed solution. We were all a bit apprehensive initially, until Sean and David assured us that perfection is actually antithetical to prototyping. The prototypes that the groups developed were creative and exceeded expectations. One group borrowed a mannequin from the downstairs cafe and placed a cardboard cut-out above the mannequin simulating the type of dialogue that they felt should occur between staff and service users. Another group used a wall to simulate the front of the post office and drew what they thought the more improved shop front should look like. By the end of the day, people realised that they actually prototype all the time. A prototype doesn’t have to be a full-scale model resembling the final product created by a skilled design team. Anyone can prototype using materials found on a normal office desk. Most importantly, people learned that prototyping is a cheaper, more efficient and less risky way to test their ideas with service users.

As someone new to the Innovation Unit, I found the experience to be not only informative with respect to prototyping, but it also gave me a glimpse into the work that the Innovation Unit performs. Rather than just write policy papers or produce pamphlets, the Innovation Unit takes a hands-on approach in efforts to apply new processes and models. I now have a better understanding of Radical Efficiency and innovation in general. The point of Radical Efficiency was made clear to me when everyone was asked to take a moment to think about how services are traditionally designed and to then think about how using the Radical Efficiency model would not only be more efficient for the localities, but would also greatly benefit the communities and families that the services are designed to support. Services should be designed with the user in mind and should be responsive to the user’s needs. It was refreshing to see such a large group of people from all over the country dedicated to changing the status quo. Hopefully, each of the six localities will take the lessons learned from the event and prototype different pieces of their larger service plans moving one step closer to providing a more efficient, less costly public service that reaches the people who need it the most.

Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services, Local Authorities, Radical Efficiency. Tags: .

Innovation Unit gets its 5 a day Innovation in Education just got 30% cheaper! #iie10

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