We can all prototype. That is a given. Some organizations pick it up just a little faster than others. Take IT organizations as an example. There the adaptation of the method seems to be even greater. There must be a reason for that. We have investigated why this is so. Below are the top 5 of our conclusions.
First: why prototyping?
What can you achieve with prototyping? The power is making complexity small. Difficult, challenging topics often go unaddressed. Too difficult, too big, or you simply don’t have the guts to tackle it. Chances are you’ll end up endlessly analyzing or procrastinating. The solution is to get moving. By breaking down the task into very small prototypes that eventually take you step-by-step to the goal, this becomes easier. It can be done with any challenge you face. And really comes into its own with the more complex challenges. Think about trust, autonomy, psychological safety, ownership, you name it.
Prototyping is therefore also increasingly being picked up by management gurus. They see prototyping as the means to develop organizations. For example, Gary Hamel devotes a lot of space to this in his new book Humanocracy (2020). He indicates that people need prototyping to become and remain adaptive. And this is a 2025 skill that everyone should have to be successful in this changing world according to the WEF. Aaron Dignan in Brave New Work (2019) points out that prototyping is going to help organizations become more people-centric and reduce complexity. And that’s exactly what makes you agile as an organization.
5 reasons why prototyping works so well
With our background in IT, with more than 20 years of experience, it is not illogical that these are the companies or departments where we mostly work. In recent years, we’ve been busy transforming these types of organizations and departments into progressive ones. And this is not the only reason. We find that Digital agencies and IT departments adapt and master prototyping even faster than other organizations.
How exactly is this happening? An analysis with 5 reasons why.
1. IT determines the speed of change
Nothing is as changeable as digitization and nowhere does the development go as fast as there. These organizations are used to constant change. The way of working has already been adapted to this.
IT departments and organizations have actually been leading the way in the way we work and how we are organized for years. Agile working has its origins in software development for a reason. And it doesn’t stop there. These organizations are taking it further. Even if it is sociocracy, holacracy, teal management, or self-management. Many IT organizations dare to take the step faster. Thus, these organizations are the first to expand into fully self-managed organizations.
Within IT organizations there is an urgency and a realization that change is a given. In a constantly changing world, you have to change with it, and with prototyping, you can, constantly. The trick is to get employees to work not only IN their organization but also ON their organization. Prototyping in this way helps to make the step to that progressive organization. Succinctly, prototyping helps to keep developing yourself as a progressive organization.
2. Agile mindset
Agile working comes from software development and was introduced to optimize cooperation on the one hand and to deliver results faster on the other hand.
Prototyping is based on these two thoughts. By facilitating a rhythm in which the team is constantly talking to each other, you create an optimal collaboration. The recurring nature ensures that, just like Agile and Scrum, you make a habit of change. In addition, the Agile principle of “better done than perfect” also applies to prototyping. A prototype doesn’t have to be perfect, a prototype should be radical and small enough to validate in 2 or 3 weeks. The key is to get moving and keep moving. Good enough for now and safe enough to try.
These matching mindsets help these organizations introduce and master prototyping quickly.
3. Many young people/organizations
We don’t do age discrimination, but IT companies tend to be younger departments. Why is this important? Because such a department has less organizational debt. It has fewer legacy, conservative forms of collaboration, principles, and procedures that can slow down change within the organization.
This debt causes ideas to die, initiatives to die, and creativity and innovativeness to be beaten to death. The younger the organization, the less organizational debt there is, and the freer the organization is to make changes without any brakes. This allows these organizations to get to the really important things faster, such as psychological safety, effectiveness, as well as customer focus, or just plain fun.
From experience, we see that employees in these young organizations find it extra exciting to take ownership and responsibility. Prototyping can give them more structure, so they dare to take ownership.
4. In addition to working in, working on the organization
Operations are the killer of many important things like innovation and team performance. Because you spend all your time on your customer or organization, you don’t have time for other important things: namely the question “how do we become better as a team”.
IT companies have been seeing this issue for some time. By adding retrospectives to their way of working, subjects that can improve their team performance are discussed every sprint.
However, retrospectives often remain superficial. Prototyping is designed to constantly work on your team. These topics are not a catch, but the main goal. Address those complex topics and change for the better!
An organization where blaming and shaming is used are not only ineffective but also inhumane. Bravery is a core competency of an organization. People who dare to speak out, dare to show initiative change the organization for the good. Even if it is the smallest issue.
In IT organizations, you see this bravery reflected in the development process. Making mistakes is part of development. Making the wrong thing or in the wrong way is part of the development process and the learning curve of a team and the individuals within it. This mindset helps teams and organizations. When you want to change, you also have to dare to fail. When you have this under control as a team, people are more likely to take the initiative or allow themselves to be vulnerable.
Prototyping is based on learning by experimenting. Faster validation, faster failure, and faster learning. By developing the growth mindset within a team, you develop a team that considers failure as part of success.
Prototyping always works. However, it is a new rhythm, a mindset. You must want, be able, and are allowed to change.
The analysis shows that an IT department or Digital Agency is more likely to meet these conditions. They can start prototyping even faster within the organization! You have the best conditions to introduce this quickly and successfully and thus take the next step.