The Good Lab

Lianne Dillsworth: My key learnings

15 December 2016

By Thomas .

Lianne Dillsworth: My key learnings

Sometimes it can feel as though ideas are the easy bit when it comes to innovation. Knowing which to take forward, and most importantly how, is where things can get tough. And when resources are limited and it's donations from supporters that you're investing, there's an incredible amount of pressure to make the right decision. That's why I wanted to learn more about prototyping. And the secondment at the Good Lab was the perfect opportunity. From September to October I supported Lauren, the Good Lab's Head of Service Design, on prototyping a new product inspired by the Sharing Economy. Six weeks on, having had the chance to digest my learnings and get back into the swing of my day-to-day at NSPCC, I'd like to share what I'm taking forward in five commonplaces, you could even call them clich├ęs. I've chosen these because while they're not wildly original or unique they are familiar, accessible and rooted in what we already know. Just like prototyping. The ease and simplicity of prototyping is worth emphasising. Prototyping can sound as though it might be complicated, time-consuming and potentially expensive. In fact, it's none of these things and I hope that sharing my learnings in this way will prove that.

Learning 1: A picture is worth a thousand words
Drawing things out with pen and paper makes them feel real. It also encourages simplicity and enables you to communicate quickly in a way that everyone can understand. This is invaluable when you're working on something new. One of my first tasks on joining the Good Lab was to map out a user journey for the product we were developing. Seeing it drawn out was a short cut to understanding potential pain points and an ideal starting point for discussions about the experience we wanted the product to offer.

Learning 2: Practice makes perfect
Prototyping is an iterative process, which gives you freedom to test and refine multiple approaches. No new product is perfect, but with each tweak it should improve. Be clear on what you need to learn but prepare, too, for some insights you weren't expecting and will need to address. When developing any new product you will be asked to provide a rationale for the decisions you have made, whether that's on functionality, audience or look and feel. Prototyping means that you can frame this rationale in terms of user feedback.

Learning 3: Many hands make light work
When you're working on something new, it can be tempting to keep it secret. You want to protect it until its fully finessed and ready for its big 'ta dah' moment. But that means you cannot get the user feedback that will make your product fit for purpose. While working on the sharing economy prototype we spoke to hundreds of people: experts, users, even friends and family when they had a relevant experience to share. This approach helped us to build quickly on our original idea and iron out the bumps.

Learning 4: Feel the fear and do it anyway
Working on new things is exhilarating. It can also be scary and there will always be a moment when you worry that you've made the wrong decision or that no-one will like what you've done. If you can accept that these moments will come, and know that they'll go just as quickly, it can give you the sense of freedom you need to take a risk. This might mean stepping back from a focus group and taking your idea out into the real world so you can understand what your prospective customers will actually do, rather than what they say they will.

Learning 5: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
Maybe you're doing one or two of these things already, but as with Team GB's cyclists, its all about the aggregation of marginal gains. Prototyping demands conviction, so choose your methodology, set aside some time to test and learn and go for it.

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