Pretotyping: Fail more and quicker to reach success sooner

Sometimes you hear/read a new word and the word´s own personality stands out from the very beginning. It´s even better when the word is actually a useful one to learn. This is the case of Pretotyping.

This post is to introduce the concept and the utility of Pretotyping. I will merely be summarising from the original sources that are out there on Pretotyping which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to dig deeper: The Pretotyping Manifesto video from this past January 2012 at Stanford, the original Pretotyping web page, and the free online book

A bit of background on Pretotyping: The idea of Pretotyping, whilst largely common sense is not a new concept. It’s basically an unconventional but effective form of market research. But whilst the core nature of it is not groundbreaking, the structure and articulation of the ideas and practices that surround the Pretotyping are very poignant and feel very much new. The naming and postulation of Pretotyping has been created and championed by Alberto Savoia who was Google’s Engineering Director and an expert on Innovation.

A bit of background on Mr Savoia and the seed of the Pretotyping concept: Alberto Savoia is a serial entrepreneur, who has had his fair share of sucesses and failures. After a really promising start into entrepreneurship, his second big profile project, with big leagues VC funding, flopped. This marked a wake up call for Savoia, who while at Google, decided to focus on this very important question we should all ask ourselves every once in a while: WTF?

WTF? =why the failure?

Mr Savoia started by outlining a very simple principle.

Law of failure=most ideas fail (even if very well implemented)

If most ideas fail (just take a look at all the apps that are sitting unused in the Apple store…), and most ideas take a healthy amount of time and money to fully activate, it makes sense when Alberto urges us to, when developing a new product or service, “make sure you are building the right IT before you build IT right”. This is Mr Savoia’s mantra for developing anything succesfully (a book, a company, a product…)

The trick, as it´s quite likely that most of our ideas will fail at implementation, is not to outrun failure, but to use it to your advantage.

What is the Pretotyping premise? Well, this takes into account speed of failure. The quicker your idea fails (as most will fail) the quicker you can try more ideas until one eventually becomes a success. The worst ideas are those that we allow to fail very slowly, as they consume our time, our money and our motivations in the long run.

Definition of Pretotyping: Validating the market appeal and actual usage of a potential new product or service by simulating its core experience whilst minimizing time and money spent.

The main question you ask when pretotyping: does it make sense to build it? would people use it?

In essence, Pretotyping is closer to innovative market research techniques that to prototyping.

If you adopt Pretotyping, the amount of ideas you will test will increase substantially, with them your amount of quick failures will also increase (you will fail more and quicker), but in return for your speedy failure you will eventually also come up with more successes. The goal of Pretotyping is to minimize slow, painful failures and increase quick ones, to reach success sooner.

The Pretotyping Manifesto

  • Innovators beat ideas
  • Data beats opinions
  • Doing beats talking
  • Simple beats complex
  • Now beats later
  • Commitment beats committees
  • Pretotypes beats Productypes

So what is the main advantage of  Pretotyping? Cost-efficient and speedy failure so as to quickly and cheaply discern those products or services that people won´t try, so you can go ahead and continue trying to find those that will.

Types of Pretotypes:

Mechanical Turks: Any dummy development that has not really been fully fledged out would fall into this category. A recent example mentioned by Alberto Savoia would be an IBM speech-to-text product, that was originally intented to spare business executives who were not PC-savvy from typing. The validation was executed through a Mechanical Turk as in reality the software wasn’t developed at all. Executives who tested out the Pretotype were made to believe it was a finished product when in reality there was a professional typist that did the typing into the Pretotype computer from another room.

One of the earliest examples of Pretotyping!

Pinocchio pretotype: Here you create a dummy product and assess it´s worthiness by filling in the blacks with your imagination (wooden block with painted buttons carried around with you would serve to see if you would use a palm device throughout the day)

Palm product and its Pinocchio Pretotype

Fake door: This measures interest in a service or product. You basically put an ad that explains the product and see  if people clicked on it. Very low investment (Adwords) and in return you get real consumer interest data!

Impersonator pretotypes: you take another product and wrap your product label around (to see if people would buy it, try it, etc)

Huge and very successful companies pretotyped in their origins. Facebook tried out pretotyping. They started with a small group of university students to see if the idea really worked. And the rest is history.

Pretotyping has also been vastly used in advertising. When developing an ad idea, you don’t produce and shoot straightaway. You recreate a mock up version of the advert to see if it is differentiating and relevant enough to really produce.

Any examples out there that you can think of that involve Pretotyping?

Take care amigos,

Hector

(post finished to the tune of Summerlines , by Au Revoir Simone)

 

 

 

  • Alberto Savoia

    Hector, Alberto Savoia here, the author of “Pretotype It”.  I found your post thanks to Google Alerts and I wanted to both thank you and compliment you for it. You’ve provided a very nice summary.

    It might interest you to know 2 things.

    1) That I’ve posted a Kindle version of the book on Amazon (it’s $0.99 but all the money goes to charity.)

    2) Someone has taken the time, without me knowing it, of translating the entire book into Spanish.  Stay tuned for links to that.

    Thanks again for the blog post … and may you always find ‘the right it’!

    Alberto

  • brandcredentials

    Thanks Alberto for your comments, much appreciated! I very much enjoyed learning and writing about the Pretotyping concept and it´s applications so I´ll be sure to check both the kindle version and the Spanish translation when it is out. Yes! Let´s hope we always find the right “it” or that “it” finds us rightly :)
    Take care, Hector

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