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Prototyping in Public Servicesdescribes an approach that can be used to help develop new and innovative services by testing ideas out early in the development cycle.

NESTA has produced a guide for policymakers, strategy leads, heads of service, commissioners and anyone else in a public service looking for new methodologies that can help them to better meet the needs of their communities. It sits alongside the Prototyping Framework: A guide to prototyping new ideas which provides examples of activities that can happen at different stages of a prototyping project.

The guide and toolkit are early outputs from our prototyping work and are based on work NESTA and its partners have been doing with several local authorities and third sector organisations. We will continue to learn about prototyping as an approach that can be used to develop public services, through our practical programmes.

… The Internet, on the other hand, was designed and deployed by small groups of researchers following the credo of one of its chief architects, David Clark: “rough consensus and running code.” Its early standards — uncomplicated, consensual — were stewarded by small organizations that resisted permission or authority. And they won: The Internet Protocol on which every connected device relies was a triumph of distributed innovation over centralized expertise.

The ethos of the Internet is that everyone should have the freedom to connect, to innovate, to program, without asking permission. No one can know the whole of the network, and by design it cannot be centrally controlled. This network was intended to be decentralized, its assets widely distributed. Today most innovation springs from small groups at its “edges.”

This technical strategy has led to the creation of a gigantic network of far-flung innovators who develop standards with one another and share the products of their work in the form of free and open-source software. The architecture of the Internet and its abundance of free software and components has driven down the cost of manufacturing, distribution and collaboration — of innovation. It used to cost millions of dollars to start a software company. Today, for little or no money, entrepreneurs are able to develop and release a “minimum viable product” and test it with real users on the Internet before they have to raise any money from investors. 

I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is the process establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.

… The release early, release often ethos of linux combined with the amount of actual “real work” you can do in one week with Ruby on Rails and other languages and frameworks totally changes the game for early stage consumer Internet investing.

Generally speaking, it’s probably cheaper and faster and more effective to make a prototype than to make presentation deck. It’s also probably easier to test something on real users than to do lots of marketing and guessing. My recommendation to just about anyone with an idea is to just build the thing, iterate until you have some user traction, then pitch angel investors based on that traction. This is very much in line with the old IETF motto of “rough consensus, running code.”

Then he describes the main characteristics of good design-making. First, he says, one must begin learning my making and building in order to think. Prototypes speed up the process of innovation. One has to put products into the world to see their successes and failures. Then, instead of making our primary objective consumption, we must see it as participation. Brown thinks the design of participatory systems is going to be the major theme for design and for our economy. Design has greatest impact when put in the hands of everyone.

TED Blog: Tim Brown at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes on Session 7

Designer Tim Brown of IDEO at TEDGlobal 2009, Session 7: July 23, 2009, in Oxford, UK.

As managers deal increasingly with ill-structured problems, they often find themselves needing to think more like designers. One of the things that characterizes designers and design thinkers is their reliance on sketches. Sketching can be used to explore complex situations, solve problems, or sell ideas. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a visual person, you can quickly learn to use simple techniques to look, see, imagine and show more clearly.