For the past few months, we've been busy with many workshops at Google and several other companies.
Alberto's "Pretotype It" book is now available on Amazon for the Kindle for the princely price of $0.99* .
* Every penny of the $0.33 royalty we get from Amazon for each Kindle copy will be donated to Habitat for Humanity Silicon Valley; but if you want you can still download a free PDF from Google docs.
Finally, there is a reasonably high-quality video of my pretotyping presentation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
See what people are saying about pretotyping - a collection of shamelessly self-serving quotes from happy pretotypers.
For the latest news, updates and examples on pretotyping, make sure you check out our Pretotyping Blog.
WHAT IS PRETOTYPING?
Pretotyping [pree-tuh-tahy-ping], verb:
Testing the initial appeal and actual usage of a potential new product by simulating its core experience with the smallest possible investment of time and money.
Less formally, pretotyping is a way to test a product idea quickly and inexpensively by creating extremely simplified versions of that product to help validate the premise that "If we build it, they will use it."
We did not invent or discover pretotyping; it's something that a small number of innovators do naturally. As a matter of fact, our concept and formulation of pretotyping was formed by reading and hearing stories about such innovators and the evolution of their ideas. But what these innovators were doing naturally was not exactly prototyping; it did not have a name and we thought it deserved one. We initially coined the term pretendotype because the most unique aspect of this approach was to pretend or imagine the intended functionality. However, since pretendotype was a quite a mouthful, we simplified it pretotype. The concept of pretotyping is also very close in spirit and practice to Eric Ries' brilliant Lean Startup Movement and the practice of building the Minimum Viable Product (MVP.)
The best way to explain pretotyping is through examples, so let's look at one.
Below is a photo of Jeff Hawkins' pretotype for the Palm Pilot:
The founder of Palm Computing mocked up a Palm Pilot with wood and paper; then carried it with him for weeks pretending it was a working device. His objective was to learn if he would actually use such a device before going to the next, very expensive and time-consuming step, of building an actual working prototype.
Even though Hawkins did not use the term pretotyping (because we hadn't made it up yet) that's exactly what he was doing; i.e., simulating the core experience of having and using a Palm Pilot with the smallest possible investment of time and money to see if he would actually carry and use it.
Pretotyping differs from prototyping in one important respect. The main objective of prototyping is to answer questions related to building the product: Can we build it? Will it work as expected? How cheaply can we build it? How fast can we make it? The main objective of pretotyping is to answer questions about the product's appeal and usage: Would people be interested in it? Will they use it as expected? Will they continue to use it? ...
Why do we believe that pretotyping is an important, but often neglected, step in innovation? Read on.
Good Failure vs. Bad Failure
The odds are stacked against innovators. Most new products and services fail. Failure is an unavoidable part of the innovation process; but some failures are much harder to take – and survive – than others.
In some cases, the failures can be attributed to poor execution in the way the innovative product or service was built and implemented. But in way too many cases, the innovative product or service was well thought out, planned and built. The team put a lot of time and effort to give it lots of cool features, they tested and debugged it, polished it and made it look as good as the possibly could – only to find out that they put all this time and effort on ... the wrong it. They built something that people did not want or need.
If your new product or service fails fast and cheaply, you will have the time, resources and energy to try something else – and keep trying until you have a hit. But if you've spent months and years and tons of money on a single idea that flops, you may have ran out of time, money and energy to give it another go.
Fail Fast ... and Often
Pretotyping is an approach to developing and launching innovation that helps you to determine if you are building the right it before you invest a lot of time and effort to build it right. Pretotyping helps you to fail ... but fast enough and cheaply enough that you have time and resources to try something different.
A pretotype is a mock-up of the intended product or service that can be built in minutes, hours or days instead of weeks, months or years. The art and science of pretotyping is aimed to help innovators:
Try and Test More Ideas
Saving innovators from wasting too much time and money pursuing the wrong 'it' is an obvious benefit of pretotyping; but there is another, less obvious but possibly greater, advantage to pretotyping. Since the investment require for pretotyping is very small – minutes, hours or days at the most – pretotyping gives you the freedom to try out some crazy and far-out ideas that 'just might work' but that would probably be shelved if pursuing them required a non-trivial investment.
While the practice of pretotyping is not new, we find that it's an important step in the innovation cycle that is neither well-known nor practiced often enough or well enough – this website, along with a fledgeling pretotyping blog are our effort to fix that.
Our goal is to help popularize, refine and evolve pretotyping to help innovators waste less blood, sweat and tears on products or services that will ultimately fail.