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Five Tips for Rapid Refinement: From Fall Prevention Ideators

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We saw incredible prototyping, iteration and insight-driven design in our Fall Prevention Challenge and wanted to highlight how the ideators did it. So, the OpenIDEO team conducted a few quick interviews, made sense of the insights from the fall prevention ideators, and compiled a list to help you have an agile and user-centered refinement journey.

1. Assign Roles


The first piece of advice came from StairWear: break the idea into parts according to the areas of expertise that you – or your team members – bring. By assigning roles, the StarWear team was able to work to their strengths and better manage their time.

“Natalie was a perfect fit for the interior design and grip components - she was able to put together how it might look and keep us focused on how to best tell our story.

I was a fit for the manufacturing piece and physical elements such as how to actually attach the product to stairs.

Louise was a perfect fit for anything and everything regarding the website.” 

- Michael O’Sullivan


2. Create a User Experience Map


The team behind Curo came to the Challenge with a previously developed product. When we chatted with them, they mentioned that they were surprised at how having a process to follow lead to the discovery of new insights.

Through collaborating on the production of a user experience map, the team was able to identify the collective assumptions they held about how a user would interact with their product. They had done user experience maps in the past, but the collective thinking this Challenge brought to the table encouraged them to sink into some details they hadn’t made time for in the past.

The user experience maps encouraged them to identify one assumption they wanted to test: what information would a Caregiver want and how often.*

*For more information on user experience maps, check out OpenIDEO’s User Experience Map Template


3. Put your Prototype Pride Aside


Robert Smith – the creator of StairWalker – started testing early with a low fidelity prototype and used feedback from the test participants to rapidly iterate his designs.

“I prefer to start projects using the lowest fidelity that can return valuable feedback. Higher fidelity can be explored when that level of detail becomes relevant based on the questions being asked.”

His first physical model for StairWalker was a simple cardboard tube from a roll of holiday wrapping paper. By testing the tube, he quickly understood how an older adult might interact with the device. The next prototypes were more complex and closer to a market-ready product.


4. Get to know your user


The team behind All-Terrain Cane took a similar approach but differed by immersing themselves in the user’s environment. They spent time in a senior center developing a rapport with the owner and residents and gained deep insights into the resident’s daily lives.

Through a co-creation-style process with the residents, the team was able to narrow their initial ideas down to two. Then the selected idea - the cane - was iterated with the resident’s help to create a device that the resident’s felt comfortable with.*

*For more information on gathering insights, check out OpenIDEO’s Interview Toolkit


5. Tap into your network, the Challenge, and experts

As well as engaging users, teams looked elsewhere for guidance. The StairWear team tapped into their network of contacts. They were able to connect to an engineer and a local makerspace for advice. They kept up-to-date with the other ideas in refinement to get a better sense of what they should be doing and gathered feedback from the comments on the OpenIDEO platform.

“Bettina was really helpful in sharing our idea with older adults and they brought in the idea to try StairWear on outdoor steps. Then, we started putting that in front of people and found that it really resonated.” 

- Michael O’Sullivan

They also reached out to experts in order to better understand the landscape and opportunities of StairWear.

“When approaching experts, don’t shoot for fame, shoot for knowledge. If you need to hear from architects, don’t approach the biggest architectural firm. We tried to reach out to the Head of Architecture at a school and couldn’t get a response, but his assistant was VERY helpful.” 

- Michael O’Sullivan


“Keep in mind experts are not coming at the idea from the same angle you are. Sometimes they may be very focused on the practical side, or what rules and constraints are in place within their sector. Remember that usability can trump the rules and stay creative!” 


- Natalie LeRoy

Curo, StairWear, StairWalker, All-Terrain Cane, and many others in the OpenIDEO community created solutions designed for and with the user - embracing the essence of the human-centered design.

The OpenIDEO Team would like to thank these teams and all the participants in the Fall Prevention challenge and the OpenIDEO community for continuing to share their thoughts and insights with us. Now, take these tips and try your own rapid refinement!

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