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Prototyping for Creative Confidence

What does prototyping have to do with creative confidence? As we saw in our Creative Confidence Challenge, it turns out maybe more than we'd think.

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Tom and David Kelley, in their new book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, define creative confidence simply as the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.

During our Creative Confidence Challenge, we asked our global community to design ideas that would inspire young people to cultivate their own creative confidence. We had a hunch our community would come up with surprising, fun and inspiring ways to do just that – and like always, you impressed us with your fresh thinking and collaborative efforts. What we didn't expect, though, was that some of our community members might flex their own creative confidence muscles in the process.

It turns out that prototyping – creating a rough, yet tangible version of your idea to share with potential end-users, gather feedback and test your own assumptions – is a perfect activity for building creative confidence. And, as many of our community members involved in this challenge demonstrated, it's one we were ready to start practicing.

In fact this challenge saw unprecedented numbers of folks building and testing their prototypes out in the communities where we live. For Olivia and the team behind The Electronster, the goal was to try out their idea – a mobile lab where students learn to disassemble and reassemble electronics – with a wide range of user groups. Over the course of the challenge, the team ran three prototype sessions with young people ranging in age (9-13) and group size (from 1 student on his own to groups of 20). Varying the number of end users involved in the prototype helped the team uncover important insights that informed their final design. For instance, at one point early on the team questioned whether kids needed to break apart the electronics in order to get creative with putting them back together. Through prototyping the team learned that "destruction [of the electronics] is a critical element" because it "gave kids the license and confidence to break rules and try new things." 

In The Play Portal – an online space for kids to play games that help them tap into their creative potential – Christopher and his team set the goal of prototyping with a diverse set of young people. In this case, the size of the group didn't matter, but diversity did. Christopher was able to prototype some of his early ideas with a classroom near him in New York, but by reaching out to the global OpenIDEO community and asking for support, he was able to connect with Manya, who offered to prototype the games in India as well. In both cases, Christopher uploaded video content from the prototypes to the platform to help the entire OpenIDEO community visualise what these prototypes looked like – and the enthusiasm the young children had while playing. 

For Vishal, prototyping his idea was less about end user feedback and more about creating a minimum viable product that could be tested and refined. His Creative Confidence Here website – an online hub of resources and tools for creative confidence – was a great idea from the start but it instantly came to life once Vishal built his first iteration. And, thanks to community comments and feedback, Vishal was able to update his website prototype in real time, incorporating refinements on the spot.

Whether it was creating tools to help each other interview end users (like Brad's SelfStyle downloadable research kit), using a laser-cutter to engineer a working model (like Vicki's THXCube) or something in between, our community took prototyping – and building creative confidence – to a new level in this challenge. We're excited to see how we can build on these prototyping learnings and successes in a future OpenIDEO challenge! 

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