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Prototyping: a shorthand of entrepreneurship?

Prototyping is crucial to design and entrepreneurship is about designing a new business: isn't prototyping a key activity for entrepreneurs and maybe a metaphor of what entrepreneurs do.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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Re-reading Tom Kelley's paper, "Prototyping is the shorthand of design" for a class (in Design Management, 2001), I could not stop thinking of this challenge. Prototyping to get inspired, to think, to collaborate, to test hypotheses, to solve problems and to communicate. All of this seems to me central activities to what entrepreneurs do / should do.

This impression became even stronger when I read Kelley's analysis of the creation of Amazon.com as a story of quick prototyping. Kelley writes: "Quick prototyping is about acting before you’ve got the answers, about taking chances— stumbling a little, but then making it right. Consider Jeff Bezos’s story of the birth of
Amazon.com. A business rookie, he launched one of the Internet’s first multibillion-dollar behemoths, literally on the run." I'll post the whole story of Amazon. com as described by Tom Kelley in another post.

I also found this quote by Tom Kelley quite inspiring in the context of this challenge:
"When the project is especially complex, prototyping is a way of making progress when the challenges seem insurmontable."

If prototyping is a mindset, the question is how do you support, reinforce and / or teach this mindset?

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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Really nice questions Anne-Laure. I think Tom's point about prototyping being a way of making progress is really true. My husband is starting a business and we keep talking about the different experiments we want to run in order to learn and 'chip away' at the big questions we need to answer. Testing and prototyping are exactly the methods we're using to learn and get the business off the ground.