The biggest mistake that most folks do, is trying to build a product when they keep saying its a “prototype”. The other common mistake often made is that they take a product, which has 10 features and essentially pick one or in some cases two, and then say, lets build that and call it a prototype.
Both of these are fundamentally wrong. A prototype, is a much basic version of the concept, not feature, to showcase what you are trying to do (aka, the solution).
So I have this fictional story in my head, that I believe will help you understand:
There was this king, who had a small but strong army and they had been constantly been raided by thieves and smugglers who lived in a nearby forest. So one day after all the complaints that the king had been getting, and after one awry raid gone wrong with deaths swarming the countryside, the king decided to take his army and go wipe out this little problem in his borders. One small problem – there was a river that ran between the land and where the thieves had taken refuge, and the king’s men expected an ambush when they landed in the other side, especially if they do so one by one.
So they kept mulling over for days, till one day, a bright young chap, walks into the king’s tent saying he has a solution, and drops a paper boat in a vessel and drops two pebbles in the boat. These were days before people knew what boats were, so the king was surprised to see that paper could float, and carry two pebbles on it, without sinking.
Wowed by what he saw, and seeing the solution in his head, and sparks in his eyes, the king’s next question was
“How do we build this?”
To which the young lad replied, give me carpenters and wood and I’ll get you your boats to carry your men across.
The king was at his command. Wood, Carpenters and able men were ordered to listen, obey and follow the orders of the young inventor.
The paper boat was the prototype. Your goal, when building a prototype is to get that wow, and to show the customer and stakeholder a glimpse of the solution.
If the young man had walked in asking for carpenters and wood because he thought he had a solution, he probably would have been thrown out. A prototype gets you into the door, and the chance to command more resources to achieve your goal. At the end of the day, thats really what entrepreneurship is about, the ability to move resources to achieve the goal you can see (clearly) but isn’t very obvious.
[Guest article by Vijay Anand, Founder of In50Hours. These are excerpts from The Prototyping Guide.]