Prototype Death Rate

This simple metric can be a big determinant of innovation success.

A prototype is developed when you’ve developed an idea to the point where building a conceptual ‘mock-up’ to test and challenge is possible and desirable. A prototype is the conceptual realization of an idea and allows us to test its fit for purpose ahead of full release to assess bugs, defects, flaws, strengths, and gaps in our design and knowledge.

Persistence in design and development is among the top predictors of innovation success. As we’ve heard from others: fail often and fast to succeed sooner.

The Prototype Death Rate is a simple metric that captures innovation attempts, successes, and the responsiveness of an organization.

Simple Math

Divide the number of prototypes that are stopped by the total number of prototypes developed overall.

This metric forces us to ask: what is a prototype? Have we generated one? In many cases, organizations have not fully thought through what a prototype might actually look like. As the UN Refugee Organization writes, a prototype is not a pilot test. What we consider a prototype to be is something that can be debated, but whatever is agreed on must guide design strategy.

The number of prototypes developed can correlate with the amount of attempts and the effort used to bring new ideas into focus and eventual development.

By tracking what is generated and how it is used, we also create a mechanism for responsiveness. We can start to track our progress, our actions, and our outcomes by paying attention to our attempts and their usefulness in results.

Try it out. Start with defining prototypes. Then build an inventory of prototypes and projects. Then do the math.

If you want help setting up your innovation metrics and system for design, reach out to us. We can help — this is what we do.

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

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