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3 lessons about how to do rapid prototyping from the Nordstrom Innovation Lab

I just came across this video of how the Nordstrom Innovation Lab created, tested and built an iPad app in just one week with the intent of enhancing the eye wear buying experience. I thought I’d share this with you as a follow up post to the three part series I wrote on how to leave small thinking behind.

Though the video was posted almost three years ago, it is still quite relevant for rapid prototyping towards innovation.

There are a few things that I want to bring to your attention about rapid prototyping:

  • Deadline. The Nordsrom Innovation Lab team set out to create, test and build an app in one week, right in the spot where their customers are going to use it. Most established companies don’t operate like this. And the fact that Nordstrom can use its own store as a testing ground is an advantage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the same.
  • Unexpectedness. They setup at the store unexpectedly, for a whole week. Visiting customers weren’t expecting to become active testers during their shopping journey, so this got their attention.
  • Speed. Because they were creating and testing in the store, they had direct access to customers as well as sales people. This is a unique setup to get the most out of their time, as well as from customers.

About a year and a half ago I did something similar, though not for a whole week, with a group of entrepreneurs I was mentoring. The interface for their idea was a mobile app, and their target customer hung out at bars, so a designer, developer and me went to a local bar and setup shop on a table. We gave ourselves 4 hours to test and iterate with people at the bar. Though we didn’t get to interact with most of the key users for our app (musicians), the short time we spent there gave us a good picture of how people could use and interact with our app.

What’s the point?

The Nordstrom Innovation lab focuses on developing rapid prototypes while working with customers in real time, and as a large company it gives it that entrepreneurial mindset. When a large company creates a process, a startup launches a product.

Why?

Because startups are driven by customer feedback. As I’ve said in the past, there is no innovation without experimentation. And, rapid prototyping is the shortest path to innovation because it’s when you get to see and hear feedback from the customer.

Ask yourself: how might we get closer to our customers, show them and have them interact with what we have, to iterate faster?

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