Prototyping and Testing: What this hospital and the San Francisco Opera have in common

In order to fail quickly and cheaply, it is necessary to listen, adapt and repeat
November 2018

This methodology bases part of its success on correctly applying its last phases: prototyping and testing. These two phases are key to understanding if the solution designed is adapted to the needs of the person or if it solves the initial problem or challenge, as well as where it is necessary to influence if this product or service does not fit at all.

In these phases, there are two clear premises: listen and iterate. Only in this way can we obtain precise and accurate answers and know how to redirect our product or service down the right road.

We share two examples of how prototyping is essential to design our product or service:

1. Rotterdam Ophthalmological Hospital: rapid failure and cheap failure

While it is a basic premise of Design Thinking, this is a clear example that failing fast is failing cheaply, or guessing right, who knows.

A team made up of doctors, managers, administrators and assistants, decided to work on the main insight they had discovered in a phase of research with patients: reduce the fear of going blind. From here, everything was a trial and error test, or as they called it internally, "experiments", that a team known as hunters of innovation was developing bit by bit. Not always successful, but always with minimal investment, the small experiments were carried out, received feedback and improved, making the process iterative and resulting in improvements in service and considerable reduction of initial fear.

Here we leave their approaches, some successful, others not, but all based on the principles of Design Thinking as an agile problem solving methodology.

If you want to take a look at another case in the health sector, check out this talk by Doug Dietz, Innovation Architect at GE Healthcare, about the power of empathy:

2. San Francisco Opera: the power of a real prototype

In many cases, the culture of the organization is an obstacle for innovation and Design Thinking, bet on for agility and speed. This is a reality that we have encountered on many occasions and the following case is an example of this.

San Francisco Opera was suffering from plummeting ticket sales. Some students from Stanford University showed that this situation could be reversed by changing its image in people's heads: "opera is boring and for older people". The first success would be finding an insight that allowed a problem to be defined, and therefore, finding a solution. This process materialized into a prototype with which they learned and confirmed initial hypotheses, called "Barely Opera", an event that took place in a setting similar to opera and whose claim was "This Isn´t Your Grandma’s Opera”.

This video captures the process and the success of the initiative, which allowed rapid testing without excessive investments, reviving opera among young people. As a result of this project, "SFOpera Lab" was born, an initiative that explores other ways of understanding Opera, in a closer and more collaborative way.

Carmen Castillo
Consultant