Over the course of the last month, we’ve released dozens of microlearning lessons within two tracks to transform your team into creative problem solvers: Transform Your Team With Design Thinking and Maximize Value With Human-Centered Design. Today, we’re releasing the last track in our design thinking series, Prototype to Iterate. This track will give you and your learners a way to build products more effectively.
Building products isn’t easy, and building successful products that people want to use is even harder. The secret is to start with a prototype—a preliminary model to test your assumptions, learn from users, and refine your idea. By the end of our Prototype to Innovate track, your learners will be able to:
- Iterate to arrive at a solution
- Test with real people
- Measure & document findings
- Make sure your designs are desirable
- Evolve over time
Prototyping is a critical skill for developing breakthrough products and solutions. In fact, the majority of the products you use every day likely started with a prototype. Think cell phones, velcro, Nintendo, the coffeemaker, and even the airplane.
How do you think the Wright Brothers went about building the first successful airplane? It certainly didn’t happen overnight. They spent years prototyping and iterating on their designs. And that’s what design thinking is all about.
Throughout this blog post, we’ll dive into the story of the Wright Brothers, so you can follow the progression of a product from theory to execution, and in the process, better understand how successful prototyping works and what it might look like at your organization.
So, how did Orville and Wilbur Wright begin their journey to help man achieve flight? You might be surprised to know it didn’t begin with a plane—it began with a bike.
Riding a bike
In 1892 the Wright Brothers opened a bike shop, where they built, repaired, and sold bicycles. During this time, other inventors such as Otto Lilienthal were experimenting with building machines that allowed humans to fly, but they weren’t getting very far. Curious to see if they could do any better, The Wright Brothers decided to throw their hat in the ring.
Taking a design thinking approach, the brothers began with research. They observed birds in flight, studied the failed attempts of other inventors, and collected everything they’d learned about transportation from their work in the bike shop. This led them to a hypothesis: just like a bicycle, a successful plane could be unstable, yet controllable. The brothers wondered: Could the wings of a plane play the same role as the handlebars of a bicycle?
To answer that question, the brothers didn’t just build a plane right away. They decided to start by building a glider.
Flying a kite
Iteration was the name of the game as The Wright Brothers began building out their first glider. They initially thought about using gears and shafts to angle and pull the wings of the plane, but quickly realized the materials would be too heavy to fly. Instead, they developed a method called wing-warping, which is a system of pulleys and cables that twists the edges of the wings in opposite directions.
Putting on their prototyping hats, the Wright Brothers decided to build a single wing to test their theory—a kite. Yes, you read that right. Instead of going straight to building a plane, the brothers started small and it paid off. The test-flight was a success and proved that wing warping had great potential. This test allowed the Wright Brothers to move on to building a full-size piloted glider.
Learning to glide
They began designing their first glider. From the framework to the fabric of the wings, there was a lot to consider. Once they had a working prototype, they tested it, collected data and built and rebuilt over and over again. Sometimes, the brothers would even revert back to testing their theories on kites before building an entirely new glider.
It was this process that led The Wright Brothers to the flight of their first successful airplane in 1903.
Prototyping like a Wright Brother
There are many things we can learn about prototyping from the Wright Brother’s journey to flight and apply to our own everyday work challenges. We can start small, remain unafraid of failure, test, and collect data to iterate. All of these things will help us build increasingly successful products.
Ready to take flight with the latest track in our design thinking curriculum? Get a sneak peek below.
Not a Grovo customer? Be sure to get in touch with us, if you’re interested in learning more about building a design thinking curriculum at your organization.