August 29, 2017

Want to Think Bigger: Make Everything A Prototype

How do you help your team think bigger? “Innovation” and “creative problem solving” are more than just buzz words among the top health brands’ marketers. The ability to think differently and see opportunities before your competitors can be the difference between your brand winning and losing in the health care marketplace.

Perhaps a better question might be, “What’s keeping us from thinking bigger?” Fear of failure? Not wanting to look foolish sharing half-baked ideas? Skill? Talent? We have all felt the pressure to deliver on big ideas for our brand’s most important challenges.

At Franklin Street, we believe one of the best ways to encourage new thinking throughout your team is by applying the concept of prototyping.


Prototyping has been with us for a while, gaining ground with lean startups out of Silicon Valley. Prototyping is credited as one of the main techniques in driving innovation in the world’s most innovative companies. This trend is moving into the main stream–driven primarily by technology. Think low-cost 3-D printers available at your local Walmart with kids printing out multiple versions of their next toy, trying to get the wheels sized just right. I used a photo app on my iPhone last week to prototype my next haircut.

Prototyping is quickly gaining speed in the health care space. A client of ours is leveraging the power of virtual reality to practice specific surgical techniques before the live operation. Imagine the possibilities of prototyping future patient experiences.


Prototyping is about getting ideas out of your head quickly and into some kind of tangible form so you can share with others to get their feedback. Then apply your learnings to the next iteration of the prototype to continuously improve and encourage risk taking. When this is done with pace, as it often is, it is referred to as rapid prototyping which accelerates the learning curve.

We see this often with A/B testing in digital marketing. We introduce new and improved iterations based on the audience’s previous behavior. Constantly experimenting. Constantly improving.

That brings us to one of the more powerful things about prototyping. You don’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. In fact, if you like your first idea, you’re not thinking big enough. Stretch yourself out of your comfort zone. The prototyping process gives you a safe place to fail. Failure is an expected part of the process. That’s how we learn. We want to fail faster so we can learn sooner.


Imagine one of your biggest challenges that you can’t quite figure out how to tackle. Let’s suppose the customer experience in your lobby is dragging down satisfaction scores. How can prototyping help you get a better handle on a solution?

Start by gathering your team. Challenge them to be open minded, like that of a child. Reimagine the value your lobby can bring to your customer. Perhaps you realize the furniture provides no privacy, or the smells in the air are less than desirable. Now sketch out on a whiteboard how this could look. Bring in samples of candles, fresh baked apple pie or other scents you want to test. Because the cost of failure is low at this point, go ahead and try out your craziest ideas.

Then share your whiteboard and scent samples with your visitors. Learn what’s working and what’s not working from their feedback. Be humble and listen carefully as they will teach you things you did not know. Then update the whiteboard and share it again with other visitors. You could probably get through half a dozen iterations in a single day by rapid prototyping multiple iterations. Imagine how much smarter your team would be in just one day. And after a few days? You probably would have the ultimate lobby experience figured out.

You could do something similar with scripting for call centers or messaging to donors. One of our clients even built life size patient rooms made out of cardboard and role played doctor-patient interactions. Everything can be prototyped.


Perfection is the enemy of growth and innovation. The pressure to be perfect at the start can throw us into analysis paralysis or make our thinking so tight we never see the opportunities that await us. A prototyping approach will drive fear of failure out of your team and will free up the mind. It encourages risk taking and experimentation. It gives your team permission to think bigger.

We hope you and your team will enjoy thinking bigger when you prototype solutions for your next important challenge. Leave us a response and share how you prototyped yourself out of a difficult situation. For more on how prototyping can shape ROI, click here.