Applied Prototyping: designing for buy-in

A quick comment on prototyping.  I’ve found this to be a useful technique when presenting new ideas. It’s one thing to sit around in a committee and intellectualize, but it is very different when you have a model to work with.

I experienced this first hand when trying to launch a reference desk wiki. I presented the idea (with just words) at a meeting and received blank stares. A few months later I demonstrated a PB Wiki with actual content and received more enthusiasm. However it didn’t take off as I had hoped. People bought into the idea, but the follow through was absent. A year later I’m trying again, but this time ramping it up by trying to pull in several departments to raise the stature and value. We’re going to demo “homegrown” software created by campus IT, provide a flowchart illustrating the concept, and offer examples of content that are linked to actual needs. Hopefully by providing a prototype it will communicate the purpose, and staff members will feel that they can contribute, rather than just saying here’s what we’re going to do now. We’re seeking a conversation rather than just issuing commands.

When I speak with librarians who are excited about new social technology, they often mention the roadblocks they encounter. The best advice I can give is to use prototyping. Build a proof-of-concept, test it with a few users, and then present it to the powers-that-be. Instead of giving them the chance to shoot down your idea, let them see it first hand, educate them about it, and show them see how it can be adapted. The secret is user needs—if you can demonstrate how your idea addresses a patron (or staff) need then you’ll have greater chance of success.

I feel that I have benefited from leadership that doesn’t always say YES or NO right away, but asks for more. My Admin forces me to flush out ideas before they will commit and this encourages me to be more creative or at least more through. Prototyping helps other people to understand your vision, but also forces you to figure it out more yourself.

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