• Pretotyping

Fail fast, fail often

...why you should pretotype before anything else!

Everyone has heard of the mantra "fail forward" and knows the need to overcome the fear of failing. Everyone agrees, that this is a necessity for future business as well. But the thing is, that talent does not immediately seek to fail. Ever. That is why we need a more structured and cost-friendly approach to failing - as a means to secure successes as the process enrolls. Pretotyping does just that and is probably the most effective way of systematically working towards unprecedented success - by making the inferior ideas fall flat on their face along the way

The core of pretotyping is the constant validation from both the users and customers which keep everybody on the right track. As part of an organisation or company, you get to bring ideas to the table cheaper and faster! The god part of it? Everybody can use pretotyping as a tool even if it’s a startup, microfirm or a well-established company - it’s easy to learn and you don’t need any preconditions to do it..

Breaking down pretotyping 

So, what is pretotyping? Pretotyping is a fast method to sort the wrong idea from the right ideas - shortly speaking. The fact is, you can’t turn a wrong idea, product, service, etc. into a right one, no matter how much time, money and people you use. That is why pretotyping is a valuable asset in some industries and is often referred to as low-fidelity prototypes. Basically; it’s thoughts or ideas brought to life fast and cheap - and killed just as fast when those are not sustainable. This provides a common ground to interact from, you can easily demonstrate and receive constructive criticism, and lastly it is a simple and wonderful way of visualising ideas!

Even though experiencing pretotyping in your company require, that you shouldn’t be afraid of failing - even several times - you will be able to recover much faster and stronger in the process as opposed to if you chose to use more time- and resource-consuming approaches to product-development, like actual prototyping and making elaborate business plans. The beauty in pretotyping is, that instead of “over-polishing” the idea in thoughts, texts or discussions about the product/service you are working on, you simply just build it….and you build it now! In this matter, it is worth noting, that “building something” doesn’t mean “finishing a complete prototype”. “Building something” in the eyes of pretotyping simply means, that you use paper, drawings and other “common” tools in order to communicate your idea to potential users or stakeholders, right on the spot. A pretty beneficial side effect of learning how to pretotype is that it teaches you to ‘kill your darlings’.

It’s time to create some new results by thinking of new possibilities.

Don’t forget the false positivity

All the above can to some extend seem easy - but watch out for false positivity! Let’s say you have a great idea on how to optimize a process in your company or the way you share new ideas internally. Normally you would talk about that idea with your co-worker at lunch or the coffee machine and everybody you talk to thinks it’s a great solution as well, promising to use it based on your explanation of the idea. This is here you should be aware of the false positivity and instead of trusting your co-worker's enthusiasm you have to test is! The point is, there are several easier ways to test it before going all in and potentially waste a lot of time  based on false positivity.


One of the brilliant examples is from way back, but still a perfect example of the efficiency and beauty of pretotyping - the Palm Pilot example. Before developing the Palm Pilot Jeff Hawkins would walk around for a month with a wooden block in his shirt pocket. Even though the piece of wood wouldn’t have any real functions - it was only pieces of glued paper with “buttons” on, so he would be able to change the interface of the pretotype - he would still pretend to use it as a calendar and phonebook. When somebody gave him their contact information he would grab the “computer” in his shirt pocket and “write down” the information. This gave Jeff Hawkins the first-hand experience of pretending, and this is really the core of what pretotyping is. The thing to remember is that the "pre" in pretotype is not only prior to prototyping, but it also means not to forget the importance of pretending.

Taking advantage of pretotyping

A known example of a company who uses rapid pretotyping is Ford.

Ford uses rapid pretotyping in order to quickly test new car parts. Before printing the parts in-house on their own 3D printer, they used to get the test car parts made elsewhere, where they normally had to wait two weeks to receive the parts. Now, after implementing 3D printing, “normal” production methods have been reduced dramatically from four months to four days!

At Innovation Lab we want to give any company the possibility to learn how to implement pretotyping in their everyday work, or simply use us as a facilitator for creating pretotypes and prototypes in your specific corporation. When using pretotyping as a tool to provide ideas for your co-workers and customers - even bosses - you create a common language and are thereby simplifying the idea-generation process. In the video below, we have filmed ourselves during one of our pretotyping sessions. In just a couple of hours, we managed to communicate our ideas, collaborate on design/content choices and complete a somehow functional pretotype, which could take several days using other methods (in this case).

Timelapse - App Development


If this sounds interesting to your company, or  if you think, your colleagues are walking around with ideas, which it would be a shame not to form or visualize, then you should be more than welcome to contacts us either by mail or phone - or stop by our office to see how we work. We can advise on the different aspects of pretotyping as a tool, teach you more about how to practice it yourself or create pretotypes for your organisation.



Keep on pretotyping!