June 29, 2020
Perpetual Prototype Mode: How to Be Agile to Lead Change
A few summers ago I visited my WWII veteran grandfather on his childhood farm in Indiana. I saw a curious machine on his kitchen counter. It was larger than a crock pot but not quite a rice cooker. “That’s my Instant Pot,” Grandpa told me. “I use it to make my yogurt . . . and many other things.” My nonagenarian grandfather makes his own yogurt?! By now, many people are familiar with Instant Pot, but several years ago Grandpa was on the cutting edge of kitchen cuisine.
Robert Wang introduced Instant Pot 1.0 in 2010 after he was fired from the startup he founded. He had sought to help people make healthy food fast, combining elements from slow cookers with elements from pressure cookers, which are quick but can be the most dangerous item in a kitchen. Since 2011, Instant Pot’s sales have more than doubled every year and the company does no marketing.
What’s Instant Pot’s secret?
Number one, the product is useful in the kitchen. It solves a near-universal problem by enabling people make healthy foods quickly.
Second, Instant Pot stays in perpetual prototype mode. As of this writing, eight years after the first one came out, there are 11 models on the market. The company releases a new version every 12 to 18 months, based on customer feedback.
Perpetual Prototype Mode
In a world of constant change, agility and flexibility are paramount. They begin with an experimentation mindset. When we view new business ideas as experiments to be tested and improved, the pressure to strive for one perfect end goal is released. We also get the opportunity to interact with end users to ensure we are creating something truly valuable.
Prototype mode allows us to test the ever-changing marketplace in real time and fail fast if need be.
Here are three ways to develop your agile thinking to help you become more comfortable in perpetual prototype mode. These tips are based on the divergent thinking strengths I share in The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, No Matter Where You Work.
3 Ways to Hone Your Agility Skills
1. Stay Open
Persist with a challenge and go beyond the quick, easy answer. Explore a range of thoughts. Revisit and modify. Resist jumping right to implementation.
2. Play with Combinations
Come up with new solutions by combining unrelated elements.
3. Have a Sense of Humor
Practice twisting frames of reference that break expectations. How might you add a laugh into your solution, or the continued process of creating it?
Perpetual prototype mode is especially useful in an age of uncertainty and rapid change. When you set up experiments designed with flexibility to pivot, you minimize risk and maximize problem-solving potential.
Sources: The Instant Pot section of this article was adapted or quoted from the author’s book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, No Matter Where You Work.
Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.