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It is both exciting and rewarding to see our hard work develop into something measurable. But at the same time, it may be a bit audacious to implement our ideas into tangible assets, knowing that when we do we will be subjected to criticism. Whether we are painting a picture, writing a story, or designing the newest mobile app, our work can be interpreted as a reflection of who we are. The sense of vulnerability that comes with revealing our work can be very personal - and very real. It’s only natural to prefer to keep our work under the veil until we feel it’s the best possible representation of our efforts.

But when it comes to making a successful product for customers, we need the help of the user to test our assumptions and, in the end, determine how that product should evolve. After all, prototyping is about embracing the “wrong” as a stepping stone to the “right”. Accepting potential failure is critical in the development of market-ready products because trial and error provides a clear path to a finalized product. Creating a rapid prototype is not easy, but it is a critical step in developing a product that people want to use.

We are no strangers to the difficulties that come with sharing prototypes with consumers. We recently debuted a first prototype for a new product called Connexion after only five weeks of development. That was no small feat, considering the prototype was a full-sized health kiosk that used multiple sensors and artificial intelligence to automatically perform health assessments on athletes. In partnership with Fusionetics, we showed our first iteration of Connexion in May to professional athletes, doctors, and sports trainers during the NBA Combine in Chicago, even though the product was far from complete. Letting potential customers try out our work-in-progress for themselves came with some stress to say the least, but it proved to be a necessary step to communicating our vision to the market, gaining user feedback to revise our hypotheses, and further improve the user experience.

Like any company, at Aspire we have plenty of perfectionists who are inclined to keeping their work under wraps until it fully meets their standard of quality. But if everyone operates with this mindset, it produces more risk for the company. To overcome this perfectionism, we use different strategies -- such as design sprints and a collaborative culture. These strategies help each person to embrace failure and influence idea sharing. Without releasing prototypes during development stages, you have no way of knowing if your market hypotheses are correct, and you could end up spending a lot of time and resources perfecting a product based on the wrong assumptions. Even if your assumptions are correct, too much unnecessary fine-tuning will delay your launch and let your rivals beat you to the market.

In an article published by TechRepublic, author Shelley Doll explains how early prototyping can save money by making it easier to make adjustments during development. “While some might argue that prototyping creates rework, its purpose is to actually avoid the rework that comes from unknowns or incomplete design,” she says. If you feel the prototype is taking up too much time to become a finished product, think of all of the time you could potentially be wasting if your assumptions are inaccurate. Essentially, all of your time would be wasted on a product the user doesn’t want to use, or no longer wants to use.

Presenting our prototype at the NBA Combine gave us a lot of insight on how we could improve the development process and our product the second time around. We learned which parts of the initial UX worked well and which needed improvement. We found that we needed to use lighter materials to make it easier to transport and we need a ceiling redesign to better accommodate exercises that require athletes to raise their hands above their heads.

In addition to gaining critical feedback, early prototypes can really help communicate the company’s vision through a tangible product, giving potential customers or investors something to touch and feel. Unlike a verbal or written concept, a real product validates the idea and proves the idea can, in fact, be brought to life.

Our initial pass at the early prototype has generated real-life excitement in the sports industry. Debuting it at such an early stage already has users excited about what’s to come in the future of exercise training. Through the private demos performed by select NBA teams and trainers, we can tell the industry has been seeking this type of technology.

Quick prototype turnaround also helps you solidify your role as a market leader. In the case of Aspire, the Connexion kiosk is the first healthcare technology to implement advanced sensor fusion using A2I, Aspire’s proprietary AI platform. From a business standpoint, rapid prototypes gain first-mover advantage; they start conversations about your product, creating early interactions with your audience before the fully fledged product is out on the market.

The magic of having a prototype is simply that: it is the prototype! It doesn’t have to be perfect, just sufficient enough to establish the goal. Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling once said “the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” And just like ideas, to get to a successful end-product, you will need to develop multiple prototypes to achieve the ultimate goal. Exposing a prototype, even in a short amount of time, can surely transform those ideas into products that provide users with valuable tools they’ll be eager to use.