The administration should start the next term with 100 days of prototyping, said Stanford’s d.school in part of a memo written to the president just prior to the election. With rapid prototyping—quickly testing ideas with simple, cheap materials in real settings—government leaders can see what works and what doesn’t without investing in full-fledged pilot programs. Sarah Stein Greenberg, managing director at the d.school, explains:
Say the Department of Transportation wants to work with states and local governments to redesign the DMV experience. You work with clients and employees—the real people who use and deliver the services—to select an idea the first day. The next day you use cardboard boxes to simulate desks and move them around to figure out what the flow of people should be. You might draw on large sheets of paper to imagine what a web experience should feel like. Then you take that into a DMV and test it with clients and employees.
Most organizations are afraid to show unfinished work. But the real fear should come from making policies and spending money on programs that have been developed in a vacuum with no user feedback. That’s why prototyping speeds innovation, leads to better solutions, and saves money.
The d.school recommended that each agency reporting to the president should pick one hard challenge, and test a different solution every week. The goal: to build a prototyping culture, where government employees learn to feel comfortable quickly experimenting, failing, and learning from failures.