Let’s start pretotyping!

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What is pretotyping? Sometimes we do things without thinking how to call them. This is my past and present story.

Rewind to the past.

Early in my career, I was Product Manager on Nintendo Wii games. Creating games is an art and a science. There is no magic formula to make fun and sticky games.

Having a talented engineering team that created an in-house cross platform engine, we knew we could answer “could we build it?”. However, tight timelines and budget forced us to figure out how to learn fast and cheap to de-risk a late disappointment.

What if we removed high risk assumptions by first asking “should we build it?”. We decided to delay writing a single line of code in favour of spending more time collecting our own data to make important design decisions.

We physically simulated many possibilities to use the motion sensing, gesture recognition and pointing capability of the wand. For example, how we calibrate the wand differs if you are sitting down versus standing up. Game experiences that survived no code iterations were prime candidates to evolve into functional prototype iterations.

Fast forward to the present.

In 2022 I discovered by serendipity the book The Right It by Alberto Savoia, former Engineering Director at Google. Alberto introduces the term pretotype which comes from the words “pretend” and “prototype”. Pretotyping allows you to validate a hypotheses fast and cheaply by figuring out what people do versus what they say. Data and observations, not the voices in your head, should inform if you move forward or kill the idea.

Reading the book was an Aha! moment. I had a name to describe how we created games back in the day! We used a pretotyping method called Pinocchio. We told gamers to imagine they were playing X sports game, and observed how they used the wand.

Alberto’s book inspired me to take a great online course from Exponentially. Using Exponentially’s digital tool to enter the relevant data for designing a pretotype proved very valuable.

My biggest take away from the online course was the mindset shift. Pretotyping helps to reduce the fear of failure because you want to prove yourself wrong fast and cheap. The best part is that pretotyping delivers real data that sometimes will surprise you. Either the pretotype validates your gut instinct or it reveals an unimagined opportunity.

If you are wondering how to get started with pretotyping give a try to these three mindset shifts.

Your idea is just an idea

I have fallen into this trap many times. My inner voice tells me this is the greatest idea ever!

I have found that starting with a vision releases pressure from the idea. A vision is a long term signal. Pretotyping will help you reveal which manifestation of that vision is the right it. If a vision is fixed, strategy and execution are the variables that will take your there.

What you learn is unique to you

Our game studio was an early developer of Nintendo Wii games. Therefore, we had few data sources to learn or unlearn from. Generating our own data was a matter of survival.

When you design pretotypes forget about the competition. Nowadays what you interact with may be a pretotype, a prototype or even a split test. The version you interacted with yesterday may be gone tomorrow.

Instead, focus on creating your own private experiment library. No one else knows about it. It is your competitive edge against copy cats out there.

Fake it first, make it happen next

It is so hard to stay in the problem space before jumping into solution mode. This lack of discipline is a main precursor for late disappointments.

If you are starting a new venture pretotyping is a must. Use your creative thinking muscle to figure out how you can de-risk desirability, feasibility, and viability assumptions fast and cheap.

If you are improving an existing product, pretotyping offers a rich set of methods. For example, you may want to create a white label landing page that describes the new capability you want to develop.

Are you ready to pretotype? We would love to learn more about it.



How can we stay in touch with reality to allow for infinite possibilities? I aim to inspire, think differently and challenge traditional ideas. [read more]