The art of starting small

The art of starting small

Written by Luke Brown, Analyst Developer, at Lancaster University.

The best innovations are simple and digital Innovation is no different.

This blog discusses the ‘art of starting small’ and explores the start of the journey that we go on with health organisations we work with. The same process applies to anyone looking to develop a digital prototype of an idea.

Whilst technology can undoubtedly herald profound change, you shouldn’t be afraid of solving a small problem. Healthcare has only started thinking about digital technology in the last 5-10 years; so whilst it’s unlikely your idea will change the world straight away, starting small will give you a solid foundation to build on.

We often advise the organisations we work with that “the best technologies solve a single problem well”, but what does that actually mean?

The best ideas are simple ideas

It can be tempting to get caught up in the excitement of your light bulb moment. Of course, enthusiasm helps drive your idea forward, but it’s important to stay focused and not lose sight of what made you have that moment in the first place.

Prototypes often have one feature fully developed, and several placeholders to illustrate potential future functionality. Many businesses we’ve worked with have used prototypes as a basis for further funding and to pursue full development. Even if you’re not pitching for funding, having a prototype system with clear purpose will help you to highlight its benefits to end-users.

Taking a well-known company as an example, JustEat wanted a clear and unified way to streamline ordering food, whilst local takeaways needed a way to reach new audiences. Balancing business objectives with those of the end-users is key.  Their app simply allows users to search for a takeaway and place an order, and for a takeaway to fulfil and deliver orders. This at first seems simple, but why overcomplicate things and potentially frustrate your users? Yes, users could chat with each other through social media plugins or forums, but these are ultimately a distraction from the reason they downloaded the app to begin with. Solving a small problem, and keeping functionality simple, has allowed JustEat’s app to grow from strength to strength.

How do we do it?

Ultimately, we start by helping you to identify the problem you wish to solve (or how an existing process can be improved).

Ask yourself why you wanted to use technology in the first place. Identify the first aspect that got you excited, and prototype just that aspect.

On a practical level, you could design ‘full’ and ‘lite’ versions of your prototype:

  • List every feature that you would like to develop (Full)
  • If I had to release the system tomorrow, what features would be ready to allow the users to complete their goals? (Lite)

Whilst we work with businesses at all stages of the innovation journey, starting small will help us (and you) develop your prototype much quicker. It also gives you the opportunity to see how your main idea works in practise and make potential changes prior to full development.

Starting small is an equally great starting point for working with us. We often build minimum viable products (MVPs) which implement core features and illustrate how additional functionality may look.

If you are a small business, charity, or social enterprise based in Lancashire and have a creative idea to improve health and wellbeing, we’d like to hear from you. Contact our team to get started.