One Oxford Professor’s Advice about Personal Prototyping

written by  Ryan Seamons

Daniel Snow teaches operations management at Saïd Business School (Oxford). He was one of my favorite professors during my MBA when he taught at BYU. He shared some great ideas about how to use prototyping in your personal life.

Fundamentally, the idea is to use quick-and-dirty prototyping to reduce uncertainty by exposing a model of the final product to the market. 

He recommends using this for big life decisions with this model:

  1. Think about the decision pro/con style
  2. Ask yourself “If I were forced to make the decision in the next ten seconds, which option would I choose?”
  3. Pretend you have made that 10-second decision for the next 3 days
  4. Ask yourself how you feel, given the time to think about and mentally live the decision. Iterate with new information as necessary.

I shared some of my own insights about the power of prototyping I’d seen in my personal and family life:

  1. Shadow or talk to those who have gone down the path you’re considering. I can’t believe how many people engage in schooling or take jobs without really having spoken with those who have done it before. 
  2. While more expensive, prototype living there for a day or two. Airbnb makes visiting easier and cheaper than ever. If you have the funds, spend at least a day in the new place. See what it would be like. 
  3. Make sure you view the plan through the long-term view. I had such a decision when I was in school and was really struggling until my wife asked me, “Well, given where you want to be in the coming years, which one gets you closer to those goals.” While one company was more mature and at the time a more prestigious opportunity, it was easy to choose after that. If someone hasn’t taken time to think about what they may want in the future, they should do that too.

So many opportunities for those who will apply product methodologies in other areas, including our personal lives. 

About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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