High Volume Innovation

Fitbit was looking for an innovation method to build a completely new product that took advantage of their existing user base and fitness tracker ecosystem.

We brought together leaders, product designers, engineers, and user researchers from all over the organization for a 4-day intensive Prototype Thinking retreat. Everyone had many ideas: the challenge was to identify and refine the most powerful ones.

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The OutcomeS

5 “Magic Moment” product designs
2 “Favorite Solutions” disproven
156 user tests
10 unique ideas tried
34 major design variations
17 foundational insights
100 total insights
516 prototype adjustments


4-Day Intensive Workshop
3 teams of 4 in separate rooms
Live user experimentation twice per day

Teams made prototype adjustments during and after user tests based on immediate feedback outcomes.


- Paper prototypes for software outlines
- Furniture and workout equipment for scenario + use case prototyping
- Existing and competitor products hooked up to simulate functionality
- Modeling clay for device shapes
- Package & instruction mockups

“At the end of this process, there are quite a few proposals that I’d want Fitbit to look into. A lot of them have potential and traction to make an impact right away.”
— Laura, Advanced Product Development Program Manager
“Having a simple easy prototype that you can put in front of someone, and get their direct and honest feedback as fast as possible, was a very, very good thing to learn.
I think the lessons learned here this week will stick with me for a long time.”
— Michael, Principal Audio Engineer


Finding a Portfolio Strategy

B&O needed a unified portfolio strategy for a prominent product line across its 3 key geographic markets: Europe, United States, and China.

A beloved, glamorous brand with the ability and deploy an unlimited of designs, they needed to find the breakdown of what to build and why. We did a deep dive into the challenge.

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The OutcomeS

Years of debate and turned into a simple, crystal clear portfolio breakdown narrative that the entire company was aligned behind.

Based on the success of this project, product teams across the organization now use a Prototype Thinking Sprint to kick off each new project.


2 x Sprints (in 2 of the 3 locations)
25 x video user interviews in 3 languages
900 x users surveyed

We began with Prototype Thinking Sprints to develop a deep qualitative sense of the landscape of possibilities and to craft the overall shape of a few top options. Additional interviews & surveys refined and validated those solutions at volume.


- In-store shopping experience simulation
- Cardboard boxes as packaging, index cards next to products on shelves as feature descriptions
- Paper prototypes for online shopping with images from existing products
- Mixed and matched existing products, raw materials, and other designer household goods to simulate physical experience

Prototype Thinking Labs is extremely insightful, inspirational, and has moved me and the entire Bang & Olufsen company to work in new ways. It has greatly helped our speed, innovation and involving users early on... Everyone is working on the new portfolio... Our leadership is completely bought in and we are overbooked on Sprints: I’m trying to hire someone because we can’t handle all the requests coming in from all over the company.
— Michael Konig, Head of Design


Building a Complex Enterprise Solution

At the heart of Prototype Thinking’s unique technique is the simulation-based user test. The vast majority of pertinent user behavior and reaction is subconscious, but classic user interview techniques chiefly reveal conscious opinions. By putting the user in a simulation mindset using simple tools, we cause them to exhibit reactions and surface assumptions they didn’t even know they had. This critical tool allows us to get profoundly essential insights early and cheaply.

Check out the video below for an example of an (expedited for demo purposes) simulation user test. As you observe the user’s reaction, note carefully that the most important information lies not in he is saying, but his body language and vocal intonation.

Although the setup itself may appear simple, this is not just any paper prototype test: The technique has been precisely refined using our team’s decades of experience in emotional simulation design in order to quickly reveal the right insights.

“This was a completely different, superior way to get to the right product for users - and much less expensive in the long run than iterating with real software… We need to starting doing this for everything we build.”
— Greg Clary, CEO

Stakeholder Engagement

Productizing a Proprietary Technology


Want to get a sense of Prototype Thinking in detail?
Here are some example transformations using a few of our favorite toolkit items.