A week of work invested, countless interviews conducted, data collected, a lot of ideas developed…. Then the prototype. Get into the user tests and what happens is mercilessly failed by the user. What now?

A situation that everyone in Design Thinking or Development has imagined. What should you do if that happens? Are you now at the end? Has the project failed now?

Failed? Or is that not the end after all?

No Of course not, a nice quote is: “You now know a variant with which it does not work”. The nice thing about Design Thinking is that this is an absolutely normal event and not negative at all. If the prototype fails, the company is saved a lot of work, because it’s hard to imagine what would happen if the product on the market would meet the same fate? That would be many times worse. So what can we do now? On the one hand you have the possibility to finish the project here and to come to terms with the result. In this case one could make a final analysis of the failure and use the gained experience for future projects.

Or do we just keep going?

In a second variant, the method of Design Thinking allows us to go back to the analysis with the result and question our approach again. If we have grasped the problem correctly or have overlooked something. Do we have to redefine our statement? Or should we take a new approach? With the gained experience we start into a new problem statement phase and start into a new round. As mentioned in the quote, we now know a way it doesn’t work. This alone will allow us to take a new path and perhaps come to a completely different result. The nice thing is that we can go through this loop as often as necessary. Of course it is then a question of how long the sponsors play along but you should always keep in mind that every failure enriches us and prevents worse in production.

A failure is not a failure of the team

For the team it is very important that they understand that this does not mean a failure of the team. Especially they can’t make the mistake and take it as a personal failure. Otherwise, appropriate discussions should take place here to counteract this, so that the team can start full of ambition into the next round.

Open interaction is important

It is important to be open about why it didn’t work, to understand the background and to let it flow into your work. Talk openly about what didn’t work and why. This should also be discussed with stakeholders and partners to get their support for the continuation of the project. An open communication shows the strength of the team and supports them in their further work. The support of the supporters then helps to quickly get back on the road and continue with the project.


In summary, I would like to encourage everyone not to be discouraged by a failure of the prototype. Even though this might have been the favorite idea you developed yourself and would have liked to see in production. Nevertheless the success would have been missing. It is important not to let yourself get down and continue. A new attempt and I am sure that you will be just as enthusiastic about newer ideas if not even more. You have to see this loop as a chance to make it even better and in the end you will get a product that will definitely please you and the chances of success on the market are much higher than before.

So my appeal, learn from the situation and make it even better. Success will come.