I recently received an interesting piece of Lean Media feedback from a friend. He is an engineer and former MIT Media Lab staffer who earlier in his career was a part of creative teams that made music, websites, and even an opera. He has also done a fair amount of reading and examination that relate to production issues, showing me a copy of Glyn Johns’ memoir of recording with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and other big stars from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
After hearing from me the basic lean media concepts and a few examples (Led Zeppelin I and The Simpsons) he pushed back on the idea that audiences should be exposed to early prototypes. His take: Audiences simply aren’t ready for rough cuts. Lean media prototypes need to be more polished before they can be used in focus groups or other scenarios.
My initial response was audiences can be exposed to rough cuts. Some musicians “try out” new songs on a live audience. I also pointed to the fact that the recording technologies of 50 years ago seem positively primitive now–basically less than the quality of a prototype made today–yet people exposed to the old songs can still recognize value in the songwriting, hooks, quality of performance, etc.
The other thing to keep in mind about lean media prototypes is it really is possible to produce a prototype that is quite slick and acceptable, no matter what the medium. Not only are the tools used to produce video, websites, music, and publishing cheap, but it’s also easy to get up to speed, either through experimentation or low-cost training (YouTube videos, etc.).
But my responses don’t address a critical aspect: Even if the prototype looks good, should audiences see them? Are they even knowledgable enough to give useful feedback based on a rough cut? I would love to hear your responses, so please feel free to share them below!