In producing something new, doing a product or a project, I am convinced that showing as soon as you can something similar to the final product or result is the best way to elude misunderstandings. Doing sketches at the first stage, prototyping afterwards really help to put all stakeholders in sync.
A month ago I went to a seminar about experiences with stigmergic prototyping where they pointed out how important it was not only to simulate something on a computer, but actually to do a prototype, because it gives a lot of information about the final product, we may even discover issues not forseen on design stage. Like the noise a product may do, or how it feels in your hand, moves, etc.
Now, before DOING something new, if you are an entrepreneur and somebody comes to you with the idea of producing an item, the first question to adress is: will the product be a HIT or a FAIL? Will customers want it? Today I saw this video from Patrick Copeland where he talks about pretotyping. The word comes from the contraction of ‘pretendo-typing’ and it differs from ‘prototyping’ in the whay that the pretotype has only to pretend to do the job, it has to be very rapidly done, and cheaper than a real prototype. The base idea is to validate if the idea is usable, sellable, not if the item can be done.
As an example, you could sketch an application with pen and paper, as the Palm Pre that was pretotyped by Jeff Hawkins with a piece of wood. He carried it for a while with him, took it out of his pocket each time he wanted to create an appointment to see if it was practical, if he lasted using it after a week, or it was too painful to carry around.
Check this pretotyping Manifesto presented in the video, it has good ideas for entrepreneurs: