The Mechanical Turk – Business Prototyping Card

5 min


The following is part of the content for a deck of cards of Prototyping Techniques that will soon be launched by NOBA. For more tools and techniques, visit our blog andlinkedIN profile.

DESCRIPTION: Manually accomplishing a task that in the future will be done by an algorithm. From the users’ point of view, the experience is as seamless as possible, almost deceptively so. The perception is that they are interacting with “the real thing”.

GOAL: Speed and flexibility to understand what the ideal technical solution is – before you write a single line of code.


  1. Start from the consumer-facing interface. Whatsapp? Website? Phone audio?
  2. Be always ready to manually complete the task behind the scenes.
  3. Measure and learn!

We want to validate an APP that tells you the amount of calories you are eating by taking a picture of your meal.

Mechanical Turk:

  • Beta tester enters site and uploads real picture of meal
  • Team behind the scenes makes a visual estimate of total calorie content and send via info via email
  • This continues until either the two happens:
    • Consumers lose interest after a few meals. Something is wrong. Iterate or kill.
    • Consumers are addicted. Continue iterating and growing – do not lose momentum. Interact and grow until technology is ready.

For another example of how NOBA has actually used this technique to validate the viability of a new business for Danone, please click here.

Ries, Eric (2011), “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses”. Crown Publishing.
Savoia, Alberto (2019), “The right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed”. Harper One.

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