Configure your environment for design

These days I’m teaching, learning, and practicing prototype thinking as a method and modicum for problem-solving, in the ethos of human-centered design.

One of the most interesting questions I’ve heard recently is, “How can I work more this way in my everyday process?”

I’m undertaking a new experiment to answer this with my own workstyle. This involves getting outside my typical work building, and ideally being able to set up a suitable workshop in any space or setting.

ANY time I pilot a change, the steps are basically to:

  • Choose the time
  • Choose the space
  • Arrange the mise en place – the French cooking concept for being able to “gather and arrange the tools needed for cooking” so the kitchen is ready when the chef arrives.

What types of time, space, and arranged tools are most conducive to practicing prototype thinking?

Initial observations: When I sit down to apply the method, if I don’t have the following, I’m toast.

  • Blank paper – lots and ideally big
  • Ideally markers of different colors
  • Ideally post-its (small if I’m on the go, regular size if I have a wall or large flat space)
  • Stopwatch / timer
  • Fancy stopwatch experience – Ideally an app where I could configure multiple timers (i.e. ding at 1 minute, 3 minutes, 8 minutes, 12 minutes, and 15 minutes) and hook those up to headphones, or set a vibrate alarm
  • Diagram for running a test
  • Notes from my last session
    • Action Items I took or goals I set
    • Outstanding questions
    • Next test idea
  • Responses to those notes
    • Check in on how much followup I’ve done since my last worktime
    • Identify what didn’t work as expected
      • What happened? (actual results)
      • What did I learn? (1 lightweight learning)
      • What do I want to do next? (nothing, try again, give up, new experiment)
  • Water
  • Great energy (may include pump-you-up music)
  • A friend almost ALWAYS really helps
  • Access to users (other people) to test with.

While this isn’t yet a field-tested solution, I’ll be prototyping through my own working experiences the method above. As I adjust, I’ll share.

If you have a rhythm for sitting down to prototype and test, I’d love to hear it in the comments.


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