Prototyping – the quickest way to learn how bad your ideas really are!

Prototyping is all about the process of generating multiple versions of a solution so you can continually improve it.

Prototyping is one of the later stages of the design process and is normally folowed by a period of testing. You can make a prototype without testing it. This stage normally follows on from a time when you and your team have generated and filtered a range of ideas.

It would also be true to say that the sooner you are prototyping and testing the better as this often instigates new thinking quite quickly.

A different way of thinking about this stage is that prototyping is to engineer as many opportunities for feedback as you can. Feedback is the main reason anyone creates rough versions of anything. Rough and ready versions give us the chance to test and think about what works and what doesn’t. And to truly understand how bad our ideas are.

You have to remember that the only thing that is worse than a bad idea is one that has been isolated from feedback for too long.

Feedback is oxygen for your ideas. It will help them to grow and get stronger, starved of it and your ideas will get weaker.

When you create a rough prototype, first draft or early sketch you are using iteration to develop your creative ideas.

Often the first prototype you can create is the moment you describe your idea to someone else.

  • What if we…
  • Imagine that you…

Your FVP (first verbal prototype) is the kick to then begin representing your idea in a more tangible way.

I developed this little decision tree to help you and your students think through some ideas for prototyping.

A Visual Prototype will be one that focuses on the look (and feel) of the product, but it will not function. You will likely focus on:

  • Sketches and illustrations
  • Storyboarding a short video
  • Digital / paper wireframes
  • Creating the packaging for your product
  • Making an advert for your service
  • Photo sequence for a new service
  • On-the-shelf mockup (placing your new packaging alongside competitors in a real store)

A Functional Prototype will be one that focuses on showing how something will work, even in a rudimentary way. The visual quality will be ignored.

  • 3D printing
  • Paper prototype and mockup
  • App mockup
  • PPT or Google Slides for a website mockup
  • Bodystorming a service (using roleplay to act it out)
  • Cardboard life scale mockup

You might also explore the following reflection promtpts to help you make the most of the prototyping process.

  1. Which type of prototype is most feasible / useful in the time you have?
  2. Why is your choice appropriate for the solution you are exploring?
  3. What resources and support will you need to build your prototype?
  4. Who are you testing your prototype on?
  5. What specific aspects of your idea do you want feedback on?
  6. How will you record feedback and ideas?

I discovered the little app POP by Marvel which is a fantastic way to quickly prototype ideas for apps. I drew around my phone and then did some sketches. Took some photos and added some links and hotspots and then you have a little functioning app.

Took me 5 minutes (including downloading the app) a great example of a functioning prototype. I need to work on the visuals!

If you enjoyed this post you should check out my article on the Prototyping Disposition and Learning in Perpetual Beta.

from The Curious Creative


I Am NOT Doing Math Today: Math Fortune Tellers

I have a student that had many excuses for why math was not going to happen today. Here they were in this order: “I’m tired.” “I didn’t really sleep last night.” (Head down on the table, arms at the sides.) “My hair hurts.” “I ate lunch too fast. I can’t do math today.” “I can’t…
Continue reading
from Beyond Traditional Math

Deepening Math Vocabulary In One Simple Step

Sometimes I think we abandon the simple things that we know work because we are always on the hunt for new and better. Of course I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continually improve, I just don’t want to throw out things that still work well. I’ve seen a whole lot of “pretty” flashcards on Pinterest…
Continue reading
from Beyond Traditional Math


Ask this little question to improve collaboration

Launching straight into the agenda for your sessions or meetings is not always the best way to start. We all need to create some buffer space for participants to establish themselves and shed the skin of the previous meeting or decompress after stepping out of the classroom.

The whole first phase of your sessions might take on the intention of “talking about the talking”, in which we explore the readiness of the team to start, the disposition that is most appropriate and the type of thinking required.

A successful tactic to lead and facilitate sessions in this way is to start with the innocuous invitation:

What’s on your mind?

I am always seeking ways I might improve my ability to facilitate dialogue or create the conditions for open discourse.

When you ask this simple question you create an opening for everyone in the room to share something, to allow everyone to be heard and also to gauge the readiness for the time ahead.

The group may (or may not) share something, including me, and it helps create a respectful, open space for dialogue. When we have had time to contribute early on we are much more likely to contribute throughout the session.

Later during a reflection or debrief you might make the connection to powerlessness and vulnerability, exploring how that opening impacted the work you did together.

All it takes is to ask that simple question. When you do create that little space for sharing you respectfully register the emotional (and operational) state of your colleagues, which increases the team’s awareness of the pressures we might be feeling.

This heightened emotional and operational awareness of each other is another step closer to deeper empathy and improved collaboration.


Photo by on Unsplash

from The Curious Creative


6 Protocols To Help You Run Better Meetings

One of the most effective strategies to run better meetings and development sessions is to establish a set of protocols at the start. These working working norms should be discussed and shared before you begin and even used to help you debrief.

We have all probably experienced these in some form or another – no technology, come with an open mind, somebody to take minutes. The usual stuff – here I present a range of alternative protocols I know work from years of application.

Collective Responsibility

Use this protocol to encourage everyone to step up

Although one person may have convened a session or be running the meeting it is always beneficial to discuss how every participant can contribute. I often couple this with a Step Up Step Back protocol – which emphasises the need for everyone to contribute. Participants are not attending to simply warm the seats. Sessions are more effective when there is a shared and collective responsibility to work successfully together and not just be on the shoulders of one person.

Approve or Improve

Use this protocol to improve giving feedback

Develop the expectation that feedback is done under the protocol of approving an idea or helping to improve and develop it further. Feedback should not be so the giver has air time. Critique should help move an idea forward.

Hold your Ideas Lightly

Use this protocol to improve receiving feedback

How we receive feedback is probably more important than how we give it. To help you when inviting feedback think about Holding Your Ideas Lightly so that others can offer critique. Avoid clutching your idea so tightly that others can’t help. Effective feedback needs an open disposition

W.A.I.T – Why Am I Talking?

Use this protocol to develop meta-cognition

Before you contribute take some moments to pause and reflect on why you are contributing. Get into the habit of asking some simple questions: What is my intention behind what I am about to say? Is there a question I could ask that would help me better understand what the other person is saying and perceiving? How might I simply listen and let go of my urge to talk in this moment?

Write stuff down and create artifacts

Use this protocol to make your thinking visible

Such a simple protocol and something that is often overlooked as everyone starts up their laptops as they settle into the session. Make room for materials in the middle of the table and describe how making your thinking more visible and tangible will aid development. Use index cards or post-it notes to scribe ideas and jot down themes from discussions. Get into the habit as a team of writing stuff down.

Talk about the Talking

Use this protocol to better transition into the meeting

All too often we jump headlong into the agenda. With no intentional transition we are often left reeling with our mind still caught up with the work you just left or from the meeting you have just walked out of. By making time to deliberately Talk About the Talking you address the change and shift in pace and allow participants time to settle in. As a team gets into the habit of exploring what the work will require of us, will it be creative or analytical thinking? Will we be unpacking something or exploring new concepts? Taking a few moments to prime everyone and transition well invariably leads to a better meeting.

Protocols are expectations that you make explicit and that shape and guide the experience you have with others. Over time and with consistency these expectations become common practice and a normal part of your successful meetings.

These five ideas are an extension to the core protocols that I have been using for years – let me know what protocols and structures work for you.

from The Curious Creative


Closest to the Synapse Wins! – More thoughts on proxies for learning

I had the opportunity to work with a primary school leadership team in Sydney today. The team at St Christopher’s in Panania are a partner school of mine and I support in a critical friend type role.

We spent some time today exploring the concepts associated with “proxies for learning” using my recent blog post about it as a starting point.

In short the concept of a proxy is that we focus on a representation of learning – we are not looking at learning itself.

Again the discussion centred on the idea of creating better proxies and what the limits are. We had a range of questions that helped to explore this topic:

  • How might we design better proxies for learning?
  • Can we describe the proxies we have been using in our own practice?
  • If we were observing learning taking place what would we actually be looking at?
  • How might we design a proxy that is closest to the location of learning?
  • What is the evidence of learning?
  • Is this evidence of performance or learning?
  • How might we recognise when learning is taking place?

An interesting challenge to me from the team was that an example I used to explain a proxy was in fact a proxy. I have heard myself say something like “We might only look at learning if we could scan the brain or have a mobile MRI or CT scanner.”

But of course the results of such scans are just proxies for the real thing. Peeling back the skull and directly observing the neuro-chemical process is the truth. Everything else is a proxy.

So when we consider that everything we do is a proxy for learning at a neuro-chemical level, we must shift our energy to the quality of the proxy.

You might also describe it in terms of the fidelity of the proxy – the quality , authenticity and standard of the representation of learning.

My friend Chris also suggested that self reflection and a learner’s self proclamation is the highest standard:

But I am not sure if greater proximity to a synapse is best? There seems to be lots of bias associated with the self-assessment of learning.

David Didau offers a reminder about the complexity of learning and a list of ideas for better proxies:

Obviously, we don’t really know how, when or why learning happens, but we do have some guides about what might make it more or less likely.

So, here I tentatively offer a list of other possible ‘good proxies’ for learning which may help teachers plan and look for opportunities to increase students’ mastery of curriculum content.

Learning may happen when students:

  • concentrate on relevant examples and non-examples

  • retrieve what they have been taught in previous lessons

  • apply concepts to new examples

  • engage in practice drills (which may involve repetition or formulas and procedures)

  • answer questions without cues or prompts

What do you think about this list? What do you consider a high quality, high fidelity or just a good proxy?

This exploration has also led me to wonder more and more about retrieval over time. Sometimes learning might not occur in the timeframe we expect it to and only after a shift in time. More to ponder.


Photo by Hannah Tasker on Unsplash

from The Curious Creative


Problem Framing

When you are participating in a Design Thinking process a crucial phase is the time when your team begins to define the problem you are attempting to solve.

This method outlined by Design Kit refers to framing the problem and is a powerful process you can use to increase the quality of the problem statements you are generating.

You may already know that once we have defined the problem we move into generating ideas. This is a critical transition and one we all have a tendency to rush.

We all enjoy the energy lift and change of pace of generating and developing ideas. In fact many teams can’t help themselves and skip over the definition of the problem too quickly.

So the issue is often that we bounce too quickly onto ideation and we do not spend long enough in the problem state. Then we are left with ill defined problems – too broad, too narrow, not worthwhile, are all characteristics you might look out for when reviewing your  problem statements.

The framing and re-framing process forces us to loop back into the process of defining the problem a little longer. It slows us a little and checks our enthusiasm to rush ahead and ensures we have carefully crafted our problem statement and it is an accurate reflection of a worthwhile issue.

I have adapted some of the Design Kit steps below and have a HMW Framing template you can // download here (just sign up to my newsletter to gain access)

  1. Describe the problem or issue
  2. List the stakeholders
  3. Re-frame the issue as a How Might We statement
  4. Describe the impact you are attempting to have.
  5. Why needs your help the most?
  6. What are some possible solutions to your problem?
  7. Describe the context and constraints you have to your future ideas.
  8. Re-write a different version of your original HMW statement.

Download the template // here.

A clearly focused problem statement invariably yields both greater quantity and higher quality solutions (Stanford, 2011)

// //


Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

from The Curious Creative