How to Design a Prototype?

Updated: Jun 26

Prototyping is fundamental for building our way forward, either in a career transformation or in achieving greater fulfilment in a current job.


Looking at the patterns in working with my clients, the common thing about the people who successfully transformed their careers was prototyping.


When we consider a new path, we can quickly form an inaccurate opinion about another job or company from the outside. We can also miss out on how it would be to walk the journey of a new role, just because we like the destination too much.


Sometimes, we may not even know what we want to do after all.


People will advise you to “just choose and commit to something”. But remember that is advice coming from people who know what they want to do.


Prototyping can help us figure out the answers we need. The role of a prototype is to give us real-life insights and data about a potential job, prove ideas to solve a problem and test out some possibilities.


By prototyping, we reduce risk by trying new ideas, testing different options, and validating assumptions.


The great advantage is that we also progress by prototyping even when we feel stuck. And we make better decisions, reducing the number of assumptions and having valuable data at hand.


Here are the steps to design a prototype:


1. The mindset: Get curious and humble.

2. The what: Identify the areas of unknown and prioritise what data you need most to make a decision.


Here you can find some guiding questions:


* What resources do I need to make the change?

* What skills do I need to build for a successful transformation?

* How much time will the transition take?

* Can I make this change?

* What will I like about the new job or company? What is the culture?

* What will I not like about the new job or company?

* What is the day-to-day experience in the position look like?

* What will I miss about my current job?

* What will my life look like while in the new job? Will I have time to spend with my family?


3. The How: Explore what you can do at the smallest scale to answer your questions or gather data. Prototypes should be easy, accessible, cheap and fast. You can acquire the data by discussing it with someone who may have the answers. Or, you can perform an experimental prototype, like volunteering, shadowing, helping a friend with a project, taking a formal project assignment or consulting. Where possible, a mix of prototypes is recommended, especially when making significant career transitions.


4. The who: Explore your expanded network for who can support you with the prototype. They can be your direct contacts or recommendations from your immediate connections. Invite them for a coffee and ask for their story if they are willing to provide it. Or drop them an email sharing how their experience may help you. Do NOT ask for a job; ask for directions and their story instead.


5. Repeat: Now that you have some real insights make a decision or go to the next prototype. Keep a list of all learnings; you’ll be amazed later at how insightful these experiences are.


Every conversation is a prototyping opportunity. Connecting to people genuinely and asking them about their experiences may lead to learning and strong relationships and connections for the future. When undergoing my career transformation, I made many prototypes, especially by talking to people who changed their careers in a similar direction.


The issue is that I made a huge assumption about the things they mentioned they don’t like. I assumed that their challenges wouldn’t be my challenges. Not very smart; I guess I missed the first step.


So, I had to find out that the same challenges apply, and I should have better listened. After a few prototypes, you will see that you can prototype anything: living in a new country, starting a new business or climbing a mountain top.


Use your prototyping opportunities wisely. The people who’ve walked the path before you are real gems of insight.