Always Prototype Your Prototype


I started a few weeks ago stating I would press publish every Wednesday around 9p. And, after running the prototype for a few weeks, I realized that it's not feasible to do that each Wednesday. So, I'm not giving up. I'm merely shifting to Thursday nights around 9p.

Additionally, a few weeks ago I heard Jason Fried talk about how he writes blog posts by just sitting down and writing, potentially revising it a couple of times, and then pressing submit. By not being too precious, he can be more authentic with his posts. I am trying the same philosophy as well. I had an idea to write about death by committees but today we ran our monthly meet-up and I feel like the more authentic piece to is to write that story.

So, what do you do? It's a question that I've asked or been asked 1,000,000,000 times at various networking events. And, I always feel like my answer is inadequate. I usually fumble with listing the job titles on my resume. I do not have a clear and concise story of why I do what I do. Today, at our monthly design thinking meet-up, Caffy Hour, my co-collaborator Chrystal and I crafted a storytelling experience that provided an opportunity for attendees to co-create their partner's 'what do you do' story.


  • Tell your story to your partner
  • Create your partner's story
  • Share and get feedback on the story you created for your partner
  • Iterate on the story you created
  • Give the story to your partner to try on
  • Share your story created for you

Through this meet-up, attendees told their story and gained empathy for their partner's story. Each attendee then defined and wrote a prototype of their partner's core story. She later received feedback and iterated on the story before giving it to their partner to try on.

The power of the exercise was two-fold. One, the ability to empathize and co-create a story for someone else. When you create a story for someone else, you can see insights and define the essence of someone else who may not see it herself. Second, is the ability to iterate and refine the story multiple times. This method helps to define the essential story while also providing enough details to help tell a story of who the person is not what their resume says they do.

Beyond the deep insights each attendee gained for themselves, and there were many, and the process of using design thinking and design methods to define and refine each story... the meet-up was a prototype... of a prototype. 


Chrystal and I were looking to use the meet-up format in another context with another group. We prototyped the interaction with the meet-up group to make sure that our timing was right. To make sure that the activities made sense. And, some did, and some didn't. 

For instance, for the warm-up we had folks introduce themselves and then introduce their first partner to their second partner. The directions weren't as evident as they needed to be and the prompt was a bit nebulous - "what do you prefer for Valentine's Day." It led to a warm-up that wasn't exactly what we needed to get the attendees ready for the activity. We may revise it next time, or we may scrap it all together.

What also helped was that Chrystal was able to play the role of an attendee and a facilitator during the story creation. So, she was able to see both sides. She was able to point out where the directions could have been more explicit and where examples would have helped folks create richer stories such as using the 20/70/10 fairytale storytelling model.

Finally, the final storytelling piece could have been better as well. Our initial idea was for each attendee try on their newly developed story through a 1-minute, 30-second, 15-second speed dating exercise. It was hard for each attendee to internalize the new story and then succinctly tell it with those time constraints. In our next iteration, we will change the storytelling portion so that each person can read the story and paraphrase the story in 1-minute and then retell the story in 30-seconds.

Despite my comments on how the meet-up could have been better, the meet-up was still a success. And, the attendees proved that with the output of their newly crafted stories and the excitement for the experience. However, for me, it was a reminder always prototype your prototype.