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Buzzwords Defined: Prototyping


Sharon Benjamin PhD

Date Published

Dec 06, 2021
4 minute read

My colleague Robyn Klem recently kicked off our Buzzwords Defined blog series with a look at “Human-Centered Design.” In that post, she discussed The AMPERIAN CYCLE®, which is the five-step prototyping process we use to address specific customer needs in an agile, rapid, and inclusive way. So, it’s only fitting that I’m on deck to cover our second buzzword, “prototyping.”

Where Consulting Meets MacGyver’ing

Remember MacGyver? He was a TV secret agent that was always finding himself in sticky situations without the tools needed to get himself out. And there were often bad guys after him, so he had to problem-solve as fast as possible. MacGyver would take whatever he had available and create a tool, a method, or an approach in order to get himself out of the jam. If he had an eggbeater, a stick of dynamite, and a flyswatter he would create something that saved the day and democracy.

That’s prototyping (minus all the dynamite and some of the risk, of course).

In a nutshell, prototyping means defining your problem, assessing the resources available, and using them to quickly create a solution. The quick part is the key. By using short bursts of time and minimal resources, you reduce the risk and minimize the fear of failure.


“Failing fast and small instead of slow and big gives you more opportunities to find the right solution.”


The Clearing’s Approach to Prototyping

We regularly identify opportunities for prototyping within each of The Clearing’s Solution Areas. Whether it’s a leadership problem or a strategic planning issue, prototyping lets us tackle a small piece of the challenge and test possible solutions before going all-in. This provides our clients with confidence. They recognize that we’re not simply pulling a solution out of a box and putting their name on it; we’re actively working toward the best custom solution for them.

And as Robyn previously covered, we use The AMPERIAN CYCLE®, to guide our clients through the prototyping process. It’s a methodology that puts definitive steps around prototyping, which means we can apply it in real-time with consistent results. It also allows us to make prototyping fun and add levity to sometimes stressful situations.

The Clearing's Amperian Cycle Process

For example, those specific steps mean we can turn it into a sport where client teams compete to develop the best solution. When a first solution is developed, the teams might have ideas about how to improve features and benefits and develop a second solution. The two solutions are then tested against each other and this is called A/B testing. The winner may trigger new ideas and a new A/B test might result.

Summing Up Prototyping

When I started to think about this blog series, I realized that buzzwords often sound intimidating, mostly because they can make you feel out of the loop. Breaking them down into the basics is freeing. As Robyn wrote, the key isn’t the word, it’s the principles and values behind it. When it comes to prototyping, just take bite-sized chunks of a bigger problem and testing into the best way to solve it.