Build to Think | A quick guide & worksheet on Prototyping


Two weeks ago, we hosted an event called Build to Think.
Nearly 30 freelancers, executives, and educators gathered for an evening workshop focused on how to solve problems visually and tangibly. The Ei team and our friend Megan Bhatia designed a simple worksheet and process to guide participants through a few helpful steps with a partner. The night was teeming with energy and discussion as a group of strangers dove in together.

We learned, once again, how helpful it is to step back and gain a new perspective as you navigate your work/life’s biggest challenges.

But stepping back isn’t quite enough. Asking helpful questions and paying attention to the right things will help you see more clearly and take your next steps with greater confidence.

Try it for yourself!
You can download a blank worksheet for free here.
And below, you can read through a step-by-step guide how to use it.

In any case, if you’re curious about the process of prototyping and exploring ways to navigate a complex personal or professional challenge, we hope this offers a nudge in the right direction.

Thanks for reading.
Have a great Wednesday!

After you’ve downloaded the worksheet, use the steps below to guide you:

1) Get ready. Get some sleep. Then, do something active, eat a good meal, and drink a lot of water. And turn off your devices. Doing healthy things helps you think in a healthy way.

2) Team up. Find someone you trust and whose opinion you respect. Ask them to join you for the rest of this.

3) Take Inventory of the good things. Before you begin, jot down a few places where you’re not stuck. Home? Work? Health? Style? Money? Etc. Name those things and smile. They’re in a good place.


4) Jot/Sketch. Pull out your Build to Think sheet. Start at the top. Write down the biggest challenges you’re facing. Here are a few examples of things we’ve heard in the past
+ Our office space is distracting and I can never get anything done
+ I’m not sure how promotions work at my company and I’m losing motivation to work hard
+ I have an idea for a new product, but I don’t have the resources to bring it to life
+ I can’t find a steady workout regimen

The list can go on forever. Start with your top three.

5) Review the list & pick one. Choose the one that feels most compelling to apply a new way of thinking and doing to. Think about the thing occupying your mind the most. Write that one on down and why it’s such a grand challenge.

6) Share a story with your partner. Discuss when that problem faced you most recently. Talk about what happened, who was involved, and how you felt at the end. The more details the better.
And when you listen to your partner’s story, be sure to ask “Why” (as in “Why did it make you feel that way?”) a few times. It’ll help you peel back the layers. It may even help you discover that the real problem is something totally different.

You’re doing great. Now’s the fun part.

7) Idea Storm
Pull out a pad of post-it notes or any sort of scrap paper. Both of you should quietly focus on one partner’s problem for 2 minutes. Think about all of the possible ways that problem could be solved and write one idea per note/piece of paper. Do this quietly at first.

Oh, and don’t restrict yourself at all. In fact, the more wild the ideas, the better. Go for quantity too. The more the merrier here.

8) Discuss your ideas. After the 2 minutes are up, quickly share your ideas with one another add any new ones that come up as you discuss.

Take a sip of your water/coffee/tea and then do the same exercise for your partner. Now you have some momentum! Awesome.

9) Narrow! After you have a table/wall full of ideas, narrow them down to the top 3-4 based on which ones feel like the biggest breakthrough, or the most delightful, or the most feasible.

Now, let’s make.

10) SHOW your idea.
Take one of those ideas and envision how you could bring it to life in a really simple way (the simpler, the better.) Use anything except words – draw an image of the idea. Or use whatever objects you have in your office, home, or apartment to build a low fidelity version of it. This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. The rougher, the better.

And the idea doesn’t have to solve the whole challenge. It just meant to help you get unstuck so you can take your next step.

11) Decide
Is this something worth trying? What can you do quickly to learn if this idea is worth taking to the next level?

12) Next steps
If you found something that could have energy or work, jot down the next steps. Who should you talk to? What should you make next? When can it happen?

By now, you should have a few ideas for getting unstuck, and you should have a clearer picture of what you need to do next OR what you don’t need to do next – all within a short amount of time.

That’s a tiny glimpse into the big idea called prototyping. We like thinking this way around Ei and we think it might help you too.

Return to this mindset often and let us know if you change or add anything along the way. We’d love to see how you make this your own! (say hello at –> hello [at] expinstitute [dot] com)