If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solutions.

Albert Einstein


The quality of the solution you are developing is intimately related to the amount of questioning, challenging, and reframing the problem that needs solving upfront - essentially what we discussed in A. Explore or reframe the problem. Once you have reached the designing the right thing stage, that questioning will continue through solution prototyping, iteration and adaptive learning.

At its roots, design is an iterative and collaborative process that brings designers, developers, researchers, and users together to continually improve upon a solution by testing and tweaking it in real life situations. The design process allows you to continuously refine solutions based on feedback from potential users to arrive at a final solution. The goal of prototyping and iteration is to opens up the space for continuous learning and get one closer to the answer, solution, or discovery with each repetition. Essentially, iterative prototyping is like a conversation you have with your ideas. Early stages of prototyping, in particular, create a space for learning more about both problem and solution. Later stages of prototyping then provide a systemic way of taking feedback to grow our knowledge and influence the solution. The end result is that even in the solution phase, throwbacks to the problem and fundamental questioning of it are actually a sign of a good design process.

Common outputs or deliverables

Tips and tricks

  • Since an iterative and solution-oriented design processes involve turning learning into something tangible, and then putting it back in people’s hands for feedback and further refinement, consider bringing in your PC for their input on how to instil flexibility in the contract .
  • Given the ambiguity involved, sometimes divergent parts of the design process can cause discomfort for people more accustomed to certainty in a process. Consider discussing with your chosen design partner upfront how comfortable they are with creating multiple spaces for divergent thinking during the course of the investment.
  • During the prototyping phase and while testing potential concepts and eventual solutions with users things can start to move quickly. Consider how your design partner will document this process and clearly identify the variables used to make decisions as prototypes get more refined.
  • Sometimes specific ideas or concepts that emerge through the iterative process may require specialist skills that were not anticipated upfront. The investment can benefit from having a buffer in the budget that is reserved for inviting specialists in as needs emerge.
  • For those early ideas and concepts that emerge through the iterative process, but may not be seen as the goal of this particular investment, consider having a way to capture those ideas for further use.
  • Concepts and solutions are usually judged on three criteria - desirability, feasibility, and viability. Your design partner may focus most heavily on desirability as a way of articulating what users want and need. It will strengthen the work if you ensure that there is a clear way to determine feasibility and viability, and you can consider other factors to include given what success looks like in a specific solutions space.


  • Be careful to work with the design partner to ensure that the deliverables produced are always aligned to support the goals of the investment.
  • Make sure the design partner is not jumping to solutions ahead of time and that they have spent enough time in the ´Explore or Reframe Problem´ phase.

Questions for potential partners

  • How will you ensure you have the right mix of design expertise at the right time in the process?
  • When in the solution cycle, will the team bring in designer who has extensive experience with prototyping, producing and building solutions so there can be a quick turn around for making things tangible as needed?
  • What are your preferred ways of bringing people new to the design process along on the journey, when the ambiguity of an iterative design process can cause discomfort in stakeholders for whom it is new?
  • What is your process for capturing the sheer number of potential concepts while also keeping the team on target for reaching a preferred solution?
  • I often feel lost in the prototyping phase of a project, can you share with me how you will document the process so that I can clearly understand what inputs led to the various decisions you will make along the way?