Design Thinking and Prototyping

Design Thinking and Prototyping Can Help You Make Decisions at any Stage in Life

Chapter 2 of my book describes a powerful and simple tool to help you decide what identity you want and how to spend your time once you're retired but still want to work, are in the third stage of your life or want to make changes at any time in your life, career or business.

Design thinking began as a tool in the world of product design and is now being used to solve business issues and help people make decisions in their personal lives. The at Stanford and IDEO, an international design and consulting company, have both been pioneers in design thinking. Design thinking emphasizes action and experimentation rather than simply thinking about alternatives or discussing options.

It uses what's called prototyping in the product design world and means actually doing the things you are considering. It goes beyond the networking concept we're all familiar with because it's not just talking to people about the activity you're considering, although it's important to do that also. Prototyping means you actually do the work yourself on a small scale to decide whether it's something you want to do more of.

This means you take a relevant class, volunteer, get an internship, write a blog, become part of an online group, work with a coach or mentor, go on an advisory board or set up an advisory board for yourself. You're trying on a new identity or activity to see what reaction you have to it to decide if it's worth pursuing further. You'll know by how you feel about it and whether things start to fall into place whether you want to do more of it. It helps if you have some background in the area you are prototyping since you need to be realistic that you could do this and be paid if you got some additional training, certification or more experience.

You can use this approach when making a decision in your career at any point in your life. But, in the third stage of your life, it's easy to feel hesitant about taking a risk and trying something new. People can feel they have too much to lose at a later stage in their lives and fear taking a risk. Or they feel stuck and overwhelmed by the number of options that could be possibilities.

I believe the opposite is the better approach and now is the perfect time to take the biggest risks of all because you have no one to please but yourself or perhaps your partner or someone who is making this new journey with you. Planning for retirement is not a time to play it safe because this is the time of your life to find your real identity or do something you always thought about trying.

The woman in the picture above with me is a client of mine who has used design thinking and prototyping as part of our work together to create her new identity and change her business and career in the third stage of her life. I interviewed her in my book because she did such a good job of using this "experimenting in action" tool. To make it more specific, I'll tell you what she did and how it worked for her.

Lita Reyes knew that the jobs she'd held in the past in marketing, consulting and working with nonprofits were not the right fit for the third stage of her life. She was currently in her own marketing business and looking to find her true calling or something she could feel passion for while she was transitioning to this third stage of life. She knows she will continue to work in her retirement and wants to transform her business now that will be her purpose for as long as she chooses to work. Fortunately, she's starting to plan for this transition early.

After we discussed many options we focused on philanthropic advising as the type of business she wanted to do in the future. She had done some of this work in the past but now wanted to specialize her business in this area. She already had an MBA, but after doing much research she went to New York to take the 21/64 training to become a Certified Advisor since we thought it would give her new learning and contacts, a good process and additional credibility. She also joined an Advisory Board, WINC, Women's Impact Network Committee, and is becoming a member of Northern California Planned Giving Council.

She re-named her consulting firm Reyes Philanthropic Solutions, modified her LinkedIn profile and other online sites. We created a new resume and two page summary of her new business and had new business cards made. She's done non-stop networking during this process and is now doing her new website and writing an article on mother and daughter philanthropy, an area she will specialize in along with advising younger donors.

Throughout this process, we continued to question whether this was the right direction for her to pursue for her work in the third stage of her life. She feels more strongly than ever that she is building the right business for the long haul. This is something she could do part-time in the future if she chooses to, but for now, she's full speed ahead building a business with other employees, a board of directors and advisors.

She'll speak more about how she used design thinking and prototyping to feel confident about this decision at my Book Passage presentation and book signing on Sat. June 23rd at 1:00 in Corte Madera in the SF Bay Area for those of you who live close by. Please forward this if you know someone living in the area who might enjoy coming or learning more about my book.

You can also find my book in Sonoma in the wine country at Reader's Books, a great independent bookstore right off the town square. If you're in the area, stop by and look in the local author section by the checkout and enjoy the great town

There are exercises in the book to help you make some of the same decisions Lita made and more information about the process of design thinking and prototyping. To purchase a copy of the book or get more information and a table of contents for the book, check out my March 7th blog on

Are you on It's a great resource for books to read and a way to track and review what you've read. If you've read my book, I'd love to have you review it on Thanks, Andrea


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