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Use the "TRY" techniques 

to reframe problems, test ideas and create prototypes.


The TRY phase of the strategic design method is arguably the most fun. It is when you can respectfully silence your adept critical voice and welcome your sometimes-out-of-practice creative voice.

The following are activities you can use in the TRY phase:

  • Framing manageable questions/problems/opportunities

  • Developing evaluation criteria

  • Generating ideas

  • Choosing ideas to test and prototype

  • Checking your criteria further

  • (Sometimes) going back to Ask, to redefine the problem

  • Landing on a solution

In summary, the TRY part of ASK, TRY, DO is about experimentation and testing. It's the generative piece of the process. And it can happen throughout the strategic design method-you will return to Try frequently as you evaluate your problem definition and find new ideas or solutions that need to be tested.

Here are some of the techniques that can be used in TRY:

  • Use ASK words such as "generate," "test," "prototype," and "choose."

  • Revisit your mandatory and desirable criteria and refine them.

  • Use "How might we" questions to break the problem into smaller pieces.

  • Brainstorm and think with your creative voice, silencing your critical voice.

  • Use list-making again-this time to generate a quantity of ideas.

  • Soft, sift, and rank your ideas to decide what to test or prototype.

  • Reflect frequently-step back and away from your activities.

  • Design experiments that are cheap and quick.

  • Prototype ideas and get feedback-ideally from users.

Designed leadership (2017), Moura Quayle.



Framing problems into potential opportunity statements start with the phrase

HOW MIGHT WE… and conclude with a very specific and particular, solvable,

challenge that triggers one's innovative idea generation abilities.


  • To connect a problem space into a potential solution space.

  • To translate ideas into actions.

  • To frame opportunities.

  • To move from current state thinking to future state thinking.

The HMW statement should be user-centred (focused on people), sufficiently narrow (so that the task is manageable and solvable) AND ALSO sufficiently broad (so that thinking about small solutions encourages exploration and discovery of its larger context as well).


Prototyping is a way of getting ideas and exploration out in the open and in the

physical world. A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form – be it a

wall of post-it notes, a role-playing activity, a space, an object, an interface,

a storyboard or napkin sketch.


Rapid prototypes should be rough to engage yourself and others to understand a concept in a visual or concrete form. Team members can learn quickly if the rough concept may work, and investigate a lot of different possibilities.

When we are talking about physical artifacts – like products or buildings – it is easy to understand what is meant by prototyping – rough sketches to full-scale models.


Services and business models can be prototyped in a conceptual way using a timeline, story maps or a business model canvas (Strategyzer).

USES: Traditionally prototyping is thought of as a way to test functionality.

  • To deepen your understanding of the design space and users.

  • To test and refine ideas or solutions.

  • To inspire (yourself, and others) by showing your vision.

Designed leadership (2017), Moura Quayle:


Prototypes help test assumptions and offer a tool to engage stakeholders. It's important to remember that first attempts rarely succeed. Micro-failures generate learning and move ideas forward quickly.

Here are some examples of ways to prototype:

  • Sketching a diagram or flowchart is quick and easy.

  • Making a three-dimensional model forces you to think in multiple dimensions.

  • Roleplaying and performing skits helps really get into the process.

  • Experimenting with mind-map apps give you a structure for your prototyping process.

  • Testing ideas with storyboards is a fabulous way to get deeper into a process.



  • Helps make decisions.

  • Helps narrow down possible options.

  • To create an opportunity.




  • (sift through) put through a sieve so as to isolate that which is most important or useful : until we sift the evidence ourselves, we can’t comment objectively |

  • (sift out) separate something, esp. something to be discarded, from something else : he asked for streamlined procedures to sift out frivolous applications.



  • arrange systematically in groups; separate according to type, class, etc. : she sorted out the clothes, some to be kept, some to be thrown away.

  • (sort through) look at (a group of things) one after another in order to classify them or make a selection : she sat down and sorted through her mail.



  • give (someone or something) a rank or place within a grading system : rank them in order of preference


Step 1. Develop some criteria to sort your ideas.

  • Efficacy criteria — potential for progress toward solving the problem.

  • User criteria — potential to ‘fit’ with the needs and wants of users.

  • Implementation criteria — potential to initiate, scale.

  • Economic criteria — potential benefit exceeds potential cost.

  • Innovation criteria — potential to be a ‘game-changer.’


Step 2. Assign ‘tentative’ priority these criteria.

  • Sort the criteria generated into at least two groups — mandatory and desirable.

  • Some criteria may need greater specificity or definition to proceed — what about [criteria x] is most important?

  • You may well add, edit, or reconsider priorities (and these criteria) as you test them.


Step 3. List the alternatives that you want to rank AND the criteria against which ones you want to rank.


Step 4. Try out one of the decision-making processes, eg. Max Axes, Decision Tree.


Step 5. Use it to select a promising idea to prototype.


  • What kinds of criteria are going to help to find a solution with the right “fit”?

  • You could sift, sort, and rank, or you could choose to do one separately (they do not need to be bundled together).



  • To help with brainstorming.

  • To sort / organize ideas.

  • To plan events / activities.

  • To outline/ organize documents and publication.

  • To manage projects.

  • To record / take notes.

  • Focus on strategies.


Concept or mind mapping is a visual sorting technique that you can use to collect and organize ideas. It works for a broad range of activities, from organizing user research to writing reports to managing projects. From simple sketches to sophisticated online diagrams, concept maps are easy to share, build and publish. Many free online mapping tools offer real time virtual collaboration features that make them particularly good for teams. Most also offer an export feature that turns a visual map into a document outline (useful for generating reports and design briefs).


1. Discuss project or problem discovered. Map central idea of the project or problem at the centre.

2. Connect ideas to central concept. Draw relationships between ideas.

Use paper, whiteboard, index cards or sticky notes.

3. Make your map visual. Use icons. Convert tables to mind-maps.

Look for patterns. Reflect.


  • Computer-based tools let you start anywhere so don’t think too much – dive right in.

  • Encourage your team members to add their own entries (instead of asking you to do it for them).

  • Index cards and sticky notes can be used like nodes in a mind-map, turning any table or wall into a mapping surface.

  • Make your map visual. Different icons and colours help our brains sort and process similar concepts.



  • Helps get out of a no-idea jam.

  • Helps generate new ideas.

  • Helps develop project scope and boundary.


1. When in the process of idea generation, think about what constraints are in play. Record them.


2. Select  one constraint at a time and generate ideas based on the constraint.


3. Then selectively add in constraints and experiment with which ones open up opportunities and which ones close you down. Keep track and classify them. Reflect.


  • Record the constraints used. This can be done on post-its and colour coded for importance of constraints.

  • Keep track of the different scenarios of using the different constraints.



  • As a quick idea sorting tool.

  • To identify priorities.

  • To clarify top project criteria.


A good idea generation session will produce 50 or 100 potential solutions. Max Axes is a tool that helps teams sort and prioritize those that are the best fit.

By having to choose just two values for the two axes, teams are forced to prioritize among their many project criteria. The values represent two extremes, such as expensive and cheap, short and long-term.

This can be used in combination with other tools, such as a matrix or dotmocracy (in which each team member gets a limited number of sticky “dots” that serve as votes. Members put their dots onto their favourite ideas, as shown on a list or sticky note).


1. Choose two values for the two axes that are extremes. Use project criteria or trade-offs.

2. Generate ideas and map them along axes. Use whiteboard, index cards or sticky notes.

Discuss placement along axes.

3. Secure alignment and prioritization. Eliminate ideas. Focus on criteria-based solutions. Reflect.


Put each idea on a separate card or sticky note.

Create the axes on a flip chart or white board – then sort the stickies onto it.

Choose the axes with care – then sort quickly, using instinct.

Otherwise, you may rationalize putting an idea into a different spot.

This can be very effective for eliminating ideas all together.

Don’t be afraid to scrap ideas that don’t fit your criteria.

You can also put four different criteria at each point – or turn it into a clock face and have 12 points.



  • To make the abstract more tangible and real.

  • Helps to understand, analyze, and improve upon the abstract.

  • Helps with planning for the future.

  • As a tool for business modeling.


Future scenario planning was first used in the military to anticipate possible scenarios where the troops would need to respond to threats quickly and effectively. The main logic behind future scenario planning is to plan ahead in order to be able to choose actions accordingly. A quickly made decision to act is always a risk, especially in the business world.

When creating a scenario, two elements are essential: the customer setting and future environments.

Customer settings: how products and services are used, what kinds of customers use them and so on. These scenarios build on customer insights. The scenario makes customer insights tangible.

Future environments in which the business model might compete: This is not about predicting the future but again about providing detail. Applying scenario-planning techniques to business model innovation forces reflection on how a model might have to evolve under certain conditions.


1. Identify a situation that comprises a customer/user and their environment.


2. Identify customer/user product or service. Identify context for interaction between user and product. Identify key drivers.


3. Visually map out multiple future scenarios: positive, negative or neutral. Identify key conditions. Reflect.


  • The more specific and detailed you can be – the better.

  • Identify two sets of drivers, and set them as x and y axes (refer to Max Axes).

[1]  Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y.  2010.  Business Model Generation:  A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.



  • “A check-list of idea spurring questions” (Michalko).

  • To discover creative ideas for developing new products or services,

       and for improving current ones.


SCAMPER is a creative technique that asks questions about existing products and services using the letters as different prompts.

S = Substitute
C = Combine
A = Adapt
M = Modify/Magnify
P = Put to other uses
E = Eliminate/minify
R = Reverse/Rearrange?

Step 1: Identify your challenge (and frame some opportunities).
Step 2: Ask some SCAMPER questions about each step of the challenge/opportunity.

What can be substituted? Who else? What else? Can the rules be changed? Other ingredient? Other material?

Other process or procedure? Other power? Other place? Other approach? What else instead? What other part instead of this?

What ideas can be combined? Can we combine purposes? How about an assortment?

How about a blend, an alloy, an ensemble? Combine units?

What other article could be merged with this? How could we package a combination?

What can be combined to multiply possible uses?

What materials could we combine?

What else is like this?What other idea does this suggest? Does the past offer a parallel?

What could I copy? Whom could I emulate? What idea could I incorporate? What other process could be adapted? What ideas outside my field can I incorporate?

How can this be altered for the better? What can be modified?Is there a new twist? Change meaning, colour, motion, sound, odour, form, shape?

Change name? What other for could this take?

What if this were smaller? What should I omit? Should I divide it? Split it up? Separate it into different parts? Understate? Streamline? Make miniature? Condense? Compact? Can the rules be eliminated?


What other arrangements might be better? Interchange components? Other pattern? Transpose cause and effect?


Change pace? Change schedule? Other sequence? Change the order?


  • Try and generate as many ideas as you can.

  • Move around the SCAMPER list – use more than one letter.

[1]  Michalko, Michael. Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Business Creativity. New York: Ten Speed, 1991. Print.


Brainstorming works on the principle that if more ideas are generated in response

to a particular situation or problem, there is a greater possibility of finding a workable

solution to a particular problem.

There are three phases to brainstorming:

  1. Idea generation

  2. Analysis

  3. Action planning


  • To generate ideas.

  • To solve problems.

  • To break out of stale, established patterns of thinking.

  • To bring the diverse experience of all team members.


Brainstorming is a process that works best with a group of people who embrace the following guidelines:

  • Have a well-defined and clearly stated problem.

  • Have someone assigned to write down all the ideas as they occur.

  • Suspend judgment.

  • Every idea is accepted and recorded.

  • Encourage people to build on the ideas of others.

  • Encourage way-out and odd ideas.

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