The best thing vs the thing that matters
Those that get past creative blocks often aren’t the ones who necessarily have the capacity for more creativity. Nor are they consistently the ones with the right tools or more resources.
No, those that excel when it comes to ideation, to getting past the creative block, who find solutions that work, are typically the people who focus on the thing that matters most.
It’s easy to get consumed with what we believe is the “best” thing. The best thing requires more tools, more ideas, more input, and ultimately more risk. But the best thing isn’t always the thing that matters, the thing that will move the needle.
In our efforts to find the solution that wows us we overlook the one that actually matters.
Fortunately it’s easy to shift away from the best thing and re-focus on the right thing by looking at the impact each is expected to have. Taking the few extra minutes to evaluate your path can make all the difference in not only how you come up with ideas, but the quality of them as well.
If you find yourself stuck often, or moving slowly, unable to come up with enough of what feels like the right ideas, first take a step back and consider the fact that you might be searching for the best thing rather than the thing that really matters.
The two aren’t always exclusive, but more often than not one distracts from the other.
Design thinking - starting out
Ped’s summary of chapter one
Design thinkers know that there is no ‘one best way’ of doing moving through a process. Rather there are useful starting points and helpful landmarks. The continuum of innovation is best though or as a system of overlapping spaces:
- inspiration - the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for the solution;
- ideation - the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and
- implementation - the path that leads from the project room to the Market place.
The reason for the iterative, non linear path is because design thinking is inherently an exploratory journey.
“fail early to succeed sooner”
[design thinking can feel chaotic for people experiencing it for the first time because of the open-ended, open-minded, and iterative process] The first stage of the design thinking process is often discovering which constraints (or criteria) are important and establishing framework for evaluating them.
Constraints for successful ideas are:
- feasibility - what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future?
- viability - what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model?
- Desirability - what makes sense to people for people?
Designers resolve one or another of these constraints. Design thinkers navigate between and amongst them in creative ways. They do so by shifting their thinking away from problems to projects.
Projects force a clear goal from the outset. Projects create:
- natural deadlines impose discipline;
- Give opportunities to review progress;
- Make midcourse corrections; and
- Redirect future activity.
The three ingredients of design thinking
The starting point of any project is the brief. The brief is a set of mental contrains that give the project a framework from which to:
- Measure progress; and
- Set objectives.
A well-designed brief will allow for serendipity, unpredictability, and capricious whims of fate. Mid-course adjustments to a broad initial brief should be embraced as more insight is gained.
Next is smart teams which are diverse and ideally interdisciplinary. [an aside: bringing teams together is inherently hard especially if they are disparate. The Internet has helped move information around but has done little to bring people together. Recently social networking is changing this; allowing people to connect, share and “publish”. These tools can help project teams publish and share insight in new ways and keeps the iterative process of design thinking alive]
Finally a culture of innovation is needed in the midset of design thinkers. The perquisite to creating such a culture is the social and spacial environment in which people feel comfortable to experiment, take risks, and explore the full range of their faculties. The physical and psychological spaces work in tandem to define the effectiveness of the people in within in. It makes sense that organisations whose “product” is creativity should foster environments that reflect and reinforced it.
One thing I love about Sandbox is the ever-changing environment. It’s always evolving, even from one week to the next. On my first day way back in May of 2010 I remember being shocked, mostly because this place did just not seem real. I got to choose the projects I would be working on, I was wearing jeans (and that was ok), there were no offices, only “pods”, and all of the employees ate lunch together. Everyone’s diverse life experiences intersected at this playground of creativity.
Here are some changes I’ve observed:
Ideation to Incubation Focus: Last summer was all about ideation, We had weekly brainstorm sessions, and my job was to research and test various new business ideas. My favorite concept testing project was a frozen yogurt-style retail idea. I got to whip up different flavors of the product for Sandboxers to test, help lead a focus group, and even go out in the field to observe froyo consumers in action. I returned this summer to find four businesses well beyond the ideation stage, along with many new staff members to accommodate for this growth. The focus was much more on incubation, a word which no longer conjures up images of newborn chicks in my mind. Incubation meant developing existing startups to help them reach their full potential. Each of this summer’s interns worked primarly with one team. I focus on Lab42, doing blogging, PR and marketing.
Countless new businesses launched: I love watching how quickly businesses are launched at Sandbox. During my first week here, I attended a name brainstorm for a personalized style company (the latest brainchild of Sandbox ideation). The name CakeStyle was chosen, and just a few weeks ago I visited its newly opened showroom! Throughout the summer, I watched it move from a one-page concept description to a tangible business with its own website and headquarters. You never know what Sandbox will look like three months from now, and that’s part of the fun of it.
With everything that’s changed in the past year, the distinctive Sandbox culture has stayed very much the same. I still sense the collaborative, entrepreneurial excitement when I arrive each morning. And I can’t get enough of the unexpected surprises, like a competition to come up with the most creative Zaarly request. This resulted in a guest singer, serenading the office with Rebecca Black’s famous Friday song (replacing Friday with Tuesday).
I’ve witnessed so much happen in such a short amount of time, and I’ve loved being part of this exciting phase of Sandbox’s growth and development (the new Sandbox website matches this culture extremely well, you should check it out). Of course now all the unique and quirky things about this office have become the norm for me, which will make it hard to transition back to life outside the box. Even though I’ll be back at school, I still might add to the blog every now and then. And be sure to stay tuned for posts from other Sandbox interns!
“There is no such thing as content. There is no content industry full of content creators who create consumable content for content consumers. Instead, there is a diverse field of people, young and old, amateur and professional, communicating and manifesting ideas and information using a wide variety of methods and techniques. The end products of these efforts may be in the form of text, imagery, sound, or interactive experience, but none can be categorized as a generic, consumable commodity known as “content.”...If you are a maker of things, a disseminator of knowledge, or anyone who contributes to the collective intellectual output of human beings, do not accept the notion that your work is less significant than a house, a chair, a piece of electronic equipment, or a rock. Do not allow yourself to be labeled as a mere “content creator.” Have more dignity than that.”—
From This Is Not Content
This. So wonderfully and aptly stated.