In our recent leadership meeting, our team shared tips on executing ideas faster, while still delivering excellence. The topic was extensively debated. We talked about the pros and cons of speed versus perfection. At the end of the discussion, we agreed the team shows discretion on when to pursue perfection. Here are our six steps to maximize ROI (return on ideas).
Step One: Ideation
Let’s start with ideation. We gather lots of ideas and we gather them fast, without discriminating against good or bad. (The figure on the left illustrates the funnel approach, taking multiple ideas down to the development of one great idea.) We give team members an equal opportunity to develop their ideas. We then mash up different good ideas together to create even better ideas.
Step Two: Rapid Prototyping
After carefully selecting the top promising ideas, we then quickly develop them using a rapid prototyping model. The key is to rapidly develop rough working ideas. Rough working ideas are key, because we want to capture the essence of the ideas, rather than set them in stone.
The goal is for our designers to produce simple working prototypes, akin to an architect model. It’s important the prototypes work. We want our designers to look ahead and anticipate each production step, so we can foresee what challenges this idea might pose later in the production phase. For example, if it is a video project, storyboard artists pre-visualize a few scenes. If it is a website, our coders mock up a quick prototype. In short, the goal is to produce rough prototypes to prove the idea. Our clients have to participate in the prototype review and as a group we collaborate on selecting the best design.
Step Three: Visualization
Once we pick our top idea, we start a detailed visualization, which acts as our blueprint to guide us through the production. This is the opportunity to work out the kinks. The visualization is also where we continue to interact with our clients for review and approval. We have learned that quick, continuous client feedback is key to success on projects. Our creative process is not a one-way street.
Step Four: Production
In our production phase, it is about working efficiently and effectively. By now all the creative decisions have been made, and we can ramp up the quality and narrow the focus. This is critical in order to complete the project within the allocated timeframe and to avoid any overtime charges. The goal is not to take shortcuts, but rather to find the most efficient way to attain perfection.
Step Five: Mini Check-ins
To ensure the utmost quality, we perform daily mini check-ins, as pioneered by Pixar Studios. We talk to team members about their production status and their challenges, what works and what doesn’t. This is the best time to help a teammate who might be stuck on a production problem. Mini check-ins keep the team focused, while saving time and enhancing team and client satisfaction.
Step Six: False Deadlines
Okay, we admit it. Creative people can be born procrastinators. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. The last step to ensure production is done on time is by setting false internal deadlines. We panic early to allow time for changes and refinements in order to perfect the project as if it were the client’s delivery deadline. At this time, we recheck the work to make sure it is perfect. Having this buffer zone gives us time to evaluate what can be tweaked, or in the worst-case scenario, what needs to be redone.
For those of us who are perfectionists, we ask ourselves a simple question: Are we perfecting to serve the clients or ourselves? If we are just pushing pixels in an endless pursuit of perfection, we need to stop. If the pursuit of perfection is to serve our clients, we will continue.
The goal is to deliver excellence, with more team satisfaction, which leads to greater motivation and inspiration to get the next great ideas into fruition. Essentially, we can achieve the best results with less time wasted and happier clients and team. In the end, if we follow all the steps we are assured a maximum return on our ideas.