I’m a designer with a business degree. Before designing at Plume, I directed design at a software development agency in Mountain View where I worked with dozens of client/partner teams — this exposed me to a myriad of winning and losing workflows.
I’ve seen well-stacked teams spin their wheels for years, been involved in massive projects strangled by bureaucracy, and lived the focus that can make or break our best efforts. There’s not a single right path, but here are a few winning concepts I find pervading successful product teams:
Validate the idea – App design and development is such an arduous task that we owe ourselves a scrutinizing, critical look at what we believe is a shoo-in for success. Excitement can be blinding. The feedback of those who don’t care can be sobering.
Discover the product you think you know – I like to say that we discover our own product through our users because ultimately the user is the expert. So we make prototypes as our best-guess at the product, but then let the user teach us what our product really is, what it looks like, and how it works.
Only let the passionate through the door – Passion for what we’re doing and where we’re going is like high-octane fuel. The only caveat is to ensure that everyone’s passions are aligned.
Support, not sabotage – This concept is especially true for team leaders who should be mindful of whether their directives, requests, feedback, etc. are adding value (i.e. support) to a team member, or if instead they’re somehow derailing (i.e. sabotaging) effort or ability. To be clear: “sabotage” might refer to late change-requests, unrealistic expectations, the arbitrary over data, etc. This applies to more than leaders, however; everyone on the team should have a “support” mindset in working with each other.
Truth exists without us – Since we only discover the right answers (through our efforts) rather than generate the right answers, the truth exists on its own and so belongs to no one. When everyone on a team embraces this concept egos fade away and we all better collaborate on discovering the solution in support of one another.
Growth forever – Skill and savvy are important for a designer or developer, but the big question is how well are you adapting to the evolving landscape — recognizing what techniques are becoming effective while letting go of the tired methods.
Grow together – Another aspect related to supporting one another — since all “A-players” live a continual practice of growth, the sum becomes greater than its parts when team members lift up one another. This means a combination of emotional, motivational, and intellectual trades with one another. And a real joyful, fulfilling workplace.
Clarity is heavenly. This applies to the product of course, (clarity is the true meaning of “simple”). But it especially applies to a team’s understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish — for our what our users will love, the roadmap ahead, and what we should be doing right now.
– – – – – – – –
Sure that’s all a lot to balance, but it’s not too much. In fact it’s obvious that pursuing these team-traits becomes so rewarding that the cohesion is self-motivating toward further effort.
It creates a positive feedback loop for creation.
Dream on, play on.