Before designing at Plume, I led design at a software development agency in Mountain View where I worked with a dozen or so product teams. We would often embed a designer with the client’s team onsite — this exposed me to a range of winning and losing workflows as we grew along with our clients.
Small venture-backed teams can spin their wheels for years, and massive projects can get strangled by bureaucracy. Here are a few concepts I found often calling out for more adoption:
The solution needs patience and diligence
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.
We discover our product largely through other people because ultimately the user is the expert, but in a Rorschach kind of way. So we make prototypes of our best-guess at the product, but let the world around us hone its accuracy.
Let only 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. Don’t forget that passion can also be fostered and supported in a cultural environment such as a product team.
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 (Let go of the Ego)
Since we discover the right answers (through our efforts) rather than make the right answers, the truth exists on its own and belongs to no one. When everyone on a team embraces this concept egos fade away and we all better collaborate on discovering the solution through support of one another.
Skill and savvy are important for a designer or developer, but the big question is how well are we at adapting to the evolving landscape — recognizing what techniques are becoming effective while letting go of the tired methods.
A great team is constantly exposing itself to what each member is finding out there in the world. As a team, we’re like the arms of an octopus feeling its way around the world and gathering new information.
It helps to have a combination of emotional, motivational, and intellectual trades with one another — and a truly joyful, fulfilling workplace.
Create clarity, and sustain clarity
This makes product design truly heavenly. This “clarity” applies to the product of course, (clarity is usually what we mean by “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, today.
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I believe pursuing these team-traits creates a positive feedback loop of cohesion and creation.