Need a design taken from A to B or maybe A to Q?
Going from A to B might take one skill set and from B to C, another. Do you know what Q through B looks like? Stuff that brain matter back in your ears and take a breath. Let’s review the ABCs of project management and see if you’ve got the chops to design with me.
Skilled execution requires a clear input and a clear output. If the inputs, outputs, and processes are unambiguous, tasks can be outsourced. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork abound with talented and eager folks ready to tackle requests for less than you might expect. Try it, set aside $50 for a low-risk experiment. The question is though, are you sure your requirements and expectations look the same for every person from every angle? There are many tiers to conceptualizing an idea. From the broad concept level to the design minutia. The input shouldn’t be a general problem, idea, or even refined idea. This is a textbook mistake that concept owners and originators make when they don’t know the breakdown of tasks across the design and manufacturing process.
The input must be explicit, to minimize misinterpretation or miscommunication. Every time information is exchanged from person to person there is a loss of fidelity. When the intent isn’t clear from the start, additional loss can result in situations of total communication breakdowns and work with little or no added value. Be thorough in transferring all the knowledge that might be needed.
However, more information can be helpful but not a substitute for clear information. A “brain dump” when it is just a giant jumbled pile of disconnected thoughts, unfiltered and without context, may be an “unexplained lump” and cause a “constrain slump”. Garbage in, garbage out.
Take the example of mistaken expectations when a concept gets tasked out for the almighty “3D model”. What is the expectation of the model? An industrial design concept? A virtual prototype? A final concept? A model can be a realistic blueprint or untethered to reality and impossible to make. The untrained eye can’t tell the difference and the uninitiated entrepreneur doesn’t know there is a difference.
Ideators envision a version of their product in their mind’s eye. When I think about a product concept, I don’t see just a product. I envision the whole ecosystem required from industrial machines, tooling, assemblers, packaging and test facilities. The truth is that the originator’s vision isn’t a solution, just the beginning of identifying a need. Even if a functional prototype or patent exists, it’s just a validation of the need, not a solution. This is how a lack of understanding of what is required for skilled execution leads to slow execution.
Great designers solve wicked problems. Wicked problems can be incomplete, contradictory, or a total stumper of a problem. Your problem is likely a wicked problem but you just don’t know it yet. You haven’t peeled back enough layers of the onion or found the Pandora’s box that will test your will and resolve.
We use a tool called “design thinking” to tackle wicked problems. Design thinking is a methodology and a mental muscle. It’s like the scientific method, but for every problem. The process is an ordered series of steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, assess, and iterate.
Challenging problems can have such a large scope they seem to have no beginning or end. This is where the desire to start throwing things over the fence to skilled implementors comes from. But this undisciplined approach to solving problems is an exercise in flushing resources and kicking the proverbial can down the road. The design thinking approach allows you to partition the massive and unwieldy project into compartmentalized and manageable bits that can then be individually tackled and reassembled to tame the whole beast.
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