by Stephanie Simpson
Getting a product to market is a long game. Here’s how to stay focused and ensure the success of your vision.
My dad invented the first word processor with a screen. That put him at the top of his field, his face on the cover of TV Guide. And then he lost the business.
There was a lot that happened in the middle there, between the cover story and the bankruptcy, but, really, it all came down to one fatal flaw: He was more focused on being right than on surviving.
Here are 4 lessons I learned from his early mistake:
Eyes on the prize
Your end goal is always to get a good product successfully to market. You will have milestones to meet and individual ideas to contribute along the way. And when your idea is just one small piece of the puzzle, it’s easy to forget it is part of a much larger picture. A good idea in its own right only works if it furthers progress to the end goal – it must fit with the other pieces organized to get your product to market. You may have to give up some of your ideas to get to that point, but if everyone makes it there together, everyone wins.
After we propose concepts and ideas for our clients, we have a workshop that includes voting and prioritizing them—a key step in the overall development process. It can sometimes be disheartening when the concept or idea you support and perhaps even argued for falls by the wayside because it turns out be too hard to implement in the required timeframe, or encounters organizational challenges, or simply loses the support of the team. In the end, the voting helps you decide on a direction that meets everyone’s shared end goal.
Pick your battles
There are times when you need to stand up for your ideas, and other times you need to back off. Discerning the line between the two is often an acquired skill. Sometimes being provocative and getting the idea out there is enough for the time being, and settling for less now will get you more later. Remember the end goal. If your product never makes it out into the world, who wins? You sure won’t.
We recently ran a program to update the entire development experience for a client. It’s a comprehensive program, and we took the liberty to include an update of the client company’s logo. We spent a good amount of time on it, and came up with four great contenders, worthy representations of a compelling modern brand. But when we presented our work, we realized it was too soon – the client wasn’t ready to make that change amid all the many challenges of the design process. So after making our case as strong as we could, we backed off. There would be a time and a place to change the logo, but not now.
Techniques for letting go
Getting to your end goal is challenging, especially when you have to let go of some of what you thought were your “best ideas.” These are the questions I ask myself in those moments:
- What is best for the project?
- What is best for the team?
- What is best for the client?
- What is best for the end user?
- Is this something we need right now, or can we move forward without it?
In each case, I try to come up with answers that take into consideration the long view. An MVP (minimum viable product) strategy is paramount here. Prioritizing requirements to find solutions that will work for everyone helps people let go of bad, ill-advised, or overly ambitious ideas.
Learning to let go is also about compromise and finding ways to work together as a team. I find it is more important to make my team laugh – even at my expense. Camaraderie and team cohesion are always important. Compromise is often the glue that holds a team together. Similarly, it’s more important to take constructive criticism from a co-worker than object to it out of fear of being seen as backing down.
You’re both right
There are still many times I have to check myself in a debate and ask if it is worth the effort to continue. But in those debates, I have come to realize it is not about winning. Both people can be right. People can have different perspectives. It’s about coming to an agreed-upon decision so that everyone is happy with the outcome of the discussion. Different points of view are crucial for creativity, but at some point there has to be general agreement, even if it’s not a hundred percent.
I recently saw a documentary about a group of photographers who all separately took photographs of one man. They had each been told one different thing about the same man, and they all came out with dramatically different pictures of him. Does that mean that they had gotten some essential quality wrong? No. They were all right.
You have passion for your product. Focus that passion on the end goal, and learn to let go of stumbling blocks. It’s the surest path to success.
Stephanie is a Client Services Director at argodesign, where she leads cross-functional teams of Creatives and Technologists to deliver successful programs spanning the lifecycle of product design and development. Her passion is to help bring creative ideas to market through effective communication, selling, and management.
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