Managing Design Innovation

with Matthew Beebe

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Phase 0

Iterate and have faith

Matthew Beebe

Design & Idea Expert, User Experience, Human-Centered Design

Lessons Learned

Brainstorming is about figuring out the contours of a problem and which solutions fit those spaces.

You won’t get it right the first time. Iterate and have faith in the process.

Processes always take longer than you think they will.


Lesson: Managing Design Innovation with Matthew Beebe

Step #10 Phase 0: Iterate and have faith

Usually the client would come in and have some sense of what they were trying to get done on the project. Other times they didn't, and that's when it was called Phase 0. Maybe they have some vague sense of a new market they want to get into or a technology that they want to find an application for. These are the broadest explorations you can imagine.

Most of what the design process is about, like there's this problem and you're kind of staring at it, but you can't really see it. So you're kind of trying to sense what are the contours of the problem. Once you understand the contours of the problem, then you can come up with different things to fit different parts of that problem that are the solutions.

So in Phase 0, it's usually so abstract and conceptual that you don't really get to the point of seeing that fit. I like to see the fit basically. I probably spend too much time reading TechCrunch and things like that, but it causes me this great anxiety seeing all these great things that people are doing. In the back of my mind I feel like there must have been crappy versions of that thing before there was a great version of that thing, because I look at all the things I work on and I think, wow my thing looks so much crappier than their thing, and it causes me this huge anxiety that it's a shortcoming. The first version out the gate basically is terrible.

It's hard for me sometimes to have faith in the process that I know works, which is being iterative, understanding that you're not going to get it right the first time. So that's one thing, having that faith. It was easier at IDEO basically because so little was riding on the outcome because I was just a consultant. I feel like at a startup the sense of ownership is almost debilitating.

Startups are hard because you probably aren't going to get along with everybody you work with, and there are only five of them. You really have to figure out how to work with the people you're going to work with. In other environments, there are at least enough people there that you do get along with that kind of outweighs . . . so at Palm, hundreds of people around, a bunch of people I got along with. A few that I didn't, but it was okay because there were so many people that I got along with. There's always somebody to go to lunch with who you wanted to go to lunch with. If it's five people and one of them is having a terrible day, you're going to have to put up with that person. There's no avoiding it basically. You can smell them.

Startups are hard because it takes longer than you think it should. Startups are hard because you're probably going to fail, and it's this widely celebrated thing to have failures, but it just sucks.

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