A month or so back during my talk at Forefront I mentioned I owe a lot due to my time in agencies. To be more precise I owe a lot due to my time at one agency: Brahm. You can view the slides here, 38 onwards.
One thing my slides don’t spell out is I owe my career on the advertising side a lot. In short: I started at Brahm on the digital side, and moved to the ad/design side about a third of the way through my time there. And I am perfectly cool saying that as well. Hipster digital types may smirk, but whatever.
I learnt more about “find the right thing” than being on the “digital side”. The process on the ad side was similar to the digital department; we just didn’t lose hours realising in Photoshop or Fireworks anywhere near as much, and it was more collaborative.
Working to come up with the core ideas, with pen and paper, throw things away, talk critically about the work within the team, refine what we’d done, throw more stuff away, and on it went. By being faster, by being iterative.
However we did it, one goal: Know what we are looking to achieve, through knowing we have to hone in on the one thing that works.
My time at Brahm also taught me to know the process and believe in the process — and also keep adapting the process, short term per job, long term across the teams.
There is a key part of that process I think gets neglected in the rush to JFDI.
I’ve said before that a brief is the most important document for any agency job — or at least the process of what goes into a good brief. The best briefs — or “briefs” — are driven by research, carry analysis, set down an understanding, reveals motivations, goals, and shared. It is an agreement on cross-levels.
However, it is the thing that comes first, a point of reference. It kicks everything off. Everything after that relies on it. Asking, finding out, knowing at the beginning means we know how we are getting along, something to look back against. The brief can adapt as time goes on, but always there.
In the world of creating products and services, the prevalent Agile is used an excuse to miss this discovery phase out. We still need to learn, we still need to understand Why? we need to do the work. Being ‘agile’ isn’t an excuse to jump past this, to fly in feet first. ‘Agile’ isn’t about that. Missing out that discovery isn’t how agile works.
There needs to be more thinking like a start-up, a good start-up. A good start-up recognises there is a need. They do their research, they analyse, they focus. They might not luxuriate in it, but they recognise a solid need. The best start-ups then deliver something that meets that need.
Another important point: Start-ups don’t have all the time in the world. More need to get something out there fast, so move nimbly, explore, throw stuff away, hone in, do their exploration in the open by shipping regularly, building around/up.
They need to get something out that works so they can something back in — be it insight, product exposure, or even revenue — and it will only work if they’ve dedicated time to getting some degree of knowing. Their product, their business, their jobs depend upon it.
Everything you do — agile-styled or however — is pointless if the thing you work on has no point. It’s better to throw something away when you have discovered that early on than too far down the line.
Originally published at www.ermlikeyeah.com on December 22, 2015.