Try this simple trick to help you design better things

It can feel almost impossible sometimes to come up with creative ideas to create great product and service experiences on demand.

One trick I’ve taken to is to simply flip it and consider what qualities a terrible experience would have.

Imagine you were planning on giving a talk and wanted to make it enjoyable and educational for the audience.

That feels like a challenging brief.

Now consider what you’d need to deliver a really awful talk.

I reckon to do it really badly you’d need to:

  • Not start on time
  • Don’t tell people what you’re going to cover
  • Talk REALLY quickly
  • Use language that no one understands
  • Don’t let anyone else speak
  • Fill it with acronyms
  • Make sure all the tech fails
  • Make it REALLY long
  • Cram your slides full of tiny text
  • Take a few phone calls during the talk
  • Talk on a topic with no relevance to any of the attendees
  • Don’t have any breaks
  • Be really arrogant and condescending to everyone
  • Make anyone who asks a question feel stupid
  • Have some slides so ugly only your mother could love them

Coming to think of it I think I went to a meeting like this last week! ; )

It’s SO much easier (and more fun) to come up with what would make something awful than what would make something great.

So all you need to do is create the ‘awful experience’, flip it and do the opposite.

It works nicely too when you are faced with a situation when you can’t articulate what you want (let’s imagine from a new job).

I bet you’ll find it so much easier to articulate what you don’t want.

Simple!

The transformative benefits of an ‘experimental mindset’

One of the most useful mindset hacks I use regularly is to adopt an experimental mindset to so many things in my life.

At work, I use this to frame the investigation of ideas as experiments consisting of assumptions and hypotheses to be investigated by trying them out and seeing what happens.

By framing things as experiments, it gives you permission to try something out and more importantly to fail, learn and to progress.

So many people, organisations, products and services never improve because people are terrified of ‘failure’.

Designers are particularly susceptible to this, often feeling they are expected to know the answers and for their work to be perfect.

An experimental mindset gives you permission to just try something out and feels hugely liberating.

Benefits outside of work

It works in so many aspects of you life too.

Imagine you wanted to pack in your day job and become a writer.

That’s a bold, high risk move that requires a massive decision.

Cue procrastination and paralysis.

An experimental mindset gives you a way of progressing by asking yourself ;

“What would be the smallest/ fastest/ cheapest/ lowest risk experiment I could do that would let me try it out?”

You could ‘prototype’ the idea by setting up a free blog, by writing an article for a magazine or by setting yourself a brief with a tight deadline or just start writing something to see how it feels.

You may quickly realise that you like the idea of being a writer much more than the reality.

That’s a great result because you’ve learnt something really important, really quickly, with minimal investment, and you’ve still got your day job!

Fake it before you make it

Prototyping is absolutely critical to this because it flips you from daydreaming to doing.

It is also really enjoyable because it is playful, experimental and a hugely creative exercise.

Prototypes help you to learn quickly, try things out, communicate your ideas to others and highlight aspects of your idea that don’t work.

Prototypes can take many forms and allow you to fake it before you make it.

A pop up restaurant is simply a prototype restaurant. They’ve wisely invested the smallest amount of money possible to see if their idea is any good or not.

A ‘draft’ document is simply a prototype of a document.

A tweet might be a prototype for a book idea, representing minimal effort to explore reaction to an idea before any additional effort is invested.

Prototyping is critical because it helps you to make progress with something that previously felt like it was going nowhere because it felt too big, scary and complex to make a start on.

So the next time you’re faced with a decision or have an idea you want to explore, just think ‘what’s the smallest experiment I could do here to try this out’ and I guarantee it will help you to progress.