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Week 197

Posted by Keela on October 27, 2011

The beginning of the week started off as a continuation of the week before. We were in relay mode, pit crew mode if you will. We had a quick and fast deadline arise last week Friday that left us with a lot to do in a little time. We saw an opportunity for our incubating client to enter a challenge that might award them a grant. We presented them with the idea, they said yes…it was then game time. We sat down on Friday morning to sketch out who was going to do what. 9 questions total. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but believe me when I say these questions were meaty. Application due Monday. Clock is ticking. Everyone worked on their assigned questions over the weekend and came in prepared early Monday morning to collaborate, compare and complete. Normally, we stick to instant-gratification nespresso in the office, but this called for a full pot of drip coffee. With the sound and smell of coffee brewing and 4 people simultaneously banging away at their keyboards, it was like the floor of a newspaper room, 4 hours before you go to the presses. We had a drafting station, editing station, review station and submission station. Thank goodness for Google docs, especially the chat function. This allow the client to give real-time feedback for everyone to see, that is most importantly in written form.

Everyone was 100% focused with their eye on the ball. Christy, our temporary on-staff writer, proved her skills at rapid generation of content…really good content. We’ve been very fortunate to have her. She’s been helping us out with the toolkit lately but has been eager and willing to jump on any project that we have come up. It’s an asset to have someone that can not only switch gears to a completely different project, but doesn’t seem to lose momentum or focus. After the application, was submitted, meaning after Linda pushed the “submit” button, which by the way was right next to the delete button on the screen (really?), there was a overwhelming sense of relief and accomplishment.

I think that a rapid deadline, fueled by a common goal is a great exercise in team building. It wasn’t just that we had to get it done, but we all took stock in what we were doing, which made us work that much harder. Does mutual buy-in + hard deadline=success? Normally, our projects tend to be very long in duration due to their complexity and scale. They can go on for 1-2 years, and you don’t get to experience the feeling of elation after something has been completed as often as say a traditional design firm that launches a website or an iPhone app for a client every couple of months.

All this thinking about quick deadlines reminded me of an post I read about the Rapid Results Institute, which uses the Rapid Results Approach-an approach that mobilizes teams to achieve results in 100 days or less. They take this approach into developing countries to do things like accelerated HIV testing. The idea is that the tight deadline “forces a degree of prioritization and focus which leads to results, avoiding white elephant projects which tend to be grandiose but not implementable.”

Can accelerated timing lead to creativity? The most recent project by Damon Albarn, of which I am a huge fan, proves yes. If you are unfamiliar, Albarn is the frontman for such bands as Blur and the Gorillaz, but has his hands in dozens of other musical projects, like The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Monkey: Journey to the West and Massive Attack. Albarn is always trying out new things, always experimenting and is essentially always in the concept and prototype phase of the design process. It seems he just does his ultra-rapidly and ends up with something like a Grammy-winning song. His newest project took him, along with 11 other producers, to the Congo to record an album in just 5 days to benefit Oxfam. I’m no record producer, but I do know that that is lightning fast and what they ended up with sounds pretty amazing. It does beg the question: Can we work faster to get something better?