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How designers can gain power, inside Apple's design process, and more!

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December 18 · Issue #40 · View online
Design Sprint Newsletter
Hey there!

Let me tell ya, this issue has some good links. But first you gotta read (or scroll past) my workshop advertisements:


Okay, here are the links:
This 17-part tweet storm from Scott Berkun is a great read whether you’re a designer or not. Here are some quotes I especially loved:
2. Often it’s a PM (Product manager or Project Manager) that has the power you want. If that’s true, switch roles!…
11. A thoughtful designer can learn more about how to be influential from befriending engineers and marketers and making them allies, than talking to more designers and going to more design events. You’re already a design expert. Shouldn’t you study the ppl u want to influence?
14. Influence is first and foremost about understanding other people. Pitching ideas is too. But don’t start from “why don’t I have more influence?” A better frame is “Who do the powerful ppl here let influence them? Why? And how did they earn that influence?”

I am fascinated by this piece from an interview with former Apple designer Bob Baxley. He’s talking about how design reviews used to work under Steve Jobs:

Bob recalls it as a very intense process: “People had to show their work every 48 hours basically. I came to describe the process as a little bit like Saturday Night Live, where Monday we sort of threw around some ideas as to what we might think we’d have for the week. On Tuesday we sort of had like the initial run through the sketches. On Thursday we had a dress rehearsal, and on Friday was the show with the executive team.”

I thought this was so cool—the process Baxley describes has a super similar cadence to a design sprint (on Wednesday you review sketches, on Thursday afternoon you do a “dress rehearsal” of your prototype, and Friday you test with customers).

Despite its intensity, Bob says that it lowered the pressure because “…every Friday there was a new show. And so if we bombed on Friday or one of the sketches didn’t go well, it’s okay ’cause we’re back next week.”

Yes! This also reinforces the goodness of a design sprint. When you have only one high-stakes review or launch, it’s natural to become risk-averse. If, on the other hand, you test or review early and often, you give yourself lots of chances. It’s like having more lives in Super Mario Bros—the cost of failure is reduced and the odds of success are improved.

So the next time somebody objects to the intense focus of a design sprint, you could tell them it’s similar to how Apple designs products. (Or you can tell them it’s like playing Super Mario Bros, but if I were you I’d stick to the Apple example. 🍄)

In this great and short post by Nadia Naderi, she explains why facilitators should not always be neutral, and how she nudges the team toward a “Battle Royale” style test whenever possible.

Last issue I shared a video of 100 students doing a robotics design sprint in Denmark. This time there are no robots, but there are 200 Australian students. The Danes had 800 teachers, so I think they win on student-teacher ratio, but isn’t everybody a winner when you do a design sprint? Seriously though, I think this trend of teaching design sprints in school is so cool!

That’s all for this issue. I always wonder which of these posts will be the most clicked by you, the newsletter readers and it’s almost always a surprise. Last issue, it was the third link, Why Standups Are Useless.

I first saw the “Standups” post when my friend Ryan, founder of a startup called Cactus, sent it to me. After the newsletter, I asked Ryan if he’d changed anything at his company after reading the post, and he said:

“Since we last chatted, Cactus canceled all standing meetings. When we want to meet, we just speak up, and we’ve started moving faster and have much better meetings when we do meet.”

So there you go. Have a lovely end of December, cancel your standups for 2020, and I’ll talk to you soon.

 ☃️

—Jake


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