Bringing a product to life can sometimes feel like a game of telephone. Between the honest and naive intentions of a lowly designer, working away, attempting to create value and bring something new to the world, all the way to the customer - walking around the store (or browsing the app store), there are people, and layers of people. And the more layers you have in between those two end points, the better the chance to loose that original intent. That original value - those original ideas - that original honesty.
Why is that?
It really is like a game of telephone. And if you’re not clear with your message, if you’re not clear with your signals and your intent, your ideas get distorted. And having that message flow through multiple filters like Product Management and Marketing and Sales and everything in-between will further distort that message. It’s just the nature of the beast. Some teams do a fantastic job of carrying the message through from beginning to end. Having all the stakeholders get involved and be there and truly collaborate. But most teams are mediocre. They arrive at the end of the process. They hand-off. They fill in the gaps. They omit what they don’t like. They create and fill the gaps with what they think is right. Multiply that a few times and the honesty is gone.
If you want to create authenticity you have to get involved at every level. Whether your’e a designer or a product manager or a brand manager (or whatever) - if you’re part of the team that’s out there creating products, and you have a vision - you have to get involved. You have to force your way in. The trick is to do it from a level of being valuable. No one will like the guy in the room who isn’t willing to understand the other view points - the win is really being the guy who can understand it all and address accordingly. Being the person who can communicate the original intent and ensure that the team is aligned. Being the person to remind and inspire those around them as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Being the one who stands up for the customer. It’s not easy - but if you do it right - the payoff is real. The product gets finished. The message is honest. The customer is satisfied because they know what they truly understand and get the value.
So force your way in. Yes, it will expose you. Yes, you can make enemies. Yes, you’ll be out there in uncharted waters - but, that’s the best way to make change. That’s the best way to make products. If you’re just one of the cogs in a big machine - quiet and disgruntled - why even bother? Be the change.
I had an opportunity to visit a great team earlier this week and witnessed them going through big changes. Huge shifts - in culture, in design in their thinking. It’s an exciting phase. The place is begging for someone with a vision, someone to stick out their neck and make a difference. it inspired me to write this as it reminded me of some of the situations I’ve dealt with in the past. Sometimes you need people who’ll be able to risk their comfort and create change. Godin writes a lot about this - and his message is absolutely spot on. Read Linchpin if you’re interested.
This series of content is a small experiment. I pledged to create a piece of content on my site for the next 365 days. You can read the opening post here. The posts aren’t limited to thoughts or ideas, they’re really just a way for me to create original content. If you got any feedback/questions, please reach out. Thanks for looking.