Andrew Goldstiver Team : Experience Director Tags : Business User Experience

Are good ideas a distraction? How do you focus?

Andrew Goldstiver Team : Experience Director Tags : Business User Experience

One of the recurring pieces of advice in business is the concept of focus. Dig into the latest buzzwords in the web industry like "Lean Startup", "Lean UX" and "Agile" and you'll find advice like:  Focus on the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Focus on testing one assumption at a time. Focus on one sprint at time. And so on.

Ok great! Makes sense to me. So just focus already!

Hey wait, getting myself to focus is hard. Getting two people to agree and focus is ever harder. What about getting a diverse team of people, full of ideas, to focus?

Do people have too many ideas?


Is there a more overused visualisation for an idea than the light bulb?

We all have ideas. All. The. Time. Ideas are everywhere.

Many of these ideas will be to improve your product or service by adding a new feature, new content, new option, new widget or similar. Terms like “value add”, “user choice” and “appeal to a wider market” get thrown around to justify them.

But can “new ideas” lead businesses away from success? Absolutely. They can slow you down and distract you. So you should be scared of new ideas, right? Your project manager probably is! They are thinking scope creep. No new requirements or that's a change request. But, shutting down idea generation is not the answer.

Don’t stop the ideas. Ideas are awesome.

You can’t encourage creativity in one area (such as improving your core features and value proposition) while discouraging creativity in another (e.g non-core features). It doesn’t work like that! That side of the brain just doesn't work like that. And it's hard enough to get people to speak up with their ideas as it is. Your either encourages creativity from your team or you don’t. I say do!

You can’t encourage creativity in one area while discouraging creativity in another. It doesn’t work like that!

So yes, keep the ideas coming, but have a way to keep your non-core ideas on your inspiration list, but off your to-do list. I think non-core ideas should not be scheduled to be designed or built. Not on your roadmap. Not under “phase 2”. Never. Resist the temptation to bolster a weak sales pitch with a longer feature list: if your core proposition isn't working then pivot. Non-core features should only be planned if and when your core business proposition expands to include them.

So start sorting and prioritising your ideas already! Uhhh how?

How do you prioritise and agree on the right ideas?

Happy new year!<

How do you focus in on the right ideas?

So what is this mysterious “disciplined prioritisation process” that gets a group of people to focus? And how do we recognise a non-core feature idea? How can a team say no to a brilliant (but non-core) idea? How can you say no to the big boss’s idea?

How do you create an environment where ideas and creativity flourish, but scope creep doesn’t? What can you actually do or say to make that happen? 

Follow us @WiliamAU to swap techniques with us about how to prioritise the right ideas.  We’ll write about a few techniques in future posts that have been working well for us.


Thanks to: 37 signals and Mick Liubinskas for all your teachings about focus. Image credit: Idea by brunkfordbraun on Flickr (via Sprixi). Image credit: Happy New Year! by Unhindered by Talent on Flickr (via Sprixi)