There’s a great quote from Jurassic Park that I’m constantly reminded of. Right after all hell breaks loose and dinosaurs have taken over the theme park, Jeff Goldblum’s character confronts Richard Attenborough’s and says “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Every time when brainstorming, planning or generally creating, I try to reflect on those words to keep things in perspective.
Our natural inclination when designing anything whether it be a new website, campaign or Facebook page, is to cram into it as many shiny new things as possible. You will no doubt be familiar with the incessant tinkering and growing functionality that occurs without a tight scope and good leadership. When you work in marketing or advertising, it’s easy to get excited about what’s new because we all want to push the envelope and stand out from the pack. The danger comes when we push things that little bit too far and we bolt on more features then necessary that it stops making sense to the consumer and becomes a confusing mess. The secret then is to keep it simple and focused on what matters to our customers.
- Google destroyed Yahoo, Alta Vista and all the other search engines because it did what it did really well and put user needs front and centre. You type in a keyword, hit search and get back pages of relevant results. No muss, no fuss.
- The best mobile apps aren’t the ones that try and do everything but are focused on a particular utilitarian task. They don’t try to cram in a whole load of features that might not get used and focus on the cherry on top.
But you knew that already.
The reason why I was inspired to right this post is because of a great book – actually, more like a manifesto – I read by Steve Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art. Entitled Do The Work, it addresses the challenge artists face about overcoming internal resistance, putting your head down and getting to work. One of the techniques he suggests to stay focused is to think like a screenwriter or playwright and boil your project down to three acts: a beginning, a middle and an end. Act One, Act Two, Act Three.
For example, this is how Pressfield explains Facebook in three acts:
- A digital commons, upon which anyone who wishes may establish, free, his or her own personal “page.”
- Each page owner determines who is permitted access to his or her page.
- Thus creating a worldwide community of “friends” who can interact with other “friends” and communicate or share virtually anything they want.
Everything in-between is filler; the tactics undertaken to get from 1-2-3.
Next time you sit down to develop your idea, first try and explain it in three sentences. Having this fundamental understanding of the what and the why could mean the difference between setting yourself up for failure and delivering a successful project in-scope and on-budget.