I posted this internally to Medium employees February 12, 2015 (the same day I posted it here). See Hatching Inside Medium for more context.
I am a big believer in constraint as a force for driving creativity, focus, and insights. Also, as a key to getting shit done.
We’ve all had experiences where as individuals — or more likely as a team — we’ve seen amazing things accomplished in a very short period of time. At the end of a project with a hard deadline. At a 24-hour hackathon. On a short weekend in Vegas.
One of the biggest reasons for this, I believe, is because of the very short delay between iterations and decisions. This is a product of intense focus. And a contrast to normal work, where we often switch our focus from one task or project to another, each time needing to reload the context into working memory.
In these situations, when you’re working with a team, there is also no communication delay. You’re sitting with people, you’re talking about things as you’re doing them, and you are able to build consensus very quickly.
But it’s not practical (or healthy) to be driving toward hard deadlines or doing hackathon-style sprints constantly.
So here’s my idea: A new process wherein a (very) small group tackles a project with intense focus for one day. I call it:
As in: “Should we do a one-dayer on this on Thursday?”
When might you say this? Perhaps:
- When you’ve been kicking around an idea for a while, have discussed several different directions, but aren’t sure which is best yet
- When you have a project that’s been going for a while and you just want to get it out the door (and it’s not inconceivable to do it in a day)
- When you have a crazy hunch you can’t get out of your head
In other words, I think it could be used for both design/prototype explorations, as well as production launches. And who knows what else. I’m certain there are some situations where it would work better than others.
I particularly like it when it’s conceivable that you could get something actually built and into production (at least behind a variant) in a day. That seems crazy, but it’s not.
I also like it as a tool for finishing things. We tend to underestimate the drag that having an unfinished project has on a team. Lots of overhead. Best when possible to finish things and move on. So for that purpose, you might invite people to the one-dayer who weren’t on the project team (assuming they could get up to speed enough to contribute right away).
It might even make sense to have a one-dayer at the beginning and end of big projects.
This might a dumb idea. But if it appeals to you, try it out and let me know how it goes. Also, anyone who wants to try this is free to use the 8th floor for the day and have dinner (at the office or out if you finish early!) on me.
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