Example: How having a clear vision can help your company

There is a video making the rounds on the Internet lately and I want to show it to you because it illustrates how having a clear vision can help you and your company.

The year is 1997 and Apple Computers has just bought Next, the company that Steve Jobs founded after he was thrown out of Apple. Of course Jobs also founded Apple together with Steve Wozniak so for him it must have been surreal to finally be back.

At the end of the developer conference of that year he took to the stage in his aw-shucks-just-comin-bye mode and answered questions from the audience. Keep in mind this was before he took the helm as the interims CEO — Gil Amelio was still in charge and Jobs merely consulted for the management. Have a look at this:

Apple WWDC ’97 Steve Jobs Closing Keynote

Now, for sure hindsight is 20/20 as we all know how these ideas played out. Most of them were correct, some weren’t (for example he reversed his stance on the clone makers just half a year later). But remember that at the time what he said was unheard of for many people. Not for all, of course, and he bragged about how he is using network technology already but this was a time when computers still had floppy drives and serial modems, if any.

So it’s fascinating to look back at what the original vision was. But it’s even more fascinating to look back and see how he made Apple execute on his vision.

What your client really wants

Picture the scene: You’re working at a design agency and your job is to develop a new project for an important client. The brief contained all the usual catchphrases like “cutting-edge design”, “integrated horizontal solution” or maybe “leverage our social-media strategy”. In other words you’re stumped.

Your boss calls for a meeting to discuss what you will propose to the client and it only goes downhill from here on. Someone suggests a crowdsourcing campaign, someone suggests a massively multiplayer game and someone suggests a viral marketing video because the brief clearly called for an “innovative B2B solution”. There has to be another way…

And there is! As soon as the meeting is over you call the client and ask them directly what it is they actually want. And you find out they need a new online store. But with an animated intro. And tied into Foursquare because what the heck, that’s where the kids are these days, right? Your question as to how they came up with this list of features gets no answer.

So you shrug, you sigh and then you design a mobile app for the simple reason that nobody mentioned this idea yet. Sounds familiar?

Getting clients to talk requirements is easy. Sure enough they have many bright ideas and they will gladly talk about these all day but can they tell you what you really need to do? How do you find out for yourself what it is you should be focusing on? And how can you get everyone to focus on the same things?

So you have two problems: Finding out what it is you should do and then getting everyone involved on the same page. Any ideas?

Welcome to The Target Principle

So here’s the thing: I’ve been trying out a new way of developing projects. I am using this mainly for User Experience Design projects but it might even apply elsewhere. So far I’ve been rather successful with this method and now I want to develop and refine it further.

I call it the Target Principle and it helps with the questions “What do we want to do?”, “What to we need to do?” and “How do we go about it?”. It is not entirely new, of course — I’d say it’s a collection of things applied in a novel way. It helps particularly at the beginning of a project and it is great for doing workshops with several people in one room.

Let me say outright that I’m still mulling this over; I don’t have the definitive answer to everything and this blog isn’t a straight up how-to. Instead I want to explore these ideas and invite you to come along and have some fun along the way. Also, this website is still very rough around the edges; I’ll get to fix that eventually.

This is what I want to do on this blog. It’s about time for me to start writing again anyways.