Making things smaller

Updated: May 4, 2018


Every challenge, idea, concept or ambition consists of smaller elements. Sometimes, team members tell me that something can not be split. After all this experience, I know that everything can be split. In times where we can split atoms, neutrons and even electrons, yes, your challenge can be split too. The point is, you might not know how. Don’t split it up in process steps. So when making a new product or website, don’t split it up in research, design and prototyping. This is how you create a waterfall. Waterfall processes are slow, need meetings and documentation. Split the the challenge up in deliverables, where design and research and building are all integrated to deliver that component or element.


So if you make a web page, don’t split it in design, front-end, back-end. But split it up in the elements visible on the page. So for example, the header, the footer, a carrousel. Of course, you can start with a 5 minute sketch of what the integrated end result should be and adapt along the way.


If you make a physical product, like a smart phone, split it into components or level of detail of prototypes. A paper model in the first hour to judge physical size and general purpose. Then, a prototype to test screen performance if that is most important, or a prototype to verify weight, etc etc. You don’t need to create a detailed model to define the weight roughly. Just gather all components and weigh it, with a 10% margin.


If you must make a presentation or a report as an shippable, which I wouldn't recommend.. ;-) Make the summary first in 3 slides, extend where necessary after. And only make the design and text necessary for each step.


Making things even smaller


If the work is still too big for one cycle or for one day, scale down even more. Most of the time the work is in the shear scale of it. Can we do it for one store, or one shelf, or one product, or one customer, or one hour, or one minute, or one component, or one icon, or one label, or one button, etc etc.. Everything can be scaled down. No doubt. It is a creative challenge to change your thinking and see everything in separate items. Put your creativity in making things smaller.


Example: a retailer wants to introduce a gamification concept in a store to improve service levels and sales. Teams on the floor get points based on products sold and played “against” each other. Introducing it full time is too hard and too risky. So, the idea came up to introduce just an hour of this gamification concept per week. And if it doesn’t work, after 10 minutes you can stop or improve.