I was reading through a Statement of Work (SOW) for a new corporate training project the other day, and caught myself looking for the project “limits.” The SOW’s job is to outline what a project is, but in order to do that it also outlines what it isn’t. We need to know our parameters, but do we sometimes get bogged down in what we can’t do? Or what we think we can’t do?
On a recent project we had the opportunity to work with a client to develop a global design plan to govern future projects. While client team members each had their own future projects in mind, this was a stand-alone interactive elearning design project where we could put the whole wish list on the table and see where we could go. There was a level of freedom to be creative, open, to ask new questions about why we had been doing what we were doing, evaluate the latest user feedback, and explore new options no matter how off-the-wall they might seem. There was a heightened sense of collaboration between all of the team members.
We were able to put technical specifications and development timeline concerns aside and start the conversation with the million dollar question: If we could have whatever we want in a new program (setting aside everything we have done until now), what would that future program look like?
The result was a very different (and I think really cool) design. We were able to do things that we wouldn’t have thought of and originally didn’t think were possible. Almost more important, the exercise strengthened the client relationship. We really enjoy working together, trust each other, and have seen improved communication on subsequent projects.
We can’t always have an entire project dedicated to redefining a creative approach, but elements of this are be scalable to any project. While we need to understand our limits so we can work within them, we can sometimes focus too quickly on strategic brainstorming – setting the parameters of the creative process a little too narrow, a little too early in the project.
My lesson learned? Even for the smallest project, set aside the time (even if it is just one conference call) to give the project team the chance to brainstorm and answer the question – If you could have whatever you want for this project – what would it look like? While you likely can’t do everything, you may be surprised to find what you can do.
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