Pairing Creativity with Execution

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the design and development processes lately. One of the key challenges for me has been figuring out how to integrate the creative front end processes (like Design Thinking) with the rest of the development process for technical execution. In the years I’ve been working on the creative end of the process, the biggest challenge consistently seems to be with translating cool new ideas effectively into real world solutions. Relatively speaking, it’s easy enough to generate new and novel ideas on the front end. Getting those ideas safely and effectively through the rest of process is a whole different thing. One part without the other simply doesn’t work. Either you get a novel idea disconnected from the real world or you have a well executed product without any real innovation or connection to the customer.

I remembered reading an insightful piece by John Gruber from back in 2010 that sparked some fresh thinking for me. In it he equates Apple’s development process with building a snowman. Here’s an excerpt (it’s well worth the full read):

"They take something small, simple, and painstakingly well considered. They ruthlessly cut features to derive the absolute minimum core product they can start with. They polish those features to a shiny intensity…

Then everyone goes back to Cupertino and rolls. As in, they start with a few tightly packed snowballs and then roll them in more snow to pick up mass until they’ve got a snowman. That’s how Apple builds its platforms. It’s a slow and steady process of continuous iterative improvement—so slow, in fact, that the process is easy to overlook if you’re observing it in real time." John Gruber /

The phrase “continuous iterative improvement” was what jogged my brain this time around. What if the creative Design Thinking type processes could be tightly integrated with something like the Continuous Improvement methodology? Best practices for empathizing with customers and innovating around their needs paired with focused and effective execution to make those ideas into reality.

Today’s post is really just a teaser into starting down this path. There’s a lot more thinking and development needed to get this worked out. But I wanted to get this out there and get your input on all of it. What’s your take on pairing up fuzzy front end creativity with excellent technical execution on the back end? Please leave a comment here or shoot me an email with your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

Behind the Scenes: And yes, it’s been way too long since I last posted. Sorry about that. New job and lots of things shuffling around in life. Having said that, I’m settling into a new (and hopefully more stable…) routine and posting here is a top priority. So stick around and we’ll see where this thing goes.