If there are two things I wish I understood earlier in my creative career, they would be the process of Thrasing and Fine Tuning vs Tinkering.
If your work grows, you will inevitably have a new set of problems that arise with growth. With the growth comes more voices and more ideas. There is nothing wrong with new ideas, however with all the new ideas it can become increasingly hard to vet the ideas before they get to far down the track.
This is where thrashing comes in. Thrashing is the process of exploring whether or not the idea really even worth doing. The trick is to do this early and often. By thrashing a idea early you save yourself the headache of spending countless hours on something that won’t come to fruition (and yes, I am guilty of this). By thrashing often, you can create a culture where you instinctively do this when the opportunity rises.
“Can I tell you if your baby is ugly?”
That is the phrase we use when we are in the thrashing process. It might get a laugh, but I say it for reason. We’re trying to point out that we know that ideas are like babies and everyone thinks theirs is special and unique. Well they’re not and that is why we thrash them. Thrashing is not easy. In fact, it can be painful and often is, but not thrashing is even more painful.
Fine-Tuning vs Tinkering
Apple fine tunes products. Just take a look at the new iPhone. They spent hours figuring out which glass to encase the phone in. The user interface icons were painstakingly chosen and refined. Everything is fine tuned and you can feel it. This fine tuning is possible due the fact that Apple just focuses it efforts on a few projects and sets it’s own internal deadline for releasing a product (in other words only they know the release date).
Microsoft tinkers with products. Just look at the amount of money they spend on R&D ($9.5 billion). Why do they get so little return on that money? Because more than likely they have hundreds if not thousands of projects going on at the same time. At that rate you really can’t fine tune anything, especially when you announce products almost a year in advance. This of course throws a public deadline around your neck, which has Microsoft rushing to get it out the door. Too many products, with a lot of tinkering and public deadlines is a complete mess.
Tinkering is okay in the creative process. Sometimes by tinkering with something you can make a new discovery. However, tinkering doesn’t need to take place when you are trying to get something out the door.
Fine tuning though, is a must towards the end of a project. Fine tuning provides the user the feeling that what they are experiencing has depth and was carefully thought through. Fine tuning is what separates the amateurs from the professionals.
So tinker all you want on the front end, just make sure you fine tune on the back end.