You’ve got a product to build. Your stakeholders want to make the coolest app or website imaginable but there’s a catch! You’ve a deadline (ugh!). So, how do we tackle this and make sure we have the right decisions? At an early stage into my career as a (design) team leader, it was pretty obvious that I was responsible for balancing speed and quality. A balance between making beautiful, well thought out concepts, and designs and doing things fast. In this article I aim to break down the mindset and objective methods one can follow to come to conclusions based on:

  • The resources available to you. (people, budget and time)
  • The problem you aim to solve.
  • The confidence you’ve in your resources and problem.

I remember when I was working on the final year project at university building the design for a typography theme park. I had a year to research, conceptualise, design and present my findings and pitch the concept to a jury of some of the best communication designers in India. And my mentor at the time half way through my project said “Perfection is the enemy of good-enough”. Being in the commercial art field (as opposed to fine art), deadlines – self established or one thrown at you – is a factor that you’ve to always consider. Let’s take a deep look into some of the methods of design thinking and decision making.

1. Speed vs Quality

In digital product design, speed and quality usually come at the expense of the other. We want the best of of result in the shortest amount of time. We’re partly looking at the Pareto principle for this one. Also known as the 80-20 rule. There are two factors that determine if you should choose speed or quality –

  • The importance of the problem you’re solving.
  • How appropriate is the solution being offered.

Since the factors affecting how confident you’re in your solution and how critical the problem is, are not binary choices. Using an arbitrary scoring system from 1 to 5 rather helps out in this case. Let’s see an example to clarify that.

2. Prioritising tasks

You have a bunch of things that need to be done. Time is limited, you’ve a small team, or maybe there is limited budget (sounds familiar?).

So we have divided everything based on two main factors

Desirability: How much would everyone like to see this new feature/update/version/change come to life?

Doability: How easy is it to actually execute this new feature/update/version/change?

In the above scenario we begin by working on the lower left corner then moving our way to lower right corner. Then upper left and eventually (if at all) to upper right corner.

Interestingly there is a dilemma for Feature #2 and Feature #3. Feature #2 is more expensive and more desirable while Feature #3 is less expensive and less desirable. Based on how much resource is available and if the desirability for either of them changes by the time the “definitely” and “maybe” piles are finished a decision is made between Feature #2 and Feature #3.

4. Future planning

Think about the changes or your decisions. What kind of impact would they have on the future scenario. Okay, i’ve to confess this one really took me a while to get used to. It’s more about how far you can see things and how rational your understanding is. The more you see an entire lifecycle of a product/feature/market the easier it gets.

It’s super important to consider both good and bad effects of the actions you’re about to take. It severely helps get a holistic image of what the future consequences would be like; helping you make educated decisions in the current moment.

First-level thinking is simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it (a bad sign for anything involving an attempt at superiority). All the first-level thinker needs is an opinion about the future, as in “The outlook for the company is favorable, meaning the stock will go up.” Second-level thinking is deep, complex and convoluted.

This one’s also called Second-order thinking. It’s all about improving your ability to think. It’s a skill more than anything – i.e. you can develop it with enough practice and consistency.

“Failing to consider second- and third-order consequences is the cause of a lot of painfully bad decisions, and it is especially deadly when the first inferior option confirms your own biases. Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored.”

—Ray Dalio

Ashish Yadav

Author Ashish Yadav

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