D is for The Drive To Design, Develop And Deliver

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to follow your drive to design, develop and deliver things.

Human beings are natural designers. They love to make things work, find solutions or create their version of paradise. Some love to design experiences that enrich people’s lives or take them into another dimension.

Christopher Alexander, the architect, said that all human beings have a strong drive to create. Writing in The Timeless Way of Building, he explained this in the following way.

Each one of us has, somewhere in their heart, the dream to make a living world, a universe.

Architects nurse this desire at the centre of their lives, says Christopher. One day, somewhere, somehow, they want to create a building that is wonderful, a place where people can walk and dream for centuries.

Every person has some version of this dream, says Christopher. Some wish to create a house, a garden or a fountain. Others wish to create a relationship, a painting or a book. He described how this is embodied in his own field of architecture.

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. 

The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the centre of this way.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you followed your drive to design, develop and deliver something? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have followed these steps to write an article, renovate a house or do a creative project. You may have done so to design an encouraging environment, run a seminar, lead a team or do another activity.

Looking back, what was the drive you wanted to follow? What happened to make you decide to translate this into action? What did you do to set a specific goal?

What did you then do to perform superb work? What did you do to embody the ethic of constant improvement and keep developing the work? What did you do to finish properly??

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you followed your drive to design, develop and deliver something. 

Describe the specific things you did to design, develop and deliver something. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Imagine you have the drive to design something in the future. You may want to create a website, run a workshop, build an organisational culture or deliver a specific project.

Some designers follow certain rules when doing their work. They aim to create things that are simple – in a profound way – satisfying and successful. Let’s explore these themes.

Making it simple

“Simplicity is genius,” we are told. Art Fry’s invention of Post-it Notes demonstrated simplicity in action. So did the Sony Walkman and the Apple Macintosh. Here are some views on the importance of simplicity.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

Everything should be as simple as possible – but no simpler. – Albert Einstein 

Omit needless words. – Strunk and White 

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. – Antoine de Saint Exupery 

One of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. – Steve Jobs 

Simplicity is getting at the core of something and understanding what that thing truly is and then making every part consistent with the core. We know simple when we see it, when we touch it, when we use it. And one thing we quickly learn is simplicity is difficult to achieve. – Stephen Bradley 

Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity. – Dieter Rams

Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of complexity. 

To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able get rid of the parts that are not essential. – Jony Ive

Some sages, for example, pass on knowledge that embodies a profound simplicity. Such people are often warm and wise. They see the big picture yet are also practical. They are soul-wise but also savvy. They move from the concept to the concrete and give examples that bring things to life.

Sages often demonstrate the second simplicity. They get to the heart of the matter and explain things in a way that is simple yet profound. They share knowledge in a way that people can use in their daily lives and work.

Making it satisfying

Superb design is satisfying on a number of levels. Physically it looks and feels good. Practically it works and is user-friendly. There is an old Shaker dictum that says:

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful;
but if it is both necessary and useful,
don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

Great workers focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results. Before embarking on a piece of work they will meet with the key stakeholders:

To clarify the real results the stakeholders want to achieve – their picture of success;

To clarify the guidelines – the Dos and Don’ts – to be followed when working to achieve the picture of success; 

To make clear contracts about their role and the roles of other people in working to achieve the picture of success.

Great workers play back this agreement to the stakeholders. They make sure that everybody knows each party’s responsibilities and the desired picture of success.

Clarity is crucial in any relationship, especially when providing services that aim to deliver satisfaction. Clear contracting is vital before embarking on a piece of creative work and delivering the desired concrete results.

There can be some situations, of course, where it is hard to know what a new client wants. It is then vital to make clear contracts when meeting the person. Before then, however, it can be useful to use one’s imagination to explore a person’s potential agenda.

Good mentors take this approach before meeting a new mentee. They imagine what may be happening in the person’s world and how they can help them to reach their goals. Here are some of the themes that a mentor may explore when aiming to design a successful session.

Making it successful

Great design works. It does the job. Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Falling Water, for example, shows how it is possible to make things that are simple, satisfying and successful.

Different people will have different definitions of success. Some modern workplaces, for example, are going beyond previous views of what constitutes high performance.

Whilst it is important to hit their financial targets, they are focusing on what they believe to be real wealth. They are doing this because they see it as a way to achieve sustainable success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you aim to follow your drive to design, develop and deliver something. You will choose your own way to apply yourself and finish successfully.

You may organise your time in blocks, do superb work and keep improving. Combining being relaxed yet relentless, you may aim to flow, focus and finish. You may also add that touch of class to achieve the picture of success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to design, develop and deliver something. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to design, develop and deliver something.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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