Clinton Bonner: I’m not sure if this is the explicit podcast or we… we, you know, cut stuff out, but…
Chris LoSacco: (Laughs)
[CATALYST INTRO MUSIC]
Gina Trapani: Hello, world. Welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. Wait… what?
Gina: No. You’re right… you’re in the right place. You’re in the right place. Everything looks a little different, this is definitely… this is the show formerly known as the Postlight podcast.
Gina: If you’re listening to this in your favorite podcast app, you probably see a new name, new album art, but it’s the same old folks. I’m Gina Trapani, and as always, joined by my business partner, Chris LoSacco. Hey, Chris.
Chris: Hey, Gina.
Gina: How’s it going?
Chris: Good! We moved into a new house.
Gina: We did!
Chris: It’s so nice, it’s spacious…
Gina: It’s got, like, new paint smell…
Gina: …and the windows are, like, perfect, and like, it’s like… everything’s, like, modern.
Gina: Built-in. Central air.
Chris: Yeah. You, like, don’t want to sit on the chair because you’re like “Oh, it’s so new, we’re going to ruin everything, you know.”
Gina: Yeah, I’m like, I’m gonna leave my jean prints on that… (Laughs) That cushion over there. It’s… oh, man. The kitchen is so clean and shiny.
Gina: It’s so nice in here. I really missed doing this with you. We’ve been off for a few weeks, we’ve been running some old classics, I was like “I can’t wait!”
Chris: Let’s get back into it.
Gina: “I can’t wait to get back into recording with you!”
Chris: But you know what? We moved into a new house, and we have a new roommate. We’re welcoming a new co-host to the show. We’re very pleased to introduce Clinton Bonner. Clinton, hello! VP of marketing at Launch, welcome to the show!
Clinton: Oh, what a beautiful home!
Clinton: Thank you so much. I brought the warm cookies, the place already smells great.
Clinton: But, you know. If my parents taught me one thing, and they taught me plenty of things, it’s that you don’t show up to a house - especially a new house - empty-handed. So I’m here with housewarming gifts and lots of fun energy, and just… I’m coming in as a fanboy, right? Like, I loved the podcast, and then we got to meet because of this mashing-up of worlds, which I’m sure we’ll talk about a bit. And now we’re here together. So, uh… thank you for giving me a room, getting me a set of keys, and, you know, putting some beer in the fridge for me. I’m excited.
Chris: There you go.
Gina: Well, we’re thrilled to have you.
Gina: And your parents raised you right. The Italian in me really appreciates the cookies.
Gina: We’re so thrilled that you’re here. There’s been a lot of change. There’s been a ton of change. Postlight, you know, was acquired by NTT Data. We’re becoming - or, we have become - this new group called Launch by NTT Data, and we really wanted to bring the show along with us.
Gina: Because we’re bigger and better and we’ve got this, just amazing cohort of product-minded companies, focused on building just really beautiful and usable digital experiences. And Postlight feels right at home with this group…
Gina: …but we’re ready to take the show to the next level and expand this, with voices and guests from our sibling companies, who are not our sibling company, we’re now one group. And I think I… I want to talk a little bit about the new… the new name.
Chris: Yeah. Let’s dive into it. I mean, we… so, we talked last episode with Mark, who’s the president of Launch, about what it means that all these groups are coming together, and a little bit about Mark’s history. You know, the idea behind Catalyst is, we want the optimistic disruptors.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: We are trying to speak to the people in the market who are at a place where they are not happy, they’re dissatisfied, but they see a better way.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: And they believe in a better way. And they want to be the changemaker in their organization. And that is very much the kind of person that we want to partner with.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: Because we want to make change in the world, and in these large enterprises where change is hard, and sometimes you need a partner who’s in the boat with you and rowing in the same direction. That’s very much who we want to speak to, and that’s the idea behind Catalyst. Let’s figure out how to spur change, you know?
Chris: And let’s be… let’s be the changemaker. I mean, you know, Clint, as we were talking about how… what is the messaging that we put out into the world, we have this tagline, right? “Move millions.” And the idea is, we can do big things when we partner with our clients who have aspirations. And we’re trying to speak to the people out there who have aspirations, but they don’t have the fuel in the tank or the horsepower to get it done.
Clinton: Well, one of the things I love about what we’re bringing together… and this is, like, the actual passion of what we’re bringing together, right? This ain’t an infomercial, this is, like, what I actually feel, is that we’ve gotten rid of a lot of the, in my opinion, the wonkiness, and a lot of the super-high-MBA-speak, ‘cause I think people are kinda tired of it.
Clinton: I think people wanna have honest discussions and get trust with people very, very rapidly. Understand that you get me, I get you, we could be friends and have a beer like we talked about in the aforementioned fridge, and we’re gonna get… let’s get down to, let’s go build great stuff and just learn from each other, really in an accelerated way, because we can’t wait. Those dissatisfied optimists, like you said earlier, they’re kinda tired of waiting. And they’re tired of reading the next, you know, 80-page report on something that is just a bunch of words, and they want to get… they want to get down to things that ship, the things that move people, digitally. And that’s… that’s where our focus is, and that’s why I’m so excited about the whole endeavor in a nutshell.
Chris: That’s so well-said. And I’m hoping that people are listening to this and feeling like, “Okay, great.” There’s some of the Postlight DNA that is continuing here, but there’s also some new fresh energy and excitement and capabilities, frankly…
Chris: …that we’ve inherited as part of Launch, that we can now bring to bear in the conversations that we’re having with our clients and prospects.
Clinton: Yeah, and I think it’s going to show out, too, in the guests that we’re bringing on, right? So, we’re actively working real hard to get… I would say just a pretty wide spectrum of just different types of folks with lots of different skill sets and experiences that are actively saying yes, they want to be on the pod, too. Which is cool. I think it’s a testament to how good and how strong the Postlight podcast is and was as it carries over, and we’re opening the aperture maybe even a bit wider, to invite in these folks that we think matter. You know, why do you listen to a podcast, right? Like, why the heck do you listen to any podcast? Well, I don’t know. Maybe to get a little more informed, to become a little bit more intellectual on a particular thing. To get cool tidbits, to become a little smarter in a room, to be inspired. To be entertained. Right? Those, like, put those things in a blender, and I hope that’s the sweet spot we’re going to continue to hit while we bring in these exciting guests that we think… they’ve got stuff to share. And that, again, is like, we want those kind of people, because they’re scratching at it. You know, Chris, as you know, they want to go do more and more and more, and it’s just those folks who are tired of waiting, like I said. And the folks who bring it on are like, they didn’t wait. They didn’t wait for the light to turn green. They… maybe they just rolled right through the yellow and said, “Yeah. We gotta go.” Right? So, just the kind of temperament that we’re bringing is, uh… I’m really excited about.
Gina: You touched on this earlier, Clinton, like… one of the things from the Postlight podcast and from Postlight, and I think this is a shared value across a few of the groups that are coming together, is this idea about being, you know, plain-spoken.
Gina: And avoiding jargon and business-speak and hand-wavey terminology. You know, folks sometimes, who listen to the show, will say to me and Chris, like, “Oh! How do you all prepare for the show?” And my stock answer is always “A lot less than I wish we did.” (Laughs) And it’s kind of by design, right?
Gina: That we wanted to have just, real, authentic conversations…
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: …with one another, and with our listeners, and this is how we speak to our clients about, like, just the simple stuff. Like, what’s going on? In real terms, in plain English. And that’s something that Launch is carrying forward, because we just… when we, you know, work with our clients, we keep it simple, we keep it real, we keep it no B.S., and say “Alright, look, here’s the business problem that you’re facing, here’s the outcome that you’re looking for, and here’s a path to go forward,” and that’s something that we’re… that, Clinton, you and the team, the entire Launch team, has really embraced. And we’re going to continue to do that on the show…
Gina: …with our guests, and with our clients. You know, we… the dissatisfied optimist, that person who’s, you know… we’ve talked about on this show, impatience, we’ve talked about sort of an aversion to jargon or just slow software or bad experiences…
Chris: Right. Drag. Yeah.
Gina: Drag, exactly, yeah. That friction. And even though we’re bigger, and we have more capabilities, and there’s more folks to coordinate for us internally, we’re really still, you know, committed to that, you know, that… “Fast follows smooth” is one of our new… one of our colleagues, Nate Berent-Spillson, who I’m sure we’ll have on the show at some point, that’s one of his mantras, and we’ve really taken that on, right? Just, you know, to be that accelerator.
Chris: One hundred percent. That’s right.
Gina: For our clients, for those leaders that listen to the show. You know, I think the people who really listen to the show, they’re folks who are grounded in product thinking, this idea of, you know, iterative… of shipping, you know. And iterating over time, and getting feedback, and just creating those great experiences, and so that’s why we’re really targeting those folks, who are feeling like… who go into a job, especially at bigger companies, and say “There’s so much opportunity here.” Like, “Ugh, I’m so frustrated that this thing is so hard,” or “It’s so hard for our customers to do this or that,” or “It’s so hard for our employees to get this done, and I know it can be better, and I’m gonna be the driver to make that happen.”
Chris: Exactly. Yep.
Gina: Some of our best clients that we’ve worked with have been… have had a little bit of forgiveness versus permission, and a lot of kind of impatience in saying “No, this is what we’re doing. We need to make this better. This has to be better.”
Gina: “Because we’re going to get overtaken in the market…”
Gina: “Or our employees are going to leave, or our customers are going to find a better option,” right? And those are the folks that we really, you know, derive our energy from and our most productive partnering with.
Chris: That’s the thing. You know, our job is to prove them right.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: Is to make them look really good…
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: …and get them promoted, and, you know, we like to find people who are willing to make big bets, and then we help them cash in on those big bets.
Gina: That’s right.
Clinton: Yeah. That’s coolly said, if that’s a word. You guys will get to know my… I tend to make up words, and I challenge myself mid-sentence going “Is that actually a word?” That’s okay. Just, you’re making up new words and new lingo.
Chris: Just gotta roll with it. Yeah.
Clinton: Yeah, absolutely. Um, one of the things that I, that I do love about the DNA that we brought together, also… and again, this is just to portray, what the heck are we trying to do? Why continue this particular podcast and keep pushing forward? And it’s because, like, the folks that are the dissatisfied, they also really tend to like a challenge. They like being challenged. They’re not coming into a room, laying out a plan and saying “Do it exactly that way.” That’s not the discussion, or better yet, the relationship that they desire or want, and certainly deserve. Right? It’s not order-taking, hop in a taxicab and take me from A to B. Very, very rarely is that the people that we want to engage with. It’s that they have a vision, they’re not quite sure about where they want to get to. We want to help them shape that vision, find the best way possible, aim the right way. And they desire the tough conversations, whether that be a technology conversation, or that could be a strategy conversation. They’re looking for hard, tough conversations up front, with people that they can sit there over a cup of coffee and, again, respect and be like “I get you.” They might not agree with you, and that’s totally fine, right? But having passionate debate about what is the best path forward, and being willing to be challenged, both sides, for us and then back to the clients.
Chris: That’s right.
Clinton: And again, that’s the kind of guests we want to bring on, too, is like… innovation, new prod dev. That stuff is tough! If it was really easy then everybody would be Apple, you know, if you want to take, pick a winner out there, right? Everybody would be Apple. But there’s only one! It’s really frickin’ hard.
Chris: That’s right.
Clinton: So we love, we love those kind of people, we love the folks that honor and want to be challenged, and we take that role really seriously, too. And I hope we carry that over, too. I think we will, in this pod as well. So it’s not just… you know, it’s not just a polite bouncing the balloon in the air back and forth, but it’s… we’re pushing. We’re asking harder questions because we know there’s expertise there, but you’ve gotta get to the tough stuff for the real expertise to kind of come out.
Chris: Love it.
Gina: Yeah. It’s very, very well said.
Chris: Clinton, I’m looking at you in our virtual recording studio and I’m realizing you have a nicer microphone setup than we do in our podcast studio. So, this is not your first rodeo, I take it. Tell us about your podcasting journey, and how you, you know, sort of wound up here with the setup you’ve got.
Clinton: It’s a fun one. I’ll try to be brief, ‘cause it… what a long, strange trip it’s been, right? It’s a bit meandering.
Clinton: With that, though, for the podcasting specifically, I’ll just jump there. So, I’m a New Yorker by birth. Grew up in Long Island, went to UConn, stayed in Connecticut. I will never call myself a Connecticuter, I don’t even know what we call ourselves, I don’t even know what it is.
Clinton: I’m a New Yorker. But I live in Connecticut. It’s fine. New York is way better. Deal with it.
Clinton: And so…
Gina: (Laughs) See, you’re welcome on this show already. You fit right in.
Clinton: It is what it is! Everything’s better. So, I’m an East Coast dude, and I grew up as a Seattle Seahawks fan. So I’m 45 years old, born in ‘78, Seahawks started in ‘76, and I’m a marketing guy. When I was a kid, a little kid, six years old, I loved their helmet, their logo, their colors.
Clinton: Blue, green, silver. Loved everything about their getups. And it was really difficult to get Seahawks garb back then, even in the NFL. Talking, like, early-ish to mid-’80s. You couldn’t just open a catalog and go get every team. There were like 8 or 10 teams you could go get - you know, your New Yorks, your LAs, stuff like that. But you couldn’t go get Seahawks stuff. So my mom had to actually write to a company to then get a physical catalog sent back to her…
Chris: Oh my God.
Clinton: …to then order me a jersey for, like, Christmas, probably when I was like 6 or 7. And I got posters, I kind of fell in love with the Seahawks. And then, hitting the way, way fast-forward button, couple of years ago, 2013, 2014 - well, 10 years ago, sheesh - started listening to pods for the first time, and I gravitated to a couple of Seahawks pods, naturally. And I ended up writing blog posts for the podcast. I wrote the two dudes, they’re from Montana, now they’re very good friends of mine, Brandon and Adam. And I was like, “Hey, can I write a weekly blog post for you guys?” And they’re like “Wait a second, you want to write a blog post for a podcast?” And I was like…
Clinton: I was like, “Yeah, you guys have a website!” You know, like, why not? I’ll just do a weekly unique recap. Kind of an action-begets-action type mentality.
Chris: Yeah, I love it. Yeah.
Clinton: You take swings. They said yes, and it was a popular addition, let’s put it that way. And then after, I think, a season and a half, ‘cause I joined mid-year, one year, probably about 7 years ago, the idea came up, it was like “Hey, why don’t you turn your blog into a pod? So just do it, just go ahead and record it.” And then hitting the fast-forward button further, now it’s about 6 and a half or 7 years in, I’m part of the Seahawkers podcast. I do, typically, 2 to 3 shows. In the season, I do 2 to 3 shows a week. A recap show, a… I actually do a gambling show that looks at the best bets of the Seahawks game, and a few others that I hop in on. But we do 5 or 6 a week, and it’s a ton of fun. And the Seahawks have an extraordinarily rabid fan base, so it fits my personality for sure.
Chris: I love that you’ve got… the marketing instincts run deep in your blood, where you’re like “I, you know, hey! Let me write a blog post for you! Let me just see where this goes.” And then that’s how things get built, you know?
Gina: That’s right. Action begets action…
Chris: Action begets action.
Gina: …is so true, right?
Clinton: It’s a great lesson for a lot… things I tell my kids, like, “Hey, don’t talk about it, be about it, right?”
Chris: That’s right.
Clinton: Like, go and do… whatever that first thing is, go do that first thing. It’s a lot better than talking about it for another week or month or decade, because it just… it ain’t gonna happen that way.
Chris: God, that’s great advice for technology, too. (Laughs)
Gina: Yeah, it really is.
Chris: Like, just ship the thing, right? Just go do it.
Gina: Just ship the thing.
Gina: This connects to our whole philosophy about, just… can’t argue with working software. You gotta put something out there.
Chris: You gotta put something out there.
Gina: You’ve gotta have something to point to and say “Look.” Yeah. There’s momentum, right? Action begets action.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: So, let’s talk a little bit about… it’s so funny. You know, that Seahawks story, very enlightening. Also, the fact that it started with the logo is fascinating to me. And…
Gina: I love that.
Chris: It’s great.
Gina: As a kid, right, you react to the… to the colors! To the jerseys!
Chris: Of course. Yeah.
Gina: Yeah. Like, I liked the Dallas Cowboys.
Gina: I thought the gray and silver and blue were cool. Like, a good combination.
Chris: See? There you go. And maybe I’m… maybe I’m stretching here, but go with me. It makes me think about the importance of brand…
Chris: The importance of design.
Chris: You know. Why do we care so much about look and feel? And it’s this reason. You have a visceral reaction to things, when you are thinking about how you to connect to what the experience is of using something. And it goes all the way up and down the quote-unquote “stack,” right? It is the coat of paint on the interface, or the product, or whatever. But it is also, you know, how things are put together, what are the components, all of these kinds of things contribute to what your experience is of a product, a platform, a brand. Right? I’m thinking now, in the context of software, like… how do you connect or not connect to something? And it’s all of these very, very small signals.
Gina: And how do you feel about it?
Gina and Chris: How do you feel about it?
Gina: Do you want to be there? Do you want to use this?
Chris: It… the word “feel” is right. It is an emotional reaction a lot of the time, rather than “Oh, logically I know I can get X, Y and Z done if I use the blah blah blah.”
Gina: Right. No, it’s an emotion. Like, I feel like I’m in a good place… you know, like, I’m going to the spa, versus, like, I gotta take out the trash. Right? (Laughs)
Chris: Exactly. That’s it.
Gina: Different feeling.
Chris: Yeah. So, I’m curious, Clinton, from your perspective, right, as we think about marketing - certainly for Launch by NTT Data, but also for just, you know, generally getting out there in front of our clients, the importance of design and why… like, why design? Why do we think about that? Why do we talk about it? How do we talk about it? I’m curious your thoughts on all that.
Clinton: Yeah, I’ve got quite a few on that topic, and so… a good, you know, path to go down. When I was leaving my last job, and then, at that point I was being brought over and courted by Nexient, which is one of the… one of the companies that formed Launch by NTT Data…
Clinton: I… you know, besides negotiating the things you’ve gotta negotiate professionally, I said to Mark in my interview process, I said “Look. A non-negotiable for me is that I get a design team. Not a design team I have to go borrow. But, or and, that the marketing function gets to hire and grow a design function.”
Clinton: That doesn’t have to go hat in hand, and ask people to be weekend warriors to go do brand work, to go do design work. So, to me, I learned in my career probably a good 7, 8 years ago now, that in the marketing realm, and I think really any realm, surround yourself with great designers. Because in my opinion, it’s the fastest way, because of that visceral, because of that feel, it is the fastest way to get your yeses in technology.
Clinton: You get things visualized. And I don’t mean visual for the sake of visual. And we can talk about that as well, ‘cause I think that can go the exact opposite way of what you’re trying to accomplish. But studied, understood experiences, visualized, of what you’re trying to accomplish. And present those, and present them concisely, present them beautifully and consistently, and you’re going to get a lot of… a lot more yeses than you would otherwise. Which, when you’re politicking internally, when you’re trying to get your project elevated over somebody else’s project, there’s only so much, you know, finite budget to go around, go make it look beautiful. Make that emotional connection right away that this is the one to go fund, and that’s how you win. So for me it is fundamental to getting high-level work done, and then it has the amazing consequence of showing out everywhere. Everything looks beautiful. It looks… you bring consistency, you bring a design system, and a design system philosophy, and you don’t accept less than.
Clinton: You just get… you just start to reject and say “Not good enough.” And we could all get lazy in moments, “Alright, it’s only this little thing over there, it’s only this little thing over here.” And it’s like, the action to continuously denounce that little devil on the shoulder, and be like “No, no, no,” like, “we have to be more particular ‘cause this is our brand.” And that’s always a tug of war, right? That, to me, is the why behind… and how it comes through is just, surround yourself with great designers. Let the beautiful thing be the beautiful thing, and do it consistently, and you’ll have a lot, a lot of chances at doing good stuff.
Chris: Yeah. This idea of “that’s how you get to yes” is so good. People don’t want to see another PowerPoint. They don’t want to read another requirements document. They don’t want to go through and say “Are my 17 bullets around information security covered?” That is important.
Gina: Those are important things.
Chris: Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for that. But oftentimes, a lot of the time, it’s not what’s gonna be the thing that pushes the person over the edge.
Gina: That’s right.
Chris: The thing that says, “This is something I wanna commit to.” But man, when you put a wire frame, or a full high-fidelity mockup in front of somebody and say “This is my vision”?
Gina: That connects.
Chris: The lightbulb switches on, you know? It’s like, “I see it now, and I’m with you 100%.” Or, “I’m not with you, and here’s why. I’ve got very specific feedback.” Right?
Chris: Like, it prompts a kind of discussion that you just can’t get when you’re looking at a PowerPoint deck, you know? Or a set of requirements that just, like, kinda outlines something. It takes a big mental leap, especially for a company that’s trying to modernize, right? If you’ve been doing something a given way for 20, 25, 30 years, plus, and you’re like “I’m just going to do the next point release, or the next major release of my platform,” if you’re not painting the picture for how something is going to be different, you’re just going to end up in the same place. Right? That is what always happens. But surrounding yourself with designers and saying “We’re gonna show that there’s a better way, and we’re gonna hold a high standard, and here’s how we can go do it, and here’s what it’s gonna look like when we get there”? Such a powerful tool. And one of the places where I think our teams are really successful is…
Chris: …we can partner with, again, going back to the conversation at the beginning of the episode, let’s find the change agent, and let’s make sure that we can arm them to say “Here’s the vision,” right?
Gina: Here’s the vision. Because great design transports you to another place, right?
Gina: Like, we… I mean, you know, Apple, obviously, showed the entire industry how much great design matters, right? When you’re opening up your iPhone box, you’re not thinking about how much you paid. You’re not thinking, you know, “Is it going to let me check my email?” You’re thinking, “This is a beautiful object.”
Gina: “And I’m so happy to have it in my life, and I just want to cradle it in my hands.” I mean, I know it’s such a cliché, right, but it’s true. Like, I love to use this thing. It’s personal, it’s mine. Great design takes you to that place. I mean, something, Clinton, I’ve been so thrilled to work with you and your team. I mean, the Launch branding in particular has that premium feel, you know? That… it’s minimal but it’s powerful and it’s modern and it’s premium, right? And this is the kind of vision that you want to equip our catalysts, our change agents, with. You know, to get the yes, the budget, you know, that momentum behind what they’re trying to do. “Our customers are going to love using this.” You know, “This is going to elevate us and our brand and our services to a whole new level.” And that’s… I’m sort of conflating what we do for our clients and how we marketed Launch, right? But it’s all… it’s all connected, right? And so much of it has to do with understanding the value and how important design is, which you do, Clinton. And I love that you said to Mark, “A design team, surrounded with a design team, not somebody I’m borrowing, is…”
Chris: Requirement for the job.
Gina: “...is a requirement for the job.” And also, just holding that quality bar. And being like “We can do better. How can this be better? This feels a little bit off.” And I mean, sometimes it’s like, details, right? Spacing. You know? Kerning. Typography. It’s always the details.
Clinton: Especially once you get around to brand concept and you like it, then it is the details.
Clinton: And one of the cool parts of working with y’all so far is just… like, talk about honest challengers, we’ll be sitting there in Slack having a conversation and we’ll send something over, it’ll be like “Enh.” You know, like, and that’s… that’s great. Because I’ve got fourteen things on my desk at that moment, and I’m like “Alright, here’s a version.” And I need to hear… and that’s the thing about, like… this is not an example for just our team. This is how teams should come together around design, and make sure the right skill sets are being empowered by designers. It’s not like… it’s not like designers go off to an ivory tower and go make shit up, right?
Clinton: Because that’s going to come back to haunt you really, really quickly when you realize “Well, that won’t work!” (Laughs)
Chris: That’s right.
Clinton: “Nobody talked to engineering, nobody talked to the users.” With that, the creative team, the design team, they are the catalyst, though, to take… to understand, do the user research, understand what’s trying to be accomplished, and then go explore. It’s not a forever spectrum, like “Go do whatever you want,” right?
Clinton: No. It’s gotta be guided and then go explore within the realms of “Okay, this is possible. We can…” And there’s lots of things you can go do, so it’s not like “possible” is this huge constraint. In fact, the constraint of possible narrows you in a way that’s really purposeful, so that you can do amazing design that is pushing the edges, and then you can get to those details you were talking about, Gina.
Clinton: So you can get to, like, “What happens when this thing toggles? What’s the interaction when I flip this?” Or “What happens when I mouse over this on my web interface?” Then you can really get to the specialness of that experience that, in culture-wise, and just feel, and desire to work with like-minded… that’s what brings everything together. You visit something, you tap on something, and like you said earlier, you know it when you see it, you know it when you feel it, and that’s the power of design. And I would definitely warn, though, you know, let’s talk about, too - I would warn the other side of it, of just “Hey, let’s go do the quote-unquote “art of the possible,” but you didn’t think first about what is actually possible.”
Clinton: And you just go off into a corner and try to go create something without talking first with the needed team, to talk about it. And I think that’s something that gets, sometimes left behind in technology.
Chris: You’re saying when it’s completely blue-sky, and that it’s not a cross-functional team that is trying to almost have checks and balances on each other? Is that what you mean?
Clinton: Almost, right. Completely blue-sky, go bananas. Okay. Right?
Clinton: Like, but most often, especially in enterprise technology… most often, it ain’t.
Clinton: Somebody might say to you, “We want to go explore the art of the possible.” And in their brain, they’re thinking “This is completely blue-sky.” However, dare I say, there’s a Siso team, there’s an engineering team, going like “That’s cool, but that ain’t possible.”
Gina: Right, right.
Clinton: So, it’s that early stage checks and balances, of getting the right people inside a group so that they can guide designers properly and really accelerate the “fast will follow smooth.” Because what’s the opposite of that? You don’t do your homework up front. You do quote-unquote blue… a true blue-sky thing. But for something that has to fit back into a technology system or a technology stack. And then you realize, let’s say, three weeks later, you’ve got gorgeous interfaces that everybody is now, like, foaming at the mouth to say “go build that,” and then you have your first technology meeting, and the answer’s like, “We can’t build that.”
Clinton: Like… is that progress? Is that a good outcome? I would argue that’s potentially the worst outcome. Now you’ve got people that are… we talk about dissatisfied users, now you’ve just got sad people.
Gina: Right. Now everyone’s just disappointed and sad.
Clinton: It’s that catalyst of using design and using it really, really properly. And there’s a balance there. There’s a balance of understanding, what is that team makeup? What should it be? What makes an effective early-stage team so that design can be that true catalyst, and not end up being something that is actually cruel, or hurts you, where, like, you know, emotionally you’re like “I wanted that, and I will never have that.” Well, that sucks.
Chris: This is a great point. And it speaks to the importance of well-rounded designers who appreciate that very often you are designing within constraints, and you have to learn to embrace those constraints early so that you are staying grounded in reality, that the things you are designing are at least part of the adjacent possible, right?
Chris: They’re not off in left field. Or, if you are doing a totally blue-sky effort, you are framing it appropriately, and saying “We took all the guard rails off because we want to just go play, and we want to imagine.”
Clinton: Right, right, right.
Chris: And there is a time and a place for that, too. But it has to be contextualized. You also… you need designers who are comfortable talking with engineers, who are talking with information security professionals, who are talking with QA, who are talking with product people. Right? This is the single biggest reason to build cross-functional teams. You need product managers, designers and engineers who are talking with each other, and who are putting their brains together. I mean, we often have engineers at the table in the first meeting, with client kickoff. Right?
Chris: It’s very typical to, like, “Well, don’t get engineers involved until the requirements are met.” No.
Chris: Not necessarily. You want engineers to be contributing to the architecture of the thing from day one. And this prevents what you’re talking about, Clinton, where it’s like “I’ve made this beautiful design that everybody loves, and it’s completely not feasible.” Or, “You’ll get it in 36 months.” And it’s like, “Well, that’s not… that doesn’t help me.” You know? So making sure that you’ve got really good distribution of responsibility from that very first meeting is absolutely critical to making sure that you are staying centered in what can actually be shipped.
Gina: That’s right. I mean, the goal isn’t to design the perfect thing, it’s to design the shippable thing, right?
Gina: It’s always… I mean, we talked about being premium and holding a high quality bar and saying “Enh, can we do better?” and sending it back and doing another iteration. Those things are all really important. Also, you can’t do that forever, right?
Chris: You can’t.
Gina: There’s always a balance between pragmatism and, you know, and perfection. I mean, this is what I love about working in digital, right? Like, it’s… everything is always a work in progress, right? And you can start small and fill in the details, and things are a work in progress. But the thing is is that we’re always creating a thing that is going to be working software.
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: We’re making working software.
Chris: That’s right.
Gina: We’re not designing the perfect interface. Right? We’re making working software. So, that’s what’s so important. And I think it distinguishes Launch from design agencies or consulting firms, right? Whose deliverable is a deck or a brand book?
Clinton: I agree, and I think it falls down a lot in other corridors. And I’m not going to throw other brands under the bus or mention them, ‘cause we don’t need to. However, a lot of the processes that I’ve experienced and seen in the tech world, is kind of that big, like, diamond or double diamond. Where it’s like, “Okay, the design team is gonna do this, and then they’re going to throw it over the wall to this team, they’re going to throw it over the wall to this team.” And this becomes a really bad, bad bad game of telephone.
Clinton: So… like, first of all, a lot gets lost. Sometimes the purpose, and the ideas as to why a designer chose a certain way of doing something gets lost, and, as we said earlier, sometimes what they’re doing cannot be implemented, because they’re not having honest discussions earlier on, because the further and further down the life cycle you get the more expensive it gets to pivot and change, and the more delayed your product becomes.
Clinton: And then, ultimately, probably the crappier thing you do end up shipping. Versus a little more up front, with still that mentality of “Let’s get to an MVP. Let’s get to an MVP.” So it’s a little bit of, like, you can thread the… you can actively and purposely thread that needle with, again, the right people up front, so that you’re never throwing something over a wall to a next team that then has to go try and get sped up on something, and you know context is going to get dropped. It just… it’s going to. Instead of having that idea of a philosophical continuous thread throughout the project, throughout the products. That, to me, is a much more consistent way to get to great, over and over and over again. And again, getting back to design, it’s also the most effective way to empower designers to help you get your yeses.
Gina and Chris: Yeah.
Clinton: Because every stage you’re gonna get through, you’ve gotta prove to somebody that this could move forward and should move forward, and they would be an idiot to not move it forward, right?
Chris: (Laughs) That’s right.
Clinton: You want them to feel that way, that this has gotta go forward. Well, guess what? if you get the continuous team from jump street, you give yourself the best opportunity just to keep racking up those yeses. And once you get momentum against, behind a product, it becomes really difficult to stop. And by the way, you get one product to market and it lands, you get your second product to market and it lands… Chris, you said it earlier, that’s when people start getting those huge promotions. All of a sudden you’re the SVP of digital at a Fortune 500 because you’ve got the golden touch. And the golden touch, in secret, is continuous teams using design to power things quickly. It’s not like a magic elixir, but I do think a lot of people don’t hone in on it yet.
Chris: Beautifully said.
Gina: Yeah. I’m excited about the new… the new show, the new group.
Chris: Me too.
Gina: Clinton, welcome. We’re just thrilled to have you. Catalyst for positive change. I think there’s so much more work to do. Every time I use bad software I think, hm…
Chris: There’s more work to do.
Gina: Still a lot of work to do.
Chris: The job’s not done. Yeah.
Gina: The job is not done, the job is not done.
Chris: It’s so great. We’re gonna have more voices on the show, which is going to be wonderful.
Chris: We’re going to have more guests on the show. (Laughs) There’s a spreadsheet, and there are names, and there are things getting scheduled, and I’m super excited about that, and I think it’s gonna be great for our listeners to get exposed to a lot more stuff, because we’re just… we’re, I think you said before, widening the aperture. Which is the perfect way to say it. We’re just gonna take in more. We’re gonna take in more light and opinions and perspectives and then reflect them back out in the world. So, um, it’s a really exciting time for us, it’s an exciting time for Launch. And as always, if you want to talk to us, we want to hear from you.
Gina: We want to hear from you. We love hearing from you.
Chris: Yes. We have a brand new, fresh, shiny email address that we are unwrapping out of the package, right now for the first time on this episode. It is email@example.com. C-a-t-a-l-y-s-t. firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach out, we’re gonna read those emails and we’d love to talk to you.
Gina: We want to hear from you. We want to hear about the pain and suffering, the challenges, the wins. And questions. And guest suggestions. And… yeah. We’re so excited to be back. Really missed doing the show formerly known as the Postlight podcast, and we’ve got a big, big shiny future ahead. I’m excited. Thanks for being with us today, Clinton.
Clinton: Thank you, thank you for the warm housewarming and… consider this maybe our first house party.
Chris: There you go! There you go.
Gina: Yes! Absolutely.
Clinton: We’re rocking some Kid ‘n Play, we’ve got the warm cookies, and we’re having a good time on the East coast.
Gina: Right on. Alright.
Chris: Thank you all.
Gina: Let’s get back to work. See you all later.
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