What I learned week 15 2023

Last weekend was both easter and my birthday. Needless to say I spent a lot of time high on sugar. And as a result I learned less. But I kept coming back to an insight about how teams speed up.

Add constraints to speed up

I’ve worked with many teams struggling to go faster. There are all these frameworks and methods that should help us, stuff like Agile, design thinking etc. But they rarely seem to have the impact they promise.

I think the reason they’re failing is because we’re using them once, instead of as iterative tools. Here are three examples:


When you make strategic decisions you need to have a specific user in mind. That’s how you know to chose alternative A over alternative B. Because A fits your user better.

I’ve seen hundreds of personas be created, but I’ve rarely seen them used.

Say you’re selling a new type of deodorant aimed at a niche market. Start simple:
Craig sees himself as a tech-guy, but works a generic office job at a large company. Owns a car.

Then take actions based on this persona. When you discover new things about your audience or customers (oh wait, they don’t always have a car!) you either change the existing persona, or split it into new personas.

How often should you reference personas?
Every time you build, sell, or market anything to your audience.

How often should you update your personas?
Every time you learn something new about your audience.

They key is iteration.

Design system

You have a product that needs several interfaces. A website, some email templates, maybe even *shudder* a powerpoint presentation. They need to look like they’re from the same company.

Should you create a Figma project and map out every possible component?

Start simple: 2-3 rules that have distinct do’s and don’ts for your brand.

We always use our brand color “ultra-pink”
We never use serif typefaces
Our CTAs and clickable things are always

Use it as a checklist. It will be surprisingly consistent.

How often do you use the design system?
Every time you design anything.

How often do you update the design system?
Every time you discover a new reusable part of the design that should be branded as yours.

The key is iteration.

Brand communication

You have a young brand in street wear, just like everyone else. How do you become distinct and noticeable?

Set some distinct, or better yet edgy, rules and be disciplined about sticking to them.

The brand doesn’t speak with a friendly tone of voice, but rather informal.
The brand uses all colors, as long as they’re LOUD.
The brand believes the world is flat, sustainability is key, and that cigarettes are still cool.

Check all your communication against the list. That’s enough to start with.

How often should you use the brand guidelines?
In every choice you make about the brand. Every single one.

How often should you update the brand guidelines?
Every time the market changes, or there is any confusion about what the brand stands for, you should clarify it.

The key is iteration.

Self binding

These methods speed things up because they add constraints. They make it easier to make choices and move on. When they don’t work it’s because we don’t iterate on them, so people end up not applying them or even understanding them,

We can only remain focused if we’re constantly reminded about what we’re focusing on. This is why I believe that iteration is key.

We need simple rules to follow. Checking often that we’re not diverging from them. Constantly updating them as the world changes.