How to be a great client
As a client, your job isn’t to be innovative. Your job is to foster innovation. Big difference.
Fostering innovation is a discipline, a profession in fact. It involves making difficult choices and causing important things to get shipped out the door. Here are a few thoughts to get you started.
- Before engaging with the innovator, foster discipline among yourself and your team. Be honest about what success looks like and what your resources actually are.
- If you can't write down clear ground rules about which rules are firm and which can be broken on the path to a creative solution, how can you expect the innovator to figure it out?
- Simplify the problem relentlessly, and be prepared to accept an elegant solution that satisfies the simplest problem you can describe.
- After you write down the ground rules, revise them to eliminate constraints that are only on the list because they've always been on the list.
- Hire the right person. Don't ask a mason to paint your house. Part of your job is to find someone who is already in the sweet spot you're looking for, or someone who is eager and able to get there.
- Demand thrashing early in the process. Force innovations and decisions to be made near the beginning of the project, not in a crazy charrette at the end.
- Be honest about resources. While false resource constraints may help you once or twice, the people you're working with demand your respect, which includes telling them the truth.
- Pay as much as you need to solve the problem, which might be more than you want to. If you pay less than that, you'll end up wasting all your money. Why would a great innovator work cheap?
- Cede all issues of irrelevant personal taste to the innovator. I don't care if you hate the curves on the new logo. Just because you write the check doesn't mean your personal aesthetic sense is relevant.
- Run interference. While innovation sometimes never arrives, more often it's there but someone in your office killed it.
- Raise the bar. Over and over again, raise the bar. Impossible a week ago is not good enough. You want stuff that is impossible today, because as they say at Yoyodyne, the future begins tomorrow.
- When you find a faux innovator, run. Don't stick with someone who doesn't deserve the hard work you're doing to clear a path.
- Celebrate the innovator. Sure, you deserve a ton of credit. But you'll attract more innovators and do even better work next time if innovators understand how much they benefit from working with you.