Getting Things Done. Differently.

In the past week I attended the Atlassian Summit in Barcelona. If you are not familiar with Atlassian, this is not the place for describing their amazing platform and tools. But this quote of their mission statement is a good introduction to the spirit of the company: “to help unleash the potential of every team through open work.”

This post is not in any way a promotional post. I am not affiliated with Atlassian and I was an attendee like any other in the conference. But when I come across a creative way of doing something pretty trivial (might I say even boring), I’m turned on. So, here’s what turned me on this week.

Feedback is an essential part of any growth process. If you are running full-steam ahead without verifying you are on the right track, you will lost your way eventually. When you are aiming to build a community of users around the products you develop, letting the community take an active part in the process is even more crucial. Listening, requesting, dare I say demanding, ongoing feedback, does not only improve your products but also creates a sense of community — a sense of belonging. We are in this together.

But how do you do that effectively? How do you collect real, honest feedback without turning it into a mechanical and boring process? Long interviews or written surveys are a sleeping pill. In the best scenario, your customers will play along once. In the worst case, they will lose patience during the process and will either leave the survey incomplete or will just mark random answers to get it over with.

Enters the Atlassian Research Booth. Now, I am not a regular visitor to conferences, so this might be a well known way of collecting feedback in these events. For me, it was a first, and it was amazing.

The Atlassian research group has set up a booth which looked like a cool preschool space. It was full of stickers, stick it notes, coloring pens, strings, balls, and other cool stuff. What were we expected to do with all this stuff? Well, share our feedback using mini game-like activities. All of them were simple, no-brainier, engaging activities. And they were nothing like any survey I’ve taken part in before.

By writing 1-2 words and placing them on a hand-drawn poster I shared my philosophy on using Atlassian products. By placing stickers on a colorful whiteboard I was able to share in 30 seconds how much I like or dislike more than 15 different products. By writing a short letter to an Atlassian employee I could share my biggest concern or pain-point, or my excitement, regarding any product of the Atlassian family. And by stretching a string between several nails I could provide in under 15 seconds meaningful information about some aspects of my company and take part in generating a collaborative living graph. Any business in the world should find this kind of feedback priceless.

The fifteen minutes I’ve spent in the Research Booth were so refreshing I was willing to sign up future feedback-collecting activities. I rarely share my contact details that easily, but I was so intrigued to see whether this is a one time show or a well-thought of a method that brings value. I suspect the latter.

These fifteen minutes were so engaging and fun. I felt I would be heard. And I enjoyed providing the feedback. I’m sure the work of analyzing the collected amount of hand-written input would be much harder than it would have been to analyze a digital survey. And that made the experience even more meaningful. I knew someone would give attention to what I’ve shared. I would not be just a statistical point plotted on some chart. Whether or not this is true, I might never know. But it worked. Big time.

Don’t Limit Your Creativity

People often think of creativity and innovation in the context of developing new products or new features. Nothing could be more limiting than this view. Creativity can affect any aspect of your business and any activity in your private life. Doing things differently, creatively, can have mind-blowing results. It spices things up, it keeps you (and in this case also your customers) on the edge in the best sense possible. It brings fresh perspectives, and with it often unexpected results. And the best part is: it is fun!

[click_to_tweet tweet=”People often think of #creativity and #innovation in the context of developing new products or new features. Nothing could be more limiting than this view.” quote=”People often think of creativity and innovation in the context of developing new products or new features. Nothing could be more limiting than this view.”]

Maybe the deepest impression I had during my visit in the summit and the Research Booth in particular, is the feeling that everyone doing this non-trivial work is having loads of fun. And I have to admit, it was inspiring.

Productivity Improvements are Linear. Creative Improvements are Exponential.

Here’s the hard truth: many individuals and teams are not as productive as they could be both in their personal lives and in their professional lives. We can and should be more productive — to get things done — if we want to achieve anything meaningful.

But improving your productivity can only add that much to your results. Productivity improvements are linear. You can be two times more productive just to realize that the problems you are trying to solve have become three times more complex.

It is only when you do things differently — creatively — that you can breakthrough an invisible barrier and achieve amazing things.

And again, creativity should not be limited to what you produce. It can be applied to how you produce it — how you will achieve your goals. Just like the Atlassian Research Team that had a mission to collect feedback from users. Doing things differently can trigger exponential growth — it can improve your results by magnitude, and it can deliver some unexpected results along the way.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”It is only when you do things differently — #creatively — that you can breakthrough an invisible barrier and achieve amazing things.” quote=”It is only when you do things differently — creatively — that you can breakthrough an invisible barrier and achieve amazing things.”]

So, How Can You Do Things Differently?

When we are facing a problem and all else has failed, we tend to look for a creative solution. The challenge in doing things differently is that our starting point is not a problem. Often things are running pretty smoothly as it is. The common practice in this case is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

And it is this practice that prevents us achieving something amazingly better — exponentially better. If you want exponential improvement, you have to reprogram yourself with the following practice: if it ain’t broke, try to make it amazing! Even if that means starting (almost) from scratch.

To do things differently you will have to imagine — imagine how they can be radically better. Start with imaging radically better results and then imagine how you will get there. Alternatively, start with a blank page and fantasize: how would you do things if they were not “working” in a steady state already.

After you have a vision, the next step is to dare and realize it. It takes courage because you (or your organization) already have something working. Trying something new for the chance it will be better is not trivial.

Will doing things differently always result in a better outcome? I can guarantee the answer to this question is “No.” But in the long run, doing things differently will help you breakthrough. Doing things creatively will keep you and your organization on the edge. Everything will become a game, and playfulness will rule. And that is a great setup for achieving great stuff.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Imagine, dare, and have fun.” quote=”Imagine, dare, and have fun.”]

Does that mean nothing should ever be preserved or just changed evolutionary? Of course not. Continuity is as important as change and creativity. But in a business world that often tends to fall back to common patterns, processes, and solutions, the shift towards doing some things differently is an essential advantage.

So, take an hour. Choose an activity which you consider pretty standard and shake things up a bit. Imagine, dare, and have fun.

Be creative! Do things differently!

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