Borrowing from Amazon’s playbook

Borrowing from Amazon’s playbook

If you’ve looked around our site much at all, you know we are all about experiments. Sometimes they are successful, and we keep using what we learned. Sometimes they flop, and we still learn something. Either way our whole team feels like our overall trajectory is moving forward.

Amazon’s secret weapon

I recently recalled hearing about a technique Jeff Bezos implemented at Amazon. Jeff encouraged his team to start a project by writing the press release first. Anytime I read an article like this, I instantly think “How could we experiment with this concept?” and “What could we learn?”

MVP-ing the concept

Since most of our projects are software and apps that we build with our clients, I wanted to get them engaged in this practice. Our assumption is that creating a press release would better help us all understand what a successful outcome would be. But creating a full press release would involve a good bit of work, and we don’t know it would help. So how could we scale this back to an MVP? My goal was something a client could complete in about 10 min.

Our assumption is that creating a press release would better help us all understand what a successful outcome would be.

Aspirational testimonials

What if the client wrote a testimonial they would love to be true after this project is launched? It would be an aspirational testimonial, and could fit the 10 min time frame. I listed out a few potential benefits.

The benefits

  • It allows the client to think about what success looks like.
  • It allows our team to know exactly what things a person on the client team really values.
  • With clear aspirational goals in mind, we can both figure out how to measure if we are moving toward those goals.

The problem

I’d already established I wanted this experiment to take no more than 10 min for the client to complete. We’ve all felt the “blank page writer’s block” before. Starting from scratch could take too long, so I needed a way to kickstart their creative juices. The solution was right in front of us.

 We’ve all felt the “blank page writer’s block” before

Easier to edit...

We never want to put words in a client’s mouth, but one of our core practices is “it is easier to edit than create”. We’ve found through experimentation that if we take the first step to create something incorrect or incomplete, then it’s much easier for someone to say “well, it’s not that...it’s more like this”.

“it is easier to edit than create”.

Testing it out

So we created draft aspirational testimonials and shared them with a few team members of a company we’re building an app with. We’ll review the responses we get, adjust our idea of what success looks like, and then ultimately see how closely the aspiration matches the finished result. 

 

To be continued…

Your turn to try aspirational testimonials

You don’t have to wait and see how our experiment turns out. If you really want to know what you (or others) think success will look like, try writing an aspirational testimonial.‍ Just off the top of my head, you could use this for your next performance review, the completion of an internal project, a new hire, a potential hire, a quarterly financial report...there are so many options.

User Stories

We are a user-centered design shop. We are always thinking about who this content is for, and we do that using user stories. 

Here is our user story for this insight.

As a team member who thinks like an owner, I want to clearly define what success could look like so my team and I have a better shot at achieving it.


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