Musings on the process of living a design centered life.
My Philosophy in Business
Drew Fletcher Published 4-25-2018
Projects come and go… but there are a few ideals that help define how work, and life should be done. I’ve learned more than my share of these the hard way. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, in many different markets, using different elements of design, engineering and fabrication. While the faces and names have changed with each venture, I consider myself lucky to have gotten to learn so much from so many. And rest assured, I’ve been on the receiving end of many a corrective nudge, or quieted voice delivering guidance. I remember all of those lessons, and have tried to incorporate what I’ve learned into a way of working. I continue to look for ways to improve my process and outlook, realizing that there is still so much to be discovered. The best part about what I do is being asked to immerse myself in a new project, and learning everything I can about what the needs and constraints are for a given goal. Even better is the chance to make new relationships and learn from those who have already been intensely studying the subject that I have been asked to help with. My job requires others to trust in my ability to adapt and create, while at least initially being a newcomer to a particular discipline. The following are ideals that I have grown to respect and utilize in my pursuits. In the following weeks as time allows, I will be expanding on the subjects below, and adding new ideals to the list. I have discussed the first topic below. Please stay tuned for future updates.
Relationships mean everything. Warmth and trust are the bedrock of a successful business relationship, allowing all other details to be worked through. Friendly and fruitful conversations are only possible when there is true interest and caring on both sides of the relationship. Business can be complex, with competing interests and goals at times, and tensions do arise. But taking the time to consider the parties involved and both where their interests lie, and context regarding each situation allows for the most productive resolutions.
Follow Through and Momentum. It is critical to a project to have regular and open discussions about status and goals. Even more important is what comes after; a re-calibration of priorities may be necessary, but completing what was discussed in the previous meeting helps keep gas in the tank, and the car moving forward. Conversely, projects die when even simple tasks become too delayed or stymied in decision making debates. Paralysis by Analysis is how I’ve heard it. Additionally the tendency to take on too much, and not be realistic with yourself or others about constraints or abilities, a very human mistake to make, causes no end of missed deadlines or friction in the relationship. I feel it is better to have a bit of cautious optimism, and always be setting attainable goals, realistic perspectives of constraints, and following up regularly both with yourself and others.
Flexibility. The only constant is change. Our lives are in a constant state of flux, with new responsibilities always popping up. The benefits of flexibility allow for nimble change and decision making. I’ve also heard, “Fail quickly and often”, meaning that it’s better to quickly burn through the incorrect decision to help figure out the right path. This can seem inefficient at the time, but the consequences of sticking to a path that isn’t practical or feasible grow exponentially with time. Self analysis and honesty are crucial, however painful. Not every project is meant to succeed. Not every business will work out. The ability to regroup, refocus, adapt, and get back to work is what defines flexibility to me.
Humor. They say that creativity is just the novel combination of ideas that already exist. Humor works in the same way, putting a twist on things we expect, surprising us and teaching us a new connection. To be really creative, you must be willing to laugh at yourself and your mistakes, and find the humor in tough situations. Lightening the mood and keeping things light actually allows for the most productive work sessions.
Pride. In my view, the essence of pride is the willingness to take risks, staking reputation and career on the outcome, and the joy of overcoming those challenges. Pride should also generate a bit of anxiety, as to have pride is to want to keep it, which requires some sort of excellence in life and a drive to keep on improving. The joy of success fades and new obstacles to overcome are required. Pride also requires that one temper the disappointment of failures, and instead focus on ways to create eventual positive growth.
Humility. After years of working and making things, I’ve learned that the difference between victory and failure can be the smallest details. A big ego will lull you into complacency, and allow your focus to slip from the task at hand. Having a bit of healthy stress will remind you to think ahead, envision how things can go sideways, and act regularly to prevent those negative outcomes. Additionally by staying humble and having a beginners eye for new tasks will facilitate the most learning to occur. You become more approachable, and those who are experts around you become more willing to share their ideas and wisdom. Arrogance is a huge turn off for cooperation, and while you may win the bid, you’ve managed to drive a wedge between yourself and the client, and raised expectations for yourself to a level that you will never be able to fulfill.