Whether it’s big new assignment for work or something you’re tackling on the side, standing at the start of a big new project is daunting. Where do you begin? How can you make sure you do your best work? And how can you grow as a professional along the way?
Designer Bruce Mau’s manifesto for growth is a great place to start. The 43 ideas about how to approach a challenging project were originally written for people in creative fields, but we think they can apply to any project for which you’re trying to think of new ideas, whether it’s a new business system, a new product, or a new way to train employees.
Read below for some of our favorite snippets from the manifesto—and our thoughts on how anyone can integrate them into their work—or read the full manifesto here.
Forget About Good
Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
Try It: Obviously we all want to do good work (especially when we have a boss to hand it in to). But, especially when you’re just at the beginning stages of a project or are really having to come up with a lot of new ideas, try and push the final product out of your mind. Let yourself do as much work as you can—good and bad—and then you can edit it down to the good later, before your project deadline.
Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
Try It: Next time you mess up or think you did something wrong, don’t just cast it aside. Take a moment to think about it, study it, and learn from it.
Stand on Someone's Shoulders
Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
Try It: See if anyone has done anything before you that can help you get closer to where you want to be. Use it to help you get there. It’s not stealing—it’s collaborating.
Come Back to it Tomorrow
Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
Try It: Set everything aside, do something else for the rest of the day, and come back to it tomorrow. Looking at things fresh can spawn seriously new ideas.
Use “Useless” Time
Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces—what Dr. Seuss calls ‘the waiting place.’ Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference—the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals—but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
Try It: Use your “useless time” as thinking time. Brainstorm on your commute. Mull on that thing you’re stuck on while you’re standing in line at Starbucks. The results might surprise you.