There's a certain beauty when one can take a previous experience, whether it is personal or professional, that is generally unrelated to their current task and still manage to apply that experience effectively. In my case, my formal education is in mechanical engineering and human biology, yet I help businesses get started, improve themselves, and ultimately grow. I can do this effectively because I understand the fundamentals of what I teach (and practice) and I also have a diverse set of experiences to draw on. Continuing from my last entry, I wanted to touch on how, sometime, it is important to take a step back and take a look at your business/project from a distance, or at the very least a different perspective. One way to do this is to evaluate your particular situation from project design perspective. I explained before as well that when you really look hard enough, it comes down to three main methods:
1. Top-Down Design
2. Bottom-Up Design
3. Middle-Out Design
Last time, I discussed Top-Down design as being the most common approach to starting a business, solving a problem, creating a product etc. Most people use this method without even knowing it! To quickly recap, Top-Down is simply starting with the end in mind and finding a way to get there. Let's say you have a great idea, an invention, for a widget. You want to make this widget and sell it to everyone. That's your end goal, making and selling this widget. How do you make that happen? You will most likely work backwards asking yourself every step of the way how to get from one step to the next until you work all the way back to step number 1. What comes first, the patent or the business entity? Who will you sell it to? Will they even buy it? How will manufacture your widget? How much will it cost? So on and so on. If you want to visualize how this process operates, you can imagine a pyramid with the end goal being the point at the very top and the wide base foundation as the starting point that you work your way back to.
Now, what if you are in a position where you desire to do something but you don't know what? I'll give you an example of starting a business. Joe, some guy I just made up, really wants to leave his day job and believes the only way to do that is to have a business of his own. The problem is, he has no idea what business to get into! Joe is like a lot of us at this point, simply trying to figure things out. Like most, he is told to follow his passions. After a lot of thinking, Joe acknowledges that he is great with people, he's friendly and personable, he loves to be out doors, he's great with his hands, he is passionate about working on his yard, he has a really fancy lawn mower, he has an old beat-up truck he uses for hauling stuff and now he's realizing that it might just be a good idea for him to start a lawn care or landscaping business. It's a perfect fit! Even though he will start off as a self-employed business, he can eventually scale it up and have employees so that he doesn't have to work anymore.
This is a great example of a Bottom-Up Design. Using the previous example of a pyramid, the Bottom-Up Design process starts at the wide base of the triangle/pyramid and you figure things out until you reach the point at the top, the end goal. In Joe's case, he is working to narrow down his options on what kind of business he should start. He has a every possible option available to him which is represented by the width of the base of this imaginary pyramid. As he starts to focus in, he reduces his options. For example, when he decides that he wants to do something outdoors and with his hands, he eliminates possibilities that include things like office work. As he refines his interests his options change and he becomes more focused until he reaches a final, single decision. This final decision is represented by the singular point at the top of the pyramid.
To expand on this concept further, Bottom-Up Design is often used in ideation when creating a new product, a new service, or problem solving. Now that you actively and consciously understand that these fundamental principles are in every process of our life, whether we know it or not, you can more readily attack any situation effectively. In the next entry, we'll discuss one more fundamental method of design, and/or thought, referred to as "Middle-Out Design". This is much more complex and, surprisingly, many people don't know that they already use it but are probably not using it to its full effectiveness. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on this topic and if you would like to hear about other related ideas.