action: the emdash process 01

Be confident that your idea is robust enough to succeed, but be flexible in the application of it.
Matthew Townsley
September 14, 2021

Hello there, and can I just say thanks for reading! It’ll be worth it I promise, and I think you’ll definitely find something useful & interesting in here.

This is the first in a series of 4 articles that outlines our process Action, Adventure, Danger & Romance that we like to follow when partnering with a business to launch their digital product or really make their customer experience shine, but in reality it’s a framework that anyone, be it founder or product owner, can apply to structure their approach when making their big idea a reality.

I think it’s a given that everyone reading this has had a moment, the moment, with a product or service that made you think “Wow”! Where the experience totally surpassed your expectations. Maybe you were expecting a process to be a lot more difficult than it was, or something was just a sheer delight to use.

Something common to all successful products and startups out there is they excel in surprising and delighting their customers. Now, it’s a tired old trope, but the saying ‘surprise and delight’ still holds merit. At Emdash, we’ve built our entire methodology on giving people’s ideas or products the greatest chance at success.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in with the first phase, Action!

For us, action is the outcome your idea is driving at and will ultimately achieve. It is the opening chapter and sets the scene for the entire story.

Think of the action as laying the foundations - as with any great novel, you don’t get to know the entire plot right at the beginning. Instead it unravels from chapter-to-chapter as the story goes deeper and deeper.

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1. prioritise & align
2. idea-focus not feature-focus
3. plan in phases

Here at emdash we have our little black book of workshops and with every project we figure out what’s most applicable.

At a project kickoff we like to get every stakeholder in the room; all the major and minor characters in the story; and get everyone to list what they think are the key features that will become part of the solution. As a group we then rank each of them from most important to least important, easy through to difficult.

This becomes a great way to start creating a roadmap, as we can already see what would be the most advantageous way to start, for example grouping a bunch of features together and focusing on them as a set first.

It also lets everyone get on the same page, as they can all see what each other deems the most important, then collectively decide what’s to be the opening chapter.

When we say idea-focus not feature-focus, we lean in to the classic statement, ‘you are not the user’. Assumptions will have been made as to what customers want, and these can and will be challenged as we dive into the adventure and start speaking to customers to find out more about them.

With any unexpected plot twists, where you thought the story was going might not be where it ends up. And that’s okay.

Finally, plan in phases. It doesn’t make sense to attempt everything at once. With that feature set that came out of the prioritisation exercise, we can start there and build on it. It gives opportunity to make solid progress, then launch with beta customers while you begin on that next feature set on the roadmap.

Let your story evolve and the plot develop, as your characters embark on their adventure.

Be confident that your idea is robust enough to succeed, but be flexible in the application of it.

To put this into context, your idea has identified a gap in the market and looks to provide a solution. At this stage, you don’t yet know exactly how it’s going to do this, but the threads are there.

In the action phase sometimes the idea, or solution, has mistakenly already been preconceived as exactly what the customer wants. But in our experience, this often isn’t the case, and you don’t know exactly what it is until we move through the rest of the story. That’s why we let the action guide us through on to the next phase.

“You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.”
- Pablo Picasso