8 ways to work smarter this year: Advice from our experts
2021 is shaping up to be a comeback year. Your goals are lofty, and the pressure to perform is higher than ever. You survived the last year, even thrived, by meeting immediate demands, pivoting when necessary and mastering the art of reprioritization. But the work is not done, and the need to shift and reassess will never go away. Instead, it has become the new normal–the latest gold standard for success.
In order to maintain that standard, leading organizations are in constant search of ways to:
- Go to market faster
- Achieve more with less (time, resources, people, etc.)
- Be more efficient in HOW they get work done
- Make existing technologies, resources and processes work harder for them
- Offload or redirect work that diverts their focus from the innovative work they want (and need) to be doing instead
Our multi-disciplinary team of experts share some advice below on how you can do all of this and, ultimately, work smarter without having to work harder.
Incorporate design thinking methods into your role to ensure you’re solving the right problem
Take a user-centered approach! Because design thinking is biased towards action and feedback, it allows you to fail often, so that you can succeed when it matters most. Looking for an inspiring example? Check out how the city of Austin uses design thinking to understand and design solutions for homelessness: https://cityofaustin.github.io/innovation/.
Scale your creative success by leveraging a production studio
With so many distribution channels, campaign versions, brand assets and geographical requirements, managing Creative is a complex and time-consuming effort. Spinning up a customized studio can help ensure high-quality campaign production and assist you in delivering brand assets and marketing campaigns hassle-free. When done right, studios introduce efficiencies, offer flexibility, and help you execute large volumes of work quickly and accurately. And the best part is, you and your team will be freed up to focus on other important initiatives that need your attention.
Implement content-first design
On every project, start with content. It saves you time and money, de-risks the design process and produces stronger work.
When content leads, you’ll lock down your content model early so that UX strategists can design your user flows and IA as early as possible. It also takes the guesswork out of wireframes because you’ve already nailed down the most critical information and how to present it. And that frees your graphic designers and front-end developers to unleash their creativity and bring the experience to life in the most compelling way.
Segmenting your audiences leads to better, faster decisions
Whether your audiences are target users of a product/application/tool or customers you would like to reach and engage, clearly defined segments can simplify complex messaging plans and workflows.
There are many ways to segment audiences (data-driven factor analysis, demographic, attitudinal, behavioral), but once you and your team align on a model, you can define clear boundaries for each segment. Targeting strategies and tailored tactics can build from there. You’ll also obtain greater clarity on the commonality across segments and the type of messages or functionality that may resonate with many.
Segmenting helps you:
- Manage complexity
- Allocate resources–for instance, easily route inquiry forms from a website
- Create efficiencies–such as enabling specialized responses with greater accuracy
- Differentiate your offering, by understanding what makes your target audiences tick
- Tailor a digital experience
Cut rework and encourage consistency by formalizing or optimizing your design system
Design systems create a shared understanding of a brand’s look and feel and help align teams on how experiences should work. Organizations that invest in designing and documenting their design system enjoy more efficiencies when it comes to scaling their digital footprint. Design systems also help brands avoid creating fragmented customer experiences, which can often be a symptom of rapid digital transformation, especially if there are concurrent workstreams being carried out by multiple different departments.
Additionally, design systems:
- establish consistency in design and code, and encourage reuse instead of rework
- offer uniformity and predictability, reducing the time it takes to create and produce assets across teams
- make scaling and onboarding a more seamless process by helping people–whether that be your own FTEs, or contractors and agency partners you work with–produce without disruption
- help make the integration and/or go-to-market process after a merger or acquisition much more seamless
Design systems are most valuable when they’re properly managed and carefully nurtured–remember to think of them as living, breathing guides.
Supercharge collaboration and get more out of video conference calls
Help your teams move quickly from idea to execution by going beyond talking heads. Instead, use virtual whiteboards and collaboration spaces (Miro is one of our favorites). Additionally, structure time in workshops for individuals to contribute ideas via virtual sticky notes. This makes it possible for everyone to participate, and be heard, and it democratizes idea generation beyond the highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO). Once lots of ideas are generated, dot voting allows the best ideas to surface and be agreed upon, creating alignment quickly.
Overall, this approach not only generates a larger volume of ideas, but also higher quality ideas, and it promotes greater efficiency in getting work done, specifically around gaining alignment from important stakeholders.
Bring structure to your collaboration time
Assign prework. Break what would normally have been a 2-3 hour ideation session into a couple of smaller meetings. Make sure all ideation sessions and meetings have an agenda and cloud-based virtual whiteboard (again, we love Miro). Have clear next steps planned for the group. Don’t invite too many people. Instead, use the ideation team as information gatherers and sharers, and task them with reaching out to folks outside the group to gather more information.
Controlling the inputs and outputs to collaboration sessions and thinking differently about them can often achieve better results with fewer people and more focus. Cloud-based whiteboards keep track of what was discussed, next steps, great ideas without a home, and real innovation items.
Remember to allow yourself time to think and do
Set aside dedicated time each week to work, uninterrupted–no meetings, no calls, just dedicated focus time. I call this “Working Wednesdays.” When a day is punctured by meetings and calls at random intervals, it’s so hard to just focus and get work done.
Photo Credit: Adrien Converse | Unsplash
As Head of Marketing Communications, Tanya helps connect One North’s clients and prospects with the most innovative digital strategies, trends and thought leaders. Responsible for leading all editorial, sales enablement and PR initiatives, she ensures the successful delivery of One North’s message by reinforcing the agency’s deep industry knowledge and multidisciplinary expertise.
If I were a vegetable: I’d definitely be Zucchini – but only if it were fried.
Superpower I wish I had: I’ve always wanted to be a mind reader. I’m naturally curious … and an eavesdropper!