A learn-by-doing community for creative professionals.


December, 2013

The Five Steps on The Path of Least Permission

We’ve seen firsthand how much enthusiasm and energy people have for user-centered design after a bootcamp. But, they also always leave with a question or two:

“Where do I start?” or “How do I get buy in?”

Through our client work and our community education, we’ve learned a few great ways to get the ball rolling. Here are some of our top suggestions:

1. Find Small Wins

Trying to get budget and scope and a timeline can be tough. Waiting for the 3-month deep dive you want to use to drive a new initiative, well…. you might be waiting a long time. Find a small project, something time-boxed and tangible and move the needle on it. Then use that success to drive more engagement from the organization.

2. Start With Lunch

User Research is the most essential starting point of the design process. You don’t need time or budget to make it happen. You just need to get outside (use your lunch hour!) and talk with people. Ask open-ended questions, listen and ask follow-up questions.

3. Enroll Key People

Who do you need to make this happen? Start small—grab a co-worker to help you do some user research as your recorder or co-interviewer. Review the results and ask, “if we did this again, how would we change it to get better information?” Who can you show the work you’ve done and get feedback and buy-in?

4. Prototype

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Try something new out for an hour or two and see what you get out of it. We’ve all wasted more time on less.

5. Ask for Forgiveness Over Permission

Rather than asking for the time and budget, fit some user research, strategy sessions and group ideation into your regular day. If you’re given two weeks to work on a project, take the first few days for a solid research and strategy phase and see what you have.


22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar’s Vaults

Oh it’s all over the web…and for good reason. Pixar’s 22 Storytelling Rules are jam-packed with great nuggets. Read and enjoy…and try some out!


1. You admire a character for trying for more than just their success

2. You have to keep in mind what’s interesting for you as an audience, not

what’s fun to do as a writer. Sometimes they are different.

3. Trying for theme is important but you won’t know what the story is about til

you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

4. Once upon a time there was a _____________________________. Everyday,

___________________. One day, ___________________________. Because of that,

_________________________. Until finally __________________________________.

5. Simply. Focus. Combine Characters. Hop over detours. It will feel like your

losing valuable stuff but it will set you free.

6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite

at them. Challenge them. How do they deal with it?

7. Come up with your ending before you figure out the middle. Seriously

endings are hard, get yours working upfront.

8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have

both but move on. Do better next time.

9. When you’re stuck make a list of what wouldn’t happen next. Lots of times

the material to get you unstuck will show up.

10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve

got to recognize it before you can use it.

11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head a perfect

idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

12. Discount the first thing that comes into your head. And the second, third,

forth and fifth – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable may seem like to you but

it’s poison to the audience.

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning in you that this story

feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

15. If you were your character in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty

lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

16. What are the stakes? Give us a reason to root for the character. What

happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come

around to be useful later.

18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and

fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great, coincidences to get

them out of trouble is cheating.

20. Exercise: Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you

rearrange them into something you would like?

21. You have to identify with your situation/characters, you can’t just

write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

22. What’s the essence of your story? What the most economical way of telling

it? If you know that you can build out from there.