There's a term in the software engineering world that can fundamentally transform your understanding of how value is created. That word is requirement, which is officially defined as a capability needed by a user to solve a problem to achieve an objective. Now, at first blush, those words probably sound quite mundane and clinical. But once you unpack the story behind those words, and start using that story as a filter for your work, it can make a serious improvement on your ability to create value.
REQUIREMENTAL — Approaching your creative process through the filter of utility value
Let's break down that definition into three parts. Think of it like a story in a play. Act one is the problem. The user has an unwelcome situation that needs to be dealt with and overcome. For example, say they don't know basic words of the language in the city they're visiting, so they feel embarrassed. That brings us to act two, which is the capability. This is the specific solution that your software provides them to solve their problem. Maybe it's a bite sized audio lesson that teaches them how to say hello, goodbye and thank you in the language of their choice. Awesome. Finally is the objective. This is the ultimate utility value that your product delivers. When users walk away from using your product, something in their life should be materially better than it was before. In this instance, the user's travel experience is cheaper, safer and less lonely now that they can communicate with the locals. That's a requirement. It's a capability needed by a user to solve a problem to achieve an objective.
Personally, learning to filter my own inventive process through that story was a game changer. Because it challenged me, as the right brained, process oriented, abstract creator, to think in the most logical, concrete and direct manner possible. The voice in my head sounds like this. Scott, it's cool what you're doing here, but how is this thing you're making going to improve someone's condition when they use it? What is the functional need that your particular design, product or process aims to satisfy? This thinking process may be second nature to engineers, programmers and lawyers, but it's always been a challenge for me. That's why requirements, as a concept, has had such an impact on my ability to create value. Once you understand that filter, it's hard not to use it with everything you see.
As you do your creative work, think about how this thing you're making is going to improve someone's condition when they use it. It's not a requirement for innovation, but it sure helps the process. Are you just making things, or making people's conditions improved as a result?
Design products that are useful, not just cool
Use your work to make a material difference in people’s condition
Command higher fees and greater credibility from your audience
Expand your ability as a right brained, abstract creator to think in a logical, concrete way