monkey tools vs. a monkey using tools

Here is a monkey using tools…

Years ago I asked Victor Lombardi what he looked for in an information architect (my chosen term for what I did at the time). His response stuck with me — “I look for people who get stuff done.” Since then I have been learning what it takes to get things done in our business.

It begins with process:
A defined process is important to create buckets where the stuff that happens anyway can happen comfortably. But process breaks down the more strictly it is followed and is downright dangerous in the wrong hands.

In between the boxes of a process, between each of the 5 or 4 ‘D’s there are challenges that cannot truly be anticipated. Variables include a combination of people, how those people feel about each other, ideas and the timing of those ideas. That is where monkey tools come in.

Everything in between is monkey-tools:
We are less-furry(in most cases) monkeys hacking together tools in order to communicate a deliberately-designed and functioning experience. Every project has a single goal – implement the best solution for all parties involved. Example: Most profitable to a business, while most useful, desirable and usable to the consumer, etc. The path we take to get there is rarely the same no matter how well defined our process is.

  • Deliverables: I have never had two projects that required the exact same set of deliverables. That’s because the narrative has to constantly change based on the characters involved and the end goal. The technically-minded sponsor for the last project gives way to the visually-driven executive at the next. The story arch for any project requires trying out different ways of expressing the problems, opportunities, risks and solutions. Even something as common as a wireframe may have to take on a different level of detail, or even a different kind of organization scheme to communicate the experience. I’ve created some decks with a very modular and technical approach and some with a more use-case-driven, narrative approach.
  • Undeliverables: These are the tools that experience designers create on the fly to help them break down a problem and eventually find a solution. These are often not even shared with a client or even other team members. Excel spreadsheets and the like.

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