I quit my job at Razorfish in 2001 because I wasn't included in the strategic decisions of a project. One of the client partners (Business guy) who will go unnamed had me removed from a super cool project because we were not aligned on the design vision of the project. Of course the managing director being a former McKinsey consultant agreed with him. A week after that I requested a three-month sabbatical knowing that I would never return to Razorfish.
What went wrong? For one I felt undervalued and stabbed in the back. Most importantly, the solution that the business team came up with was short-sided, superficial and just wrong. How do I know? The client complained for years after how they got a raw deal. (I have insider knowledge into the client.)
The worst part and something that I am still completely ASHAMED of to this day - because I did not have the courage to stand up for what was right - is that I fired the designer who was doing the design on the project. He was doing the right thing. And he knew it. And I knew it. There are few things that as a creative director I regret, and that is one of them. It makes me nearly cry writing this when I think that my six- year career at Razorfish ended this way.
I believe that every experience happens to teach you a lesson. This experience taught me one thing, I NEVER wanted to be in that position again. I spent the next 10 years fighting with every bone in my body to design a process for large digital (Read websites, apps, etc.) projects that was fair to everyone. Both to the client or business stakeholders and to the team. I paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to train my team in Agile. I paid tens of thousands of dollars to train myself and my senior team in strategic management courses. I partnered and hired fancy USC MBAs to develop an amazing easy-to-use strategic process that was designed for us, designed with one purpose: to have me (a super flakey creative) be able to conduct the strategic planning process and really own relationship with my client. I became indispensable to my clients.
Al Gore, Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Thomas Keller plus over 30 startups all partnered with me because I was an good designer, but more importantly because I could guide them in the right direction, towards success. In the process I grew my agency 999% in three years, got into the Inc. 500, got to work with some of the best people in the world and had a ton of fun.
The process of which I speak is what we now call CORE. What is CORE? It's simple: it's a strategic planning process designed for the "world’s flakiest designer" (I prefer passionate creative, thank you) for other designers. That's it.
The results? Pure awesome. The designers and clients you hear raving about it aren't brainwashed or crazy. They tried it. And it worked. And now they can't do without it. Chris Do even admitted at one point that he questioned whether he should share it with anyone because it was too good.
We created the process for that one designer, creative director, UX designer, in-house designers, agency principal, creative director or web developer who feels undervalued, who feels like I did back in those days.
This is a revolution. This is coup d'etat. This is a wake up call to all of you out there who feel the same way. We are taking control of boardrooms all over America by learning what we did not learn in design school.
As designers we often aren't included in the decision making. In order to be included we need to understand how to drive the process. In order to drive the process we need to know how to facilitate.
Do you have a similar story? Share it. We would love to hear it.