Virgin America and how to take risks - Joe Stewart, Work&Co
Make sure to check for part 2 too. As we had a very pleasant and long talk with Joe, I had to split the interview.
In this episode, I talked with Joe Stewart who is a designer and founding partner of Work&Co. Recently, Fast Company named Work & Co to its 10 Most Innovative Companies in Design list for 2017. His personal client list includes Apple, Virgin America, YouTube, Target, & Rapha. He also was named to the Fast Company Most Creative People in the industry.
In this part, we talked about what it takes to build the best agency in town and how Work&Co and does it. How they hire great people, how to get the best out of people, what is so innovative about their company and approach to work and why Fortune 100 companies trust them with their work.
If you know the famous Virgin America redesign, then you know Joe, as he was the guy responsible for their website redesign. We touched a bit the process, how did Virgin increase their conversion by 16%. Why a great user experience is important and how they did it for Virgin. And more important, how to take risks when you work on this type of big projects.
During the interview, when deconstructing on how he did the Virgin America website redesign we went deep into what it really takes to build a valuable product. And to sum up the entire podcast for you, it comes down to 3 points:
Take risks on any type of project.
Product and business strategy is key in order to create a valuable product.
Generate great ideas to succeed but there is no pattern for it.
The value of taking risks
Most of us are usually shy when it comes to making decisions or even risks. It’s because either we are not used to it, or with age, we become more and more cautious about what got us there. So what did we learn from Joe Stewart? Always test early and the riskiest stuff. Test something that you think nobody will go with or nobody will choose because it does not come natural etc. In this way, you can truly see if the idea was true or not. In the worst case, that thing you are testing will not work and you can always go back to the safe version.
For example, when working on Virgin America new website redesign, they testes the craziest features you would think of. And in the end, they all have been a surprise on how well the audience responded to it.
Taking risks for the right reasons is the way to go. Understanding what the business goals are and think about how you can stand out in this competitive market. You can achieve those goals in the very boring way which everybody does, or you can take risks and create something memorable. And maybe it won’t achieve your business goals, but it will create your exposure. You can either way or do both at the same time. That’s where the magic is, and it’s the hardest part to do.
Product and business strategy is the key
It’s almost always about product and business strategy if want to create a valuable product. So many products on the market don’t deserve to exist. Why? Because people open companies or create apps only for the sake of having one. You can have something look like shit, but if it has a good strategy and it solves a real need, it is going to stick with people.
Let’s take Craiglist as an example. In the modern age, it’s a pain for the eyes. But it is brilliant because it solves a real problem. The classifications made in late 90’s in newspapers just were inefficient, silly and stupid and then they came along and changed the game. And that is a good strategy. Or look at the Google homepage, there is nothing there. Just a logo and a box. It’s not a brilliant design, it’s genius strategy.
In the end, you have to answer the question: What people really want? And give it to them. That’s it. And that is a great strategy. So if you do that one simple task, and give people what they really want and combine that with a pleasant experience, you have won the game.
There is no magic pill for great ideas
There is no step by step instructions on how to get great ideas. And it is a hard pill for the people to swallow. In order to get ideas on how to solve a problem you need to customise the process to the problem you are solving. You need the skillset and the knowledge you gatherd in the past to create something for the future. So you can rely on it if you get stuck. But to say that there is an A,B,C,D for the process, you are just fooling yourself. It is a good way to sell stuff, but in the end, it’s a lie.
So for example, we all know that we have to figure out the strategy of a product or service in the beginning, before starting working on it. But sometimes, you simply have no clue on what the strategy is, so what you could do is start figuring out the strategy by building the product/service through multiple iterations until it comes along. And as you are working on it, you are forced to think about, what it is and maybe something will bubble on top. And it’s a great strategy.
Another example, which is also a completely opposite strategy to the previous one is to build the strategy and the product simultaneously. You also involve the key stakeholders along the way and get their ideas and in the end, it comes along. And it’s not that one strategy is better than the other but it is having stuff you can fall back on. Or just having a place to start.
In the end, there are patterns, there are things you can fall back on, there is a process but in the end it all changes. You must take risks in order to create something new and memorable, but as you grow it will get harder and harder to achieve something great. So you will have to be more flexible and come back to these points as often as possible. And I would like to finish this article with a quote from a cyclist:
Cycling never gets easier, it just gets faster. - Greg Lemond