Looking back on 2015 - Futuforce awakens

Ville Tervo • Lead UX/UI Designer

2015 was my first full year working at Futurice - and what a year it has been! A new job rarely comes without new challenges, but the ones I’ve encountered have been the kind that nurture instead of torture.

My work history is versatile. I’ve worked as freelancer, as inhouse graphic designer and as allround designer in different sized digital companies. To recap and self-reflect, I thought it would be appropriate to compare my experiences this year with my career so far.

What would be a more hip and cool (no, not nerdy; cool) way to do it than giving it a Star Wars twist?

Rebels vs. Empires (not necessarily evil, though)

Every time a domain undergoes a transformation, there’s a struggle to break deep-rooted and sometimes obsolete ways of working. New methods and ideas often meet strong dissent from both old-fashioned operators and stagnant clients. Usually the struggle tends to follow the plot arc of classic battles between rebellious newcomers and well-established empires. The rebels are idealistic and able to execute agile maneuvers; the big players have more money, but it takes time to turn the humongous monolith around.

Corporate monoculture often appears as an opposite to the flat management style that is cherished in new businesses. Even though Futurice has approximately 250 employees, people are divided into smaller sections called tribes. I’m not a big fan of the connotations, but the practical use makes it worth the cloddish name. Instead of banging bongo drums and worshipping a golden robot, the division into tribes means that people work in more or less self-regulated and somewhat autonomous groups. At its best it actually feels like working in a small and cozy start-up company, but with all the corporate benefits.

Even though communication between sites and tribes can get a bit tricky, I’ve never felt that corporate habits or bureaucracy got in the way of everyday work. I actually feel like I’m fighting shoulder to shoulder with other agile and independent rebels just like me!

Don’t go solo, take a Wookie with you

Nothing happens in a silo anymore. Even if you’re a freelancer and doing stuff by yourself, you’ll still probably use frameworks, snippets and assets designed by other people. Everything is connected and crafting something from zero to finished product without any outside help is practically impossible.

Project teams are multidisciplinary and include people from both our and the client’s organization. The old and worn-out advice of keeping things small, thus having more control over things, doesn’t really apply anymore. It requires so many different abilities to pull off productive results that no one has the capacity to handle them all.

What I’ve found invaluable during the last year are the people around me. Futurice is home to an incredible group of talented designers who are all available for me to learn and benefit from. Imagine a high stakes workshop with a client. The subject is complex and you don’t have a lot of experience with the chosen methods. This sort of leap of faith feels almost pleasant if you can do it with someone carrying the right type of aces up their sleeves. With the current 40+ designers we have, the right person is just a phone call away at almost any given hour.

Disrupt to create new

The evil Empire in Star Wars obviously needs some serious agile coaching. Every time a state-of-the art battle station is ready, the rebels somehow obtain the complete blueprint and find a fatal weak spot. But that’s just part of the story. There are always barriers and impediments to tackle before access to the newfound vulnerability is gained. Often only one kind of tool is able to penetrate a shield or reach a target.

After working with Futurice for a while now, the rebels’ operational mode doesn’t sound that far fetched. It actually applies on two different levels:

  1. Helping clients find new approaches to problems and business ideas
  2. Improving and iterating existing products or ways of working

What differs us from the rebels and prevents us from just shooting in the dark is the usage of meaningful frameworks. It has been fascinating to observe the development of Lean Service Creation toolkit that Futurice now uses to find the target to aim at.

In short, the LSC toolkit combines validated methods from design thinking, agile development and traditional business planning, creating an easy-to-follow framework for ideation. The past year I was lucky enough to participate in a few projects that were launched with LSC and damn they kick ass!

Sometimes it’s necessary to blow something up in order to create new. It’s very comforting to know that the aim is right before pulling the trigger, don’t you agree?

Join the force!

I guess it would be a bit over the top to juxtapose different operators to different sides of the force. I’ll just say that this year has sealed my decision to change from a smaller agent into a bigger, truly design-oriented one.

The digital world has come to realize that it needs designers now more than ever before. It has been thrilling to find myself working in a community that’s able to deliver world class end-results, with an ability to continuously improve itself instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

I feel like we have a few death stars to blow up in 2016!

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