Building with a Madman

The ‘madman’ is the first persona (step) of the creating process. It’s also my favorite – it’s full of newness, excitement, confidence, and every once and a while you get to let out your best mad-scientist laugh.  

The madman doesn’t play by the rules. The madman has a goal and will do whatever it takes to get there with gusto. The madman is full of energy. The madman doesn’t think like a normal person. The madman doesn’t need to justify his actions.

There are several tricks to tackling this persona in a useful way. You have to remove all doubt. It’s always tempting to second-guess yourself :‘what if this doesn’t work?’ ‘there’s a more elegant way to do this,’ ‘this hasn’t been analyzed yet.’ These thoughts are just a giant creativity killjoy – you have to have trust in yourself and the process – the other personas will be plenty critical when their time comes.

The cheaper the process, in terms of both time and money, the more suited it is to the Madman.  That’s why computer processes, like writing/planning and simulating are especially appealing at this stage. However! I’m convinced that if your project isn’t entirely virtual, neither should your madman

Since everything you do in the real world requires –some- amount of planning (if only where to get the parts and how to tape them together) there is also some amount of necessary activation energy. The trick is finding the smallest, most iterable implementations that minimize that activation energy so you just DO IT. Otherwise you run the risk of planning paralysis.

The opposite danger is that you can get lost in the depths of your own madness. That is, if you spend too much of your time in the madman phase, you run the risk of giving short shrift to the other personas. (Aside: does anybody use the word ‘shrift’ without some synonym of ‘short’ in front of it?) After all, you don’t want yourself, customer, team or anybody else to be stuck using something that actually looks or performs as if a madman made it.

So what are you waiting for? Stop reading and go!

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