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Deadlines: A love-hate relationship

“There is this trade show next month and we need to have a website live the week before. That’s not a problem, is it?” Of course it’s not a problem. Yes, we would have preferred to know about this sooner. Just like Christmas, this trade show probably occurs every year and chances are you did not find out about it just this week. We are flexible, though. We can switch resources around, hire freelancers, work extra hours. We are a digital agency and this is what we do. We meet your deadlines. In fact, I (and I don’t want to speak for all of my colleagues) I like deadlines. I need them. I don’t function well without restrictions on time and budget.

Learning from the game mechanics of basketball

In a recent episode of the “99% Invisible” podcast (do yourself a favor and subscribe to this wonderful little radioshow if you haven’t already) I learned that basketball used to be very slow. I am personally a baseball fan and often hear that people cannot stand it because “nothing ever happens”. Many of them like hockey and basketball because these are fast paced games. Until the 1950s, however, basketball players weren’t forced to play the ball. They could hold on to it if they were in the lead, running down the clock (which is sometimes an annoying part of soccer, another one of my favorite sports). Basketball games had final scores of 19:18 and TV networks weren’t going to broadcast games anymore because they were too boring.

Something had to be done and in 1954, the 24 second shot clock was invented by Danny Biasone, then owner of the Syracuse Nationals. How did he come up with 24 seconds? You can listen to the podcast to learn the details but basically he started with the prerequisite of 80 point scores, then divided up the game time by the number of shots a team would need to take in order to score those 80 points, thus creating a more exciting game. Players did not like this at first. After all, 24 seconds does not sound like much. But they adapted and now the audience gets to jump from their seats with every buzzer beater.

A shot clock for your brain storming sessions

Biasone’s method reminds me of our own process for project timings: clients have a deadline (mostly driven by external factors such as trade shows, just like the 48 minute duration of a game), we go backwards from there and calculate the time we have for each milestone. We deliver however much we can get done within that time. Of course there are quantitative restrictions. Your website cannot have the same amount of pages within a one month deadline as it could in six months (yes, that is true even if we were to put six times as many people on the job). But the quality of our work should never suffer from deadlines. And I believe it doesn’t have to. Creativity can thrive within restrictions.

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