Accelerate Innovation

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Designers and developers work on different timelines—designers look to the future while developers build from what’s already been designed. They speak different languages and follow different processes. How can we bridge these gaps and build a more collaborative development process? This talk will showcase how design systems can improve communication between cross-functional teams—while boosting productivity and innovation.

10 min
02 Dec, 2022

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Video Summary and Transcription

Today's Talk focuses on accelerating innovation and the importance of solving the right problem. Design Thinking and the product life cycle are discussed as tools for product innovation. The R approach, which involves constant experimentation and learning, is introduced. The idea of syncing production components from storybook to Figma is explored. Finally, the Talk emphasizes the role of developers as the new creators, unlocking their powers to innovate.

Available in Español

1. Introduction and Background

Short description:

Today, I'm going to talk about accelerate innovation and give background about myself. I started working for a startup in San Francisco, which was later acquired by Google. I worked on Material Design and Google Search and Maps. Now, let's dive into the topic of innovation.

How's everyone doing today? Woo! All right. So today I'm going to talk about accelerate innovation. What that is. All right. Before that, I'm going to give background about myself. My name is Christobal Chao. I come from New York City. As you can tell, I have an accent. I'm from Spain. Sorry about what happened yesterday in soccer. The World Cup. Sorry, Germans. It was terrible. We should have won, but something happened, guys. Sorry. Anyways.

So ten years ago I went to San Francisco and I started working for a startup. Was a front-end company. I was the first engineer. And a year later, Google acquired the company. And I was the only engineer as part of this acquisition. It was a tough bet. But I had the opportunity to work for Material Design. And I helped build version one and version two. After that, I worked for Google Search and Maps, evangelizing component systems. three years ago, I moved to New York. And I started my own front end studio. So yeah, this is myself. And today we're going to talk about innovation.

So as you may know, every day there are millions and millions of ideas.

2. Importance of Solving the Right Problem

Short description:

But only very few of them are successful. You may want to ask yourself, if you have an idea, that if you are actually solving the right problem? Let me share a story. This is 1959. Henry Cramer came with this question, like can an airplane fly power only by the pilot's body power? So he offered £100,000 to whoever can cross a canal over 3 kilometers. Ten years later, no one has figured that out yet. But Paul McGrady came to play with this question. How can you build a plane that could be rebuilt in hours, not months? In six months only, he was actually able to cross the canal over three kilometers. The story is called You are Solving the Ground Problem. It was published by the Stanford University of Innovation. I highly recommend it. Take a look. It's a pretty cool story. But I think the most important part here is how important are quick iterations to understand the problem better and better. And now we're talking about digital products, right? So what happens with digital products?

But only very few of them are successful. You may want to ask yourself, if you have an idea, that if you are actually solving the right problem? And probably not. The reason being is, we are all constrained by our, of our old bias and experiences. And that actually takes us away from the right problem.

Let me share a story. This is 1959. Henry Cramer came with this question, like can an airplane fly power only by the pilot's body power? It was crazy, right? Like almost a century ago, someone asked this question, like flying, like a bike that flies. Like E.T., right? So he offered £100,000 to whoever can cross a canal over 3 kilometers. So big players were there. NASA, and other big companies. As well as individuals. Ten years later, no one has figured that out yet. It's crazy, right? Ten years. They were investing a lot of money into this. They were failing again and again. But the thing is, every single project was taking too long to put together a bike that flies. Like months. Even years. 18 years later, no one has figured that out yet. But Paul McGrady came to play with this question. How can you build a plane that could be rebuilt in hours, not months? So with this perspective, he was actually able to create a bike that flies and fix it every day a few times in a matter of hours. So he could validate his assumptions super, super quickly. In six months only, he was actually able to cross the canal over three kilometers. The story is called You are Solving the Ground Problem. It was published by the Stanford University of Innovation. I highly recommend it. Take a look. It's a pretty cool story. But I think the most important part here is how important are quick iterations to understand the problem better and better.

And now we're talking about digital products, right? So what happens with digital products? So again, Stanford University comes with this system.

3. Design Thinking and Product Innovation

Short description:

Design Thinking starts with empathizing with the user, defining a solution, ideating, prototyping, and testing. The product life cycle progresses from paper to wireframes, low fidelity, high fidelity, fully functional, and product. Building the product takes a long time, especially in big companies. Developers can start innovating at the very beginning.

You probably have heard of. It's called Design Thinking. And it starts with empathizing with the user, defining a solution, ideating, prototyping, and testing. And the idea is you want to quickly iterate over those assumptions. And learn from every single test. Every iteration is an experiment. And as you know, Albert Einstein came with this quote. And he's a big experimental learner. Right? But, anyways, so, what happens with the product?

We look at the life cycle of any product. It starts with paper. You can have your idea and you can draw it very quickly and put it in front of users and get some sort of validation. But probably it's not gonna be that accurate. Right? The higher we go, wireframes, low fidelity, high fidelity, fully functional, and product, we're gonna get better feedback. Right? The product is the highest level feedback. That's the real deal. Right? That's when we get punched in the face. Right? But how long does it take to get there? Right? That's the longest. Right? Building the product takes a long time. Especially if you're in a big company. The larger the company, the longer it takes to get there. Right?

So, if we look at ourselves as developers, we're building the product. Right? Innovation happens before than that. And that is what the designers are doing. Right? They are iterating. They are innovating. And we are building what they give us. Right? So, if we look at this, and then... Sorry. But... What if we change a little bit things and we reverse this paradigm? Where developers can start innovating at the very beginning.

4. The R Approach and Syncing Production Components

Short description:

This is what I call the R approach. Kids are the fastest learners in the world because they constantly experiment and learn. Today, we have component systems that allow us to have reusable components. Anima is exploring the idea of syncing production components from storybook to Figma, enabling easy prototyping with real products.

This is what I call the R approach. Or you can call it React approach, or whatever. I'm looking for names. Because I think this is terrible. And it comes with this idea of having a kid's mindset. Kids are the fastest learners in the world. And you may want to ask why, right?

Kids are constantly experimenting with different things. They don't care. They break things apart. They put things together. And they keep learning. That's why I have an accent, right? I learned English when I was an adult. So... I keep it.

In any case, today we have component systems, right? And components systems allow us to have reusable components. Which actually give us a lot of time to actually start experimenting, right? React components. That's the main philosophy of the React system, right? But this is a step farther than that. Which is... Which started happening pretty early. There is a company called Anima, which is exploring, going to the next level.

And the idea is if you have your production component in a storybook, you can actually sync this to Figma and have all the properties sync from storybook to Figma. How cool that is, right? If we look at this, in just one click from our storybook component, we can get all the different variations of our component in Figma. So instead of looking for CSS properties, we are now looking at React components, right? There is some delay here. Sorry, guys. And I think the biggest thing here is actually the ability to be able to prototype with production components. At the end of the day, this is the highest quality feedback that we can get before product. But it's actually the feeling of having a real product. Until now, it's 2022. And Figma hasn't figured out yet, right? Having an input field. That's impossible these days right now in Figma.

5. Unlocking Developer Powers for Innovation

Short description:

We start with simple components, validate our ideas, and then move on to bootstrap or material UI. In a recent workshop, we created a component system in a storybook with more than seven components in less than three hours. This marks a new phase where developers are the new creators, unlocking our powers to innovate.

So yeah, this is pretty cool stuff, guys. So how do we start, right? So we're gonna start with simple components that we have already. HTML5 already give us, like, those component systems for free. Right? I mean, they're pretty ugly. But we're gonna start validating our ideas, right? Then we can go a little bit higher than that, with bootstrap or material UI.

Like, three days ago, I had a workshop, and in less than three hours, we put together a component system in a storybook with more than seven components. And we send that back to Figma. So we can start innovating.

Anyways, guys, this is the last thing I want to say. We are entering a new phase where developers are the new creators, right? Now we can unlock these powers that we have, and instead of spending so much time building things, we can also start innovating. All right, guys, thank you so much.

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