The recent NBA draft got me thinking, what does this have to do with design? You might think, “nothing” since American team sports and designers in general don’t seem to mix, maybe its that “I’m an artist” vs. “I’m a team player” mentality, but that’s for another post.
Work with me here for a sec. Let’s look at some NBA draft results over the course of a few years.
Atlanta Hawks – 2005 – Selected Marvin Williams ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul
Detriot Pistons -2003 – Selected Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Golden State Warriors – 1996 – Selected Todd Fuller over Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash
Los Angeles Clippers – 1988 – Selected Michael Olowokandi ahead of Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitki, Paul Pierce
And arguably, the biggest mistake…
Portland Trailblazers – 1984 – Selected Sam Bowie ahead of Micheal Jordan
The process of the NBA draft is full of analysis. Players come in for workouts (testing prototypes), lots of statistics (intensive research), analysis on how they fit as part of the team (portfolio analysis), then ultimately making the selection (placing the bet on the product). The “companies” spend 2-3 years doing this research on any given player.
Look above again, all that testing, research and ultimately, placing the bet on how to move forward, sometimes, just doesn’t pay off. Look at how many “bets” ended up as busts.
The Design connection: lots of research, data and testing doesn’t always pay off, especially if the data is wrong (duh, but lots of people don’t realize they are looking at just bad data), as in the examples above. Even if the research was right, just seems like there are so many other factors that can turn things upside down that data doesnt seem to uncover. What’s the current economic condition? What’s the competition doing? Did your product have a hidden flaw? Your product tested well, but just didn’t perform in the real world, that’s full of so many unknowns. But that’s what’s great about life, it always throws you a curve. (sorry for the mixed sports metaphor)
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate research, but i also think you can’t go overboard and you can’t let that drive every last decision you make.