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Strategy Sesh @SoDA

Posted on Monday, 19th October, 2015

Last week I spent a few days at the inaugural SoDA Academy held at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn which featured a well curated 2-day curriculum of content designed by Farrah Bostic (brilliant planner/strategist).

A lot of people sometimes say conferences are a waste of time, especially the didactic kind where people talk at you for 2 days (eg: snooze fest)—however SoDA was designed as an immersive, workshop style—my fav.

It’s all about what you want to get out of it. I often attend professional summits/sessions for these 3 reasons:

  1. Validate what I’m currently doing is on point
  2. Uncover micro trends, cultural shifts and new approaches to solving creative business challenges
  3. Meet new people (it’s ALWAYS about the people)

A few takeaways…..


Day 1: Strategy Track

I picked a dedicated track for my area of interest- naturally I chose strategy, led by Farrah and Steve Wages.

1) Validating the important role of developing insights.
You can’t develop insights without the (right) type of research. Fav quote of the day from Farrah: “My biggest pet peeve is when people generalize ‘collecting insights’….like they are small trinkets you find underneath the couch or something”. SO TRUE. Respect the process, sh** takes work!

insights ;/



2) Categorizing what type of strategy you work in.
A simple way to give tangible meaning to something sometimes seen as “fluffy”.

types of strategy


 3) Definition for insight, strategy and tactics.
Highly subjective, yet a great small group exercise to come to consensus on the 11 second elevator definition.

definition of strategy



4) Lastly- the death of personas for digital experiences / product development.
Too attitudinal and not behavioral enough, doesn’t allow for environmental shifts, not directional enough for UI designers. RIP. Couldn’t agree more.



Day 2:  “How to Sell Strategy” and
“How to Design Great Products”


“How to Sell Strategy” was again led by Farrah and Steve.

“Selling” strategy is a challenge- whether internal or external (especially if you are not BCG or McKinsey). It’s a highly nuanced exercise depending on what type of aforementioned “strategy” you work in- there is no playbook for how to do this. Do you sell “line-itemed tangible deliverables” or “strategic value” baked into projects? Either approach is more/less effective depending on your type of agency and clients.

I’m not certain I came away with a better approach to “sell” anything; however I definitely validated that I ask the right questions to solve creative business challenges (which is 1/2 the battle in crafting how you will develop and deliverable an actionable strategy).

asking the right questions


selling strategy


“How to Design Great Products”
A passion of mine, and where the industry is headed (timely post here on that subject) led by Larry Johnson and Andrew Howlett.

This session was lively- and allowed us an opportunity to discuss the difference between product and platform (often a semantical circus depending on where you work).

product vs platform


Overall, this session pretty much validated every approach I’ve taken for the last 2 years, which was great. A few best practices to note:


1) Designing the Right Product Concept—winning strategic ideas live at the intersection of what the customer wants and what assets the business focuses on, or wants to scale to include.

where great product ideas come from



2) Good ideas die in decks —SO TRUE. You can’t ideate on your own. Get in a room with the right people and develop them together! When you gain team consensus, people will recite the value prop of the concept for you, with little to no effort b/c they played a part in developing and owning it.

workshops rule


Wrap up

Worth noting: the people in attendance were a solid group. Diverse. Transparent. Honest. Curious. Creative.

A great “first draft” as Farrah and Steve eloquently noted. Looking forward to staying in touch with the group for future collaboration.



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