As an entrepreneur, one of the most important investments I make is in my own learning. Having spent a year running a content marketing consultancy, I’ve learned more than I ever would have imagined about my clients’ pain points, the legalities of growing a new venture, and even accounting.
Across all of these disciplines, I’ve noticed the following trend — that with the proliferation of data and the pace at which information moves, information is becoming increasingly more difficult to communicate.
For years, I thought that learning to code would give me a competitive edge as a founder. I’ve been self-teaching principles of data science and programming for years, to the extent that I can confidently work with developers. When my CTO Justin joined my team as co-founder, however, I came to a touch realization: I was wasting both of our time by figuring out how to become an “expert programmer.”
The best way to increase my value as an entrepreneur would be to learn design.
1) Founders operate in a crowded space.
According to one stat, humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish. While I question the validity of this metric, I’m confident that it does speak to an overarching trend: With the proliferation of content, there’s a real need for companies and people to communicate information faster.
That’s why I write in short sentences and use sub-headings in my writing. Even still, I realize that there are more impactful ways to get my points across.
My co-founder and I decided that it doesn’t make sense to have two master programmers leading our organization. Rather, we are both taking steps — reading voraciously and taking courses — to learn principles of design. We feel that our biggest challenge is the ability to stand out in a crowded space and recognize ‘design thinking’ as a competitive differentiator.
2) Design adds a problem-solving perspective.
Running an early-stage company, my co-founder and I are often overwhelmed by the challenges we face. As our company grows, we want to ensure that we are creating thoughtful and sustainable foundations.
Our goal is to build an enduring organization that can function as a parent company for new ideas, experiments, products, and services. And often, the pursuit of this goal leads us to some very tough questions and junctions.
Early on in our working relationship, my co-founder and I would feel frustrated when we reached an impasse — including, but not limited to, figuring out where to start.
After consulting with fellow General Assembly instructor Christina Wodtke and participating in GA’s Visual Design course, I realized that design could solve some of these challenges.
In fact, my “breakthrough” happened on day three of the course, when our instructor hosted a session on creating mood boards. Something so simple allowed me to see my product idea come to life for the very first time.
3) Entrepreneurs communicate with many different stakeholders.
On a daily basis, I interface with CMOs, marketing analysts, product development leads, data scientists, engineers, IT teams, and even VCs. Working with so many different types of professionals, I often struggle to get the right information in the “right” form. When it comes to communicating information cross-functionally, text just doesn’t cut it.
While I still have a long path ahead as a design “expert,” I am taking baby steps to learn how to communicate information in a more impactful way. In my presentations, for instance, I find subtle ways to illustrate changes over time and causality. I also use design thinking principles to translate the stream of consciousness ideas into actionable next steps.
Design helps my co-founder and I put things on paper — to move important conversations along.
Ritika Puri is a storyteller, educator, and entrepreneur. She founded Storyhackers (a now-two-person team) to help companies create stronger relationships with customers through awesome content and copy. Ritika taught Blogging for Business at General Assembly in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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