Ram Castillo, MercerBell’s Digital Design Lead, was one of the creatives invited to speak at the Australian Graphic Design Association’s closing event for the 2018 Sydney Design Festival.

The theme of the festival was “Call To Action”, looking at the role design has to play in an ever-changing work and how it helps all communications professionals become more purposeful in their choices.

Below is an edited version of Ram’s talk at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on how to make more effective and practical decisions when starting or creating something new:

Over the last five years, I’ve spoken at over 60 events around the world, published two books, written over 200 blog posts and launched a podcast. It’s absolutely exhausting, but one thing I’ve realised is that to create anything truly worthwhile, there’s always a price to pay for any type of positive impact to occur – usually it’s the trade-off between being comfortable and being uncomfortable.

As exhausting as it can be to take action – mentally, physically, financially and emotionally – we do what we do, whether we design, create, strategise, problem solve, because we believe that there is some chance, that somewhere, someone could be positively impacted by our contribution.

I believe that it is in the act of making a decision that truly move people and ecosystems forward. Below is a framework that I use, along with some examples of decisions I’ve made when creating – it’s worked well for me that and you may want to adopt.

For many people, they may have a heart-squeezing, purpose-driven idea that they haven’t started yet, but they will – in the near future, when the time is right, when circumstance permit and all the ducks are in a row. We’ve all been there to some degree haven’t we?

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The three second window

In my experience, the space between starting – and not starting – is literally a three second window. In those three seconds we’re free. After those three seconds, we’re screwed. Logic sets in and our mind catches up with us. We begin thinking about the likelihood versus un-likelihood of something succeeding.

As designers, we are famously good at reverse engineering outcomes. The problem is, we can map out a journey so far ahead, that we don’t start at all. We can often – get crippled by pondering. So I’d like to share, some practical advice, that could combat any of that.

Often that self-sabotaging comes from demons in your head. Likely, the same ones that were in mine that said you’re not good enough, you’re not qualified, you’re not worthy. Because a big part of our belief, undeniably – is shaped by our upbringing and environment; the people, places and things we surround ourselves with.

For instance, I was born in the Philippines, migrated to Australia when I was eight months old. I was never the most wealthy, never the most intelligent, always the shortest in school, never the most athletic and never the most good looking (as surprising as that may seem!).

But thanks to my parents and mentors, I’ve found that making faster and smarter decisions – paired with persistence and good intentions – does lead to positive impact.

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The O-C-R-A-L-I framework

One of the decision making frameworks that I use is called O-C-R-A-L-I. It stands for:

  • Objectives – define the intention and desired result.
  • Choices – get clear on the ways and directions to achieve it.
  • Repercussions – outline the pros and cons.
  • Assess – determine the likelihood of those pros and cons from occurring.
  • Lessen – uncover the ways of mitigating risks and the downsides.
  • Implement – decide and take immediate action.

This framework has helped me in both micro and macro decision making. From deciding what to cook for dinner, to designing future transport experiences.

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Staying in decision-making limbo can be crippling. Some refer to this as ‘analysis paralysis’. The reality is, not making a decision is too, a decision. We’re all in pole position to make more positive impact in some capacity – designer or not.

I’ve said in the past, don’t aim to make a million dollars, aim to help a million people. Embrace the iteration process. Do what you can, with what you have. Seek to serve first and everything will follow. Starting with the decision to take action.

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