In which Data Group establishes procedure

May 29 2015

Working in the Lab is difficult and anything but glamorous. The concept of taking each day as it comes, with no predetermined procedure across the board, is attractive in theory but exhausting in execution.

Every morning, our team has to reestablish a new set of tasks for the day. What do we hope to accomplish? What are our tangible goals?*

Mornings slog, afternoons perk up with a bit of coffee and lunch, and then late in the day we slow down once more. How do we manage to be productive in the eight hours we spend at work?

The data te

The data team brainstorms with their client, Professor Ryan Thornburg. Photo by Samantha Harrington

We started by trying to understand each other as a team, and not just as a small group. Almost every morning we get together, two groups of four and one group of three, as one group of eleven: Reese News Lab.

John Clark, who spends most of his time on the sidelines as our cheerleader and advisor during the day, is our leader and mentor during this time. He offers up the same basic questions:

Are you okay? On a scale of 1-10, how much fun are you having? How can I help? Do you have any questions for me?

Our little group meetings may seem repetitive at times, but after a while brief, one-word answers become more fleshed out. We start to hit some of the problems that have been on our minds, even if we weren’t actively thinking about them.

“I just feel like I’m not sure what the purpose of the Lab is. What are we really trying to accomplish?”

“I’m worried I’m going to get stuck working on an idea I hate.”

Our mentors, John Clark and Sam Harrington, never imply that our questions will always have easy answers, or even that either of them will have answers for us at all.

Offering up our insecurities and worries to the group isn’t necessarily about getting answers, but about showing that we’re all in the same boat. There’s a special kind of team bonding that happens over the concept of I don’t know what I’m doing either.

We’re figuring it out as we go, but not without tools to guide us through the mess of trying to build something nobody else has before. By sitting down every morning and reestablishing our positions, we feel a little more confident to take on the day.

After our sit-down with the entire Lab, we break off into our specific groups.

This week, our group of four (the Data Group) has been using The Business Model Canvas, a template business model layout, to guide our daily activities.

Honing in on desirability of the product means focusing on three of the nine aspect of the canvas: value propositions, channels, and customer segments:

  • customer segments are the specific groups we think our product will be marketable to.
  • value propositions are what the customer segments will get out of the product. This is more than just “a cup of lemonade,” this is “quenching of thirst.”
  • channels are the ways in which we will deliver our product. In the case of the lemonade stand — a glass of lemonade!

The issue we then must solve is resolving our assumptions into truth through evidence. And that’s when we become journalists again.

So we pick up the phone, and we call people.
*we use SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.


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