Demo or it doesn’t exist

A year or two ago I read “Creative Selection,” a book that gives some insight into how Apple operated internally during the “golden age” of Steve Jobs. It’s a worthwhile read if you’re into that sort of thing, but one thing stuck with me that is relevant if you’re not: Apple’s demo culture. Many of the interactions described in the book center around demoing stuff to the Steve.

Demos: visually showing what’s the state of affairs. Even if that involves running a curl command in a terminal. Diagrams, JIRA tickets, pull requests are abstract, demos make things concrete.

In my mind demos serve many purposes simultaneously:

  1. They create an early feedback opportunity: by showing what you got, others can immediately give their input and adjust direction as required. And chances are you will get a “wow, that’s so cool!” type of response, which is motivating.
  2. They create visibility on progress made: even if things don’t work flawlessly (and it’s perhaps even more valuable if they don’t), they give a sense of progress. Especially in a remote setup where you don’t randomly glance over a colleague’s screen and see what they’re working on, this is valuable.
  3. They naturally lead to focus: “I need to demo this thing on Monday, how do I get this project into a shape so I can show something?”

Things are always changing. You move into projects, move out of others. How do you quickly get your bearings? How do you quickly get a sense of where things are? I’m in a spot like that (once again), and for me, without exception these moments happened this week the moment people hit that “Share screen” button.

“Wow, that’s cool! Now I get it, let’s ship this thing!”

People are visual creatures, so show them what you got. Practice hitting that “Share screen” button, and using the phrase “you know what — let me just show it to you.”

Demo demo demo demo.

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