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SXSW Interactive 2015

DesignOps Skunkworks: Shoes for the Cobbler’s Kids

We’ve all worked at places where there’s never enough time to make sure that things are operationally done the “right way”—bills need to get paid, billable work needs to get done and takes priority, and hey, everyone deserves to have a life, too. Companies like Atari, Ford, Microsoft and Google, have accomplished great things by utilizing skunkworks approaches. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some successes with skunkworks, as well, and will share them so you can see how to apply the approach(es) to your own practice.

Way back in the 1940s, Kelly Johnson and his team of mighty skunks used their Skunkworks process to design—and build—a prototype jet fighter in 143 days. Kelly established 14 Rules and Practices for Skunkworks projects in order to help articulate the most effective way for his team to be successful in the projects that they worked on. We can also use skunkworks to ensure that the Cobbler’s kids—operational areas of design—get shoes put on their feet.

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  1. What is this Skunkworks thing you mentioned?
  2. What are Kelly Johnson's Skunkworks Rules and how can I apply them to my design practice?
  3. What have other companies done that are considered skunkworks and how were they successful?
  4. How can skunkworks be used in our current work practices?
  5. How can skunkworks be used to help accomplish the ever-growing stack of non-priority (yet still very important) projects that are important to me and my team?



Russ Unger, Experience Design Director, GE Capital Americas

Meta Information:

  • Tags: design
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Solo
  • Track: Design and Development
  • Level: Intermediate
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