When we’re in school deadlines are all over the place: tests, projects due, homework due, get to class on time, midterms, finals; everywhere you look you find deadlines. But once we get out into the business world deadlines can start to disappear and become a lot more fluid. This is especially true when it comes to innovation and we approach the unknown. Even when we lack the structure and venture into the unknown deadlines are still important and here’s three reasons you should use them, even with innovation.
- Deadlines force you to make decisions. When you have a deadline coming up be it anything from a trade show to a review meeting with your board of directors deadlines force you to a conclusion. They force you to make decisions and help prevent you from arguing over something that doesn’t matter for weeks on end.
- Sticking to deadlines lends credibility to your work. When you miss a deadline it sends a message to those outside of your team saying your work isn’t important. To customers it can hurt the integrity of your work because your word becomes fluff as you don’t hold them to a deadline. For those inside your company it sends the message that your work isn’t important enough to meet the deadline. If you’re not taking the time to focus on it why should they? Even just having something rough to show off or to stick to can alleviate this, it’s not about being perfect for the deadline it’s about having something to show.
- They help create structure and let you plan the unknown. When it comes to innovation we don’t know what we don’t know and trying to set a plan for the unknown can feel impossible. By setting a deadline we can help structure the unknown. We don’t know what it will take to reach that point or where we’ll be when the deadline comes but we have a point to work towards and a goal to achieve. Instead of wandering in the wilderness we can work towards a goal even when we’re not sure where we’re going.
Deadlines can be a great tool to help guide innovation and move you along the path from idea to delivery. But, just like any tool they can be used for good or evil. It’s important to keep in mind that while deadlines can offer structure there are times where it’s necessary to bend the rules and stretch deadlines to better fit the need or situation. You don’t want to be warden that holds you to the deadline by the second but you also don’t want to be the free spirit hippie that doesn’t set deadlines at all.