115. How we turn ideas into projects

I’ve been asked to share what our professional process is. This post is an attempt at that.

Every company is different. Ours mainly does larp events – either our own or for others. Here’s a short run-through of how we do things. If it’s our own event, the first steps can happen anywhere. If it’s for a customer, it’ll usually take place after the initial contact has been made, and is a bit more defined.

But with no further ado – this is how we do a lot of our work. ;-)

The Loose Talk

The first step is usually very informal. Somebody will say “Why don’t we do a larp about the Three Musketeers?”, and then others will get that glazed look of “Yeaaaaah… why don’t we?”.

At this phase, it takes a project leader to say “Ok, let’s talk about this”, and get the ball moving. Most loose talk doesn’t lead anywhere, but some conversations lead to…

The Rough Idea

A few people sit down and start throwing around ideas. “Hmm… maybe it should be set during a war between England and France”, “We want people to have dramatic swordfights” and that sort of thing.

General decisions are made, and some glimmer of a skeleton of the event is fleshed out. Are we talking four days? An evening? 20 participants? 1000? Things go fast at this stage, and if people are still on fire, it develops into…

The Workable Concept

Here, some structure is decided upon. The idea is defined more and it gets to the phase where it can be explained to outsiders and get them excited.

If we’re working with partners, this is where a pitch is put together. We sometimes work with internal pitches as well, but not always. Once the concept is clear to everyone involved, we go to…

The Overall Plan

If we need to make a Polish castle into a French 1628 chateau, it’ll require work. We need to promote the event, so we get participants. Design work beyond the general needs to take place.

One way of doing this is with a mountain of post-its and an open session, where we look at all the tasks involved. Responsibilties and project structure is agreed upon, before moving on to…

The Detailed Steps

There are usually a LOT of these. Designing a website is not a one-step process, and can require a lot of people (or a few highly skilled ones). Logistics plans don’t make themselves.

During this phase, things go into the nitty-gritty. An experienced team with clear roles can go into action mode here very quickly, with everyone knowing what to do. Still, it always requires..

The Live Tweaking

Even the best laid plans get into trouble once they meet reality. Your costume supplier has closed down shop, so a new one is needed. Food turns out to be a hassle. Stuff happens.

New projects always involve a lot of tweaking – unless you’re mostly working with factors that you control 100%. Still, either with or without tweaking, at some point it’s time for…

The Actual Execution

Whether it’s a larp event, a conference or a game-in-a-box that needs to ship, there’s a phase where things are running/flying/being done. It can be short or it can be long, but it’s there.

During the execution phase, it’s important to keep a clear head and make the best of things. Complex events almost always involve a certain level of chaos. It’s ok. You can talk fixes in…

The Post-project Evaluation

It can be informal, or it can be structured. It can take place in the project group or between individuals. But after each project is done, it’s human nature to talk about improvement ideas.

Since we have a stable production team, our evaluations are almost always focused on what we learned and what we can use moving forward. Sometimes it even leads to…

The Knowledge Sharing

Every time you do a project you learn. But it’s not always that the learning becomes codified and spread throughout the organisation/project group/community. It takes effort!

When we find the time and energy, we do our best to distill the knowledge gained and share it with both each other and allies/communities. That way, it makes it easier to…

The Next Time

Smarter, better, faster, smoother, and so on. Each event is also a live fire test of the concept, and once you’ve done one, it’s much easier to do it again. Iteration cycles and all that jazz.

At the end of the day, innovation is hard. Taking elements, processes and ideas from previous projects makes things much easier. Do something enough, and you become an expert.

The same goes for this process. Having done this many, many, MANY times, I’m pretty good at going through the steps fast. And though each project is different, there are approached and experiences that can be copied and reused.

You don’t have to invent the wheel every time!

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