Creativity is one thing, but capturing it into a form that’s useful (to your needs) is another. I’ve got an idea that I plan to implement for myself: mini process flows. Now, your jobs that you’ll need done are different than mine. I’ll just show you mine as examples, okay?

Process Flow Basics

Here are the basics of getting something done by way of a process flow:

Input – Work Performed – Output.

You start by taking _____ from someone or something. You do what you’re going to do to it. You give it out to wherever it’s going. The trick, of course, is mostly within the “work performed” section. You have to lay that out in such a way that it’s repeatable, and that you can follow along without much attention to the process after you get it working right. Let’s take a task I’m doing these days: producing a podcast.

More Than One Flow

First off, producing a podcast has lots of steps that deserve their own flows. Let me think:

  • Collect Information
  • Interview Someone
  • Record My Parts
  • Edit Audio
  • Mix audio
  • Write Show Notes
  • Produce the files
  • Upload Files to Host
  • Build Corresponding Show Notes Post

(Don’t worry. I won’t make a flow for each of those.)

Build the Flow

For my example, I’ll do “Produce the Files.”

Here’s an example of how a flow might work out-

  • Input- audio mix from GarageBand 3 still in Garage Band and Show Notes in Text Editor.
  • Work- Play through audio once, listening for big mistakes.
  • Send the file to iTunes.
  • Inside iTunes, select the file, choose Get Info.
  • Edit info, inserting show notes and links into Lyrics tab. Doublecheck art. Etc.
  • Choose “Convert File to MP3.”
  • Play the new MP3 file once it’s converted.
  • Move MP3 file to upload area.
  • Output- Upload Files to Host flow

That’s how that process flow works. I use GarageBand 3 to mix down the podcast (all the music tracks, the interview bit, my bumpers, my promos, etc), and then I use iTunes to convert the file from Apple’s proprietary file format into the easier-to-distribute and consume MP3 format.

The Benefit of Process Flows

So, if I had a small notebook with printed pages that said, “Podcast Production,” and that contained all the flows for the various steps listed above, I’d have a fairly easy set of Next Actions to follow to get my job done.

The BENEFIT of that is simple. I can choose to scale any part of my efforts that I can explain so easily in those process flows. For instance, what if I wanted to pay someone to do my editing, my mixing, my file production, and pretty much everything after the creative efforts? I could re-write the flow such that the entire “Produce the Files” flow could be sent off to someone else, and they could do pretty much everything else for the rest of the process.

Being able to disaggregate parts of the value chain means that I can choose to focus on different parts of the process, such as recording more audio, improving my techniques, etc. There are far better audio editors than me, but maybe I want my own style to show through in the interview process. Or maybe I don’t. I could give the flows for getting the recordings made to others, and then do the back-end work for them.

See how this can be useful?

Flows as Next Actions

Because flows have inputs and outputs, they act as somewhat larger Next Action moments within the project. You could choose to overlay contexts to the flows such that each Input section could show the contexts necessary. For instance, I can’t produce the files for a podcast while out at a coffee shop (not yet, at least). So, some consideration to that could be overlayed to deal with those concerns.

Further, because my work requires some amount of creativity, there are times when I’m not as ready to produce as others (no, really!). I can use those times to work other flows that are just as important, but aren’t as heavy on the brain power.

What’s your take? How would you add to this? Do you use anything like process flows in your day now?

–Chris Brogan is working on executing larger scale projects with increasing complexity using these types of process flows. His blog is [chrisbrogan.com], but don’t go there today. His new media company is Grasshopper New Media, where he just brought on Kevin Kennedy-Spaien as Executive Producer for Health Programming.

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