How Daydreaming Can Help You With a Roadmap Planning

Nandini Dutt

Engineering Manager at Facebook



Creativity plays an important role in many aspects of engineering. Most essentially both creativity and engineering produce innovative solutions to all the different problems we encounter. Yet, engineers are frequently overwhelmed with the workload that prevents them to unlock their creative potential. However, there are days when things slow down and they can engage in more creative activities.

Actions taken

First, you have to attain clarity on purpose. Everything else follows from that. Think from a business perspective. Start with a roadmap exercise -- plan two or three must-do features that should be completed in the upcoming quarter. Building a roadmap is like daydreaming. You should allow your imagination to go wild. Do you want to build on your current segment or extend your current product to reach the next level of revenue. This roadmap process costs you only the dreaming/creative time. How does one make time for this dreaming/creativity? There are days when there are no burning issues and when I can be more creative and focus on the roadmap. Find your creative hour, learn when and how to reach your meditative state. I would naturally wake up just before dawn and my mind would instantly drift to the most important thing that needs to be created or a problem that needs to be solved. Think. Be mindful. Let your ideas simmer over a few days/weeks/ months (depending on the idea and the impact) After simmering, wrap up your daydreaming/creativity into a presentation consisting of two or three stories. Deliver a presentation with the value of each of the stories. Let's say your creativity led you to create features. You may be asked how much time it would take to build these features. Now, rank your answers: three months and two teams for feature A, or 15 days and three teams for feature B. This is how you can put together a team. An alternative to a formal presentation is to come up with two or three stories and socialize them with people around you. Let the ideas blossom, occasionally drop some hints here and there. Wait until people start approaching you: I thought about your ideas and I like it. Can we work on it? This is when you enter the scene. Yes, it can work, but we will need a team to make it work.

Lessons learned

  • Roadmapping takes time. You need to do your research, dwell on the problems/ opportunity and then add your own thoughts. Don't rush when developing a roadmap -- if you have to produce a roadmap in a day, I assure you that it will not be of the highest quality.
  • Find your creative zone. The creative process of road mapping may not happen when you are sitting at work. At work, there is usually work to be completed or distractions you can't avoid. Let your imagination wander when you are taking a walk, walking your dog, taking a shower or at the beach. Sleep on it. New ideas could also emerge when you are reading and absorbing all these new concepts and theories.
  • Find relevant input or material. I personally read a lot and find my inspiration in books, articles, research, presentations and personal conversations with experts. Upon stumbling on an interesting new idea, I would do more research. The dots may connect days, weeks or months later. Your Eureka moment can hit you when you least expect it. I hope you all enjoy the creativity/daydreaming process and create awesome roadmaps - for your work, or for your life!

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Nandini Dutt

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementSprint CadencePerformance MetricsLeadership Training

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