The Solution is at 10,000ft

10,000ft is a collaborative management tool to democratize business decisions and promote team autonomy and collaboration

10,000ft, a visual project and resource planning tool developed for creative teams, has just celebrated the first anniversary of its presence on the market with great results: multiple award-winning design, customers in 27 countries, 23,452 projects and over 1 million hours tracked in 10,000ft.

It’s led by Martijn Van Tilburg who brought in it the skills acquired through his studies and prestigious job experience.

His career path could be divided into three stages of which the last coincides with his role as CEO at 10,000ft: every step was a natural change which has resulted not just in the working - from time to time - for a different company, but in roles that focusing now on technical aspects or on business ones.

“When you are in the creative industry everything is about coming up with new ideas or looking at something in a different way. The world of business is more about execution and it is a lot about regurgitating of existing ideas."

The first stage saw him - after graduating in Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands (one of the first students to specialize in interaction design) - got his first full-time job at Microsoft in Seattle, exciting experience not only for the technical skills gained but also for the opportunity to face the benefits and difficulties of a production on a global scale:

“I was lucky to get on the Microsoft Office team because not many designers get the experience of working in a product used by most people in the world. I quickly came to appreciate the impact that even the smallest design decisions can have in the overall experience and adoption and it really helped me understand the intricacies of software design early in my career”.

Then the second stage, when he became part of the management team at a design consultancy (Artefact), where he had direct responsibility in contributing to the success of the business.

In the third stage, with 10,000ft, he embraced the risks and challenges of entrepreneurship by applying everything he had learned in business and design.

A story of creativity at 360°, therefore, in which this quality - a priority in the design world - was shaped perfectly to that of the business, giving “creative”shades to that entrepreneurial spirit necessary for a successful company:

“When you are in the creative industry everything is about coming up with new ideas or looking at something in a different way. The world of business is more about execution and it is a lot about regurgitating of existing ideas. I think entrepreneurial spirit requires the imagination and creativity to come up with new things and the rigor and consistency of execution, everyday”.

But how did he get the idea of 10,000ft?

Martijn Van Tilburg remembers that, when he worked at Artefact, his goal was to create a great environment for creative thinkers to do their best work. Creative thinkers deal with ambiguous problems and the process that they follow to solve these problems is different every time: they have a desire for autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Yet the tools that are available to them are often stifling, too detailed or prescriptive and this hinders them in doing their work effectively. He identified a need for a planning tool that works in that flexible environment and so realizing that many organizations have a similar need, he decided to commercialize 10,000ft.

The choice of the name, 10,000ft, and logo - a hot air balloon - is the result of a specific corporate philosophy, focusing on the “bigger picture”.

“When you look at problems from that “altitude” you can be more flexible and strategic in your approach”.

An approach that is based on collaboration and services characterized by quick changes, light interactions and a management that helps to do an innovative work, the easy use of the product so that the acquisition of the necessary information is rapid and let users make the decision resolutely and get back to the real work. For example, each project has a single status page where people can see at a glance that works on it now, whether the project is on budget also what the upcoming major deliverables are.

Regarding next goals, the CEO refers that a sure novelty will be related to the fact that - if the current offering is focused on the teams - in the future they are planning on providing a suite of software applications that solve creative thinker needs at the individual level.

For all other ideas that need to be improved and developed, he reveals a curious anecdote, dating back to an experience of youth work, to which he refers still today when he has to think of something that can make a difference.

When he was in high school, he worked in an orchard: in early summer, when the apples are still very small, he had to do ‘apple thinning,’ which means going through and take off most of the apples so the remaining fruit gets bigger and better. It is somewhat counter intuitive to remove good apples, but the best apples always came from the trees that have been rigorously thinned out.

Lesson applied?

“Although it is always hard, the earlier and better you can "thin" your ideas and features, the more room the remaining ones will have to become really good”.

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