The Blog from the Sea of Cortez

Let us take you on a voyage of discovery — it's the most important part of any project.



Published in 1951, The Log from the Sea of Cortez was written by John Steinbeck (you know ‘Of Mice and Men’, right?). It details a journey that John made in 1940 across the Gulf of California with his friend and marine biologist, Ed Ricketts. The two men had planned a motoring trip to Mexico City as a break from their work on a handbook of ‘the common intertidal species of the San Francisco Bay Area’, but they decided to turn this trip into an expedition. Like so many things in life, having an objective, a purpose, and a direction makes things way more interesting.

Jon said, “If you have an objective, like collecting specimens, it puts so much more direction onto a trip, makes it more interesting.” – Ed Ricketts

Before we embark

Whilst we don’t often find a giant crab nipping at our toes here at interconnect/it, we nevertheless love the excitement that a new discovery can bring. Deftly unearthing the hidden treasures of a new project. ‘Discovery’ is such an integral part of our work that we recommend every project we undertake contains some aspect of it. We roll up our trouser legs, get our feet wet, and start exploring…

Every client is unique, and to ensure we deliver a tailored experience, we run discovery workshops. During these workshops, we ditch mundane project briefings and use a variety of fun and engaging techniques to thoroughly explore a problem or goal. This enables us to dig deeper into every nook, so we can focus our attention on the areas that will prove most effective.

Adopting one method, everybody taking part in the workshop spends a moment thinking about key issues and quickly writes down potential solutions or opportunities on individual sticky notes. We collate these sticky notes on a wall and use ‘affinity sorting’ to group together similar ideas. This provides us with an excellent way to explore options quickly and gauge how significant these ideas could be. We can then use the outcomes of this to inform our approach to a project.

It’s great to use something visual and tactile in a workshop, especially when several people need to follow an idea or train of thought. This is often the point at which we can begin to interrogate an idea and see how well it stands up to scrutiny. It’s also an excellent, inclusive way to open up a discussion about the ideas that people have suggested.

Affinity sorting

We may signpost certain technical challenges, but at this stage, we won’t get too bogged down by roadblocks. We are looking for areas where we can offer the most impact, so this process gives us a starting point to form a rough order and assess our priorities. The shift away from sitting down at a desk organically opens up a dialogue, and diverse voices can come to the fore.

At the end of this process, we typically have a range of areas to look at, and a shape for the potential priorities. It’s important to remember that we use ‘discovery’ as a way to examine a project, open up a discussion, and get things moving. It informs our approach and gives us a sense of what is important to our client; we find it provides our clients with a clearer perspective on themselves and the project, so we can highlight gaps in thinking or uncover valuable opportunities. We can flag these for further investigation, or use them as a way to focus the project.

We may produce a feature backlog as a result of a discovery workshop, but we don’t cling too tightly to the proposed ideas. At a later stage, we will groom this raw backlog by assessing the validity and feasibility of an idea – from a business perspective, a developer perspective, and a quality assurance perspective. Each potential feature is then refined and reviewed before we agree that it is ready to go into development. This process enables us to identify any major risks along with any pragmatic solutions, providing us with a reliable way to produce great work again and again.

The Journey

Aged just 17, Marco Polo left on a journey of exploration which carried him over 15,000 miles across the Middle East, Central Asia, and China. He returned 24 years later with a wealth of knowledge and experience under his tunic, and epic tales to inspire generations. Inspired by Polo’s description of the Far East, Christopher Columbus pursued a westward route to Asia, but what he discovered were the Bahamas and a gateway to the Americas – the New World.

“It’s a city that just has to be discovered,” – Marco Polo

We’re not always able to embark on a 15,000-mile journey to reach our new world, yet a few short steps in someone else’s shoes can provide rich experiences and a new understanding. Some simple observation tasks and user journeys can likewise prove invaluable, allowing us to streamline workflows and focus on the things that really matter. When we empathise with the users of the work we are producing we can deliver some truly innovative results.


So we set sail for home

As an organisation, we have been on our journey for some time now, accumulating knowledge and insight into online publishing. We have a genuine feel for what works well, so together with our clients, we can very quickly gather up good ideas and jettison bad ones. All in all, we think our discovery process and our inquisitive spirit help us start every new project on the right foot.

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here.” – Gandalf

Hopefully, now you understand a little more about how we begin our projects and the adventure upon which we travel.

No, our journey doesn’t end here, we are just getting started…