Failure is a great learning opportunity
Shanghai, April 5th, 2017
MING Labs is a leading global user experience design and development company located in Germany, China, and Singapore. The company services clients from all around the world, guiding clients to design businesses for the future. Leading the successful operation of 60+ staff members are Matthias Roebel, Co-Founder & CEO, Marc Seefelder, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, and Sebastian Mueller, COO Asia.
We chatted with each of the team’s leaders to profile them and get a better understanding of the work being done at MING Labs and their ideas for the future of the industry. Up today is COO Asia, Sebastian Mueller. In charge of the Asia team, Sebastian holds a busy schedule. Every few weeks he rotates between the offices in Shanghai and Singapore, and while some might look at this as challenging, he utilizes technology to his advantage to help him stay informed and on track of his team.
What is a campaign you worked on that was especially successful and why?
A really successful recent project was Pumperlgsund. Creating a brand name and CI, the product packaging as well as the end-to-end digital experience was really exciting. The project clearly showed that an end-to-end user experience – digital and physical – makes a significant difference in the end and massively contributes to commercial success. The whole creation won multiple awards (including Awwwards Site of the Day, Red Dot,…), created massive attention for the client, and helped them to drastically surpass their sales goals.
How did you become interested in the industry?
I was very fortunate to witness the tremendous increase in utility of everything digital from a very young age – and I was always fascinated by it. The augmentation of human capability it provides has always been tremendous and growing exponentially. Between learning to code very early on, sometimes seeking refuge in virtual worlds and interacting with peers globally when the internet just got started, I knew this is something that I’m passionate about and that I want to help utilize.
What does the word creativity mean to you, in your own words?
Creativity, to me, is the combination of existing elements, systems or crafts in a novel way, which is framed by boundaries of its specific application, yet free from the constraints of going down the same road other people have before. It has a very pragmatic aspect in that it takes a fresh look at a given problem in the context of all the current constraints and options, and iterates to a practical solution under current circumstances.
How do you stay inspired?
Medium, TechCrunch, and TechInAsia.
What are some of your favorite digital brands:
Tencent (WeChat), Netflix, RedMart, and Valve.
Which countries excite you most in terms of digital creativity?
For me I would also include China and Singapore with the additions of Ghana and Japan.
Do you focus more on problem-solving or opportunity creation?
Depending on the business cycle, I will be more focused on one or the other. At the moment, it is definitely heavier on the side of opportunity creation, as we have recently opened a new location in Singapore which is growing quite rapidly. We need to get connected to the surrounding ecosystem, potential clients as well as potential partners. That takes up a lot of time – just getting the name out there. Our operational playbook is supporting the offices well in the current size, so escalations and problem-solving are less of a concern right now.
How do you organise and prioritise your workload?
I personally prefer handwriting, as that somehow carves the notes deeper into my memory. So I take notes including necessary follow-ups during every meeting, maintain day-to-day to-do lists, and regularly review all the open topics and the progress. With my reports I like to hold weekly jour fixes to go through the recurring and relevant topics, set goals, and align on progress and next steps. Prioritization kind of happens automatically, based on impact. There are a million things I could be doing, but whatever is pressing and has the highest impact for the organization will happen; as pragmatic as possible.
What is your communication style with your team?
As I switch between two locations (Shanghai and Singapore) every month, the communication consists of a mix of face-to-face coffees or walks whenever possible, formal emails or announcements whenever necessary, and being reachable via an array of channels (Mail, Skype, Slack, WeChat, WhatsApp…) for everyone all the time, whenever they need something.
How does your agency treat people involved in failed projects?
No project is ever a complete failure – depending on how it went, there might be issues with budget, timely or detailed scope considerations, which we analyze at the end of the project. We try to do post-mortem meetings whenever feasible, although we never do it often enough. The point of them being that we talk as a team about what went well, what really went south, and how to do better in the future. Failure is a great learning opportunity – hence one of our values: “Dare to fail! This is a lab, after all.”
How do you organize team and tasks to guarantee the quality assurance (QA)?
QA starts with the estimations and proposals for new projects. We always add a buffer for both the designers and developers to do their own quality assurance during the project. In addition, we have started to hire dedicated QA staff for the technology team who are technically versed enough to write automated test cases, and also have enough of an eye for design to understand whether the final output matches the designed product and how it can be further improved, as not everything can be covered in the design phase.