No matter what industry you work in, you’ve probably run into scope creep. Projects that, no matter how well defined initially, gradually begin to ooze at the edges to become amorphous, over-budget blobs that can’t be contained. Your project manager papers over her walls with sophisticated spreadsheets and starts calling in sick. There’s burnout and bitching and booze consumed in the office and at the end, a post-mortem to ensure a blob like this never gets loose again.

Sound familiar?

Sure. But what’s equally fascinating, though less documented, is reverse scope creep. It’s like the tide going out right after you get your swimsuit and sunscreen on.  You’re all set to play in the ocean but instead you wind up beached, inspecting tide pools and trying to avoid stepping on marooned jellyfish. 

Reverse scope creep is creatively challenging. How, you ask yourself, can I take my original big idea and execute it in a small way, but retain its essence of “bigness”? How can I infuse corporeal integrity into something that’s become rather flimsy?

The big-idea-turned-small project is an opportunity to hone your craft, and to make something interesting, contained, and perhaps even unexpected. Whether, “there was no budget for vision” as a friend of mine says, or whether your vision and your client’s simply didn’t match, you still had the original big idea. Even if it doesn’t get completed, it’s still valid, and you can still feel good about it. You’ll use it, or elements of it, another time. Your clients will applaud your passion and your strategy, even if unfulfilled.

And remember, tidal pools are arguably as interesting as the ocean. Some uniquely adaptable animals live there, and, as John Steinbeck writes: "It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again." (The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Reference filched from Wikipedia.) 

AuthorJinnean Barnard