Top of the Traps

Stop Playing Yourself

Ten traps that are stalling your digital project, and how to avoid them.

October 01, 2020

Millennial thought leader DJ Khaled popularized the phrase ‘Congratulations, You Played Yourself’ in 2015, but I like my hip-hop a bit more conscious, so for me the phrase originated in 1996 in a deep cut from Jeru The Damaja’s sophomore album “Wrath of the Math’, that track being, of course, ‘Ya Playin’ Yaself’.

Jeru The Damaja – Ya Playin' Yaself

Turning to the Urban Dictionary for a definition we find that to play oneself is to:

I think about that a lot when I think about big digital projects. Projects like designing and building a new website. We all start these projects with huge enthusiasm and strategic intent. And yet so often, by the time we launch, we’re a little bit ‘meh’. Perhaps - after all that money and effort the needle doesn’t move all that much. What we have now is a lot like what we had before, but with more in vogue typography.

Why is that?

In my experience it’s because we just can’t help playing ourselves. On lengthy digital projects, we have far too many opportunities to let instant gratification or bad habits sabotage our strategic goals. We play ourselves. I want to help you to recognize when you’re playing yourself, and to arm you with some tactics so that you can stop.

I’m going to do that, by describing ten traps that I often see cultural organisations fall into, and suggesting some tactics for getting out of them.

Trap #10 Building a Monument
Trap #9 100% Digital Coverage
Trap #8 Divide & Conquer
Trap #7 Designing for your CEO’s smartphone
Trap #6 False Prophets
Trap #5 Post-it Fetishism
Trap #4 Building not Buying
Trap #3 Buying not Bodging
Trap #2 Bogus User Stories
Trap #1 Cutting Against the Grain