No! We’re Not All Just the Same

Cultural Road Blocks in Design Thinking Research in Norway by:   |  Posted on

In May and November of 2018, I traveled to Norway to do user research. I don’t have any depth of experience with Norwegian culture. What follows is my outsider’s view and interpretation. I doubt it’s the whole story.

I tried hard to understand my surprising findings by chatting with Scandinavian friends and by researching cultural norms, but there are always limitations in how much an outsider can truly understand.

I still have more questions than answers.

“You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. It makes an ass of you and me. Because that’s how it’s spelled.”

Ellen DeGeneris said that, but I’ve heard it all of my life. I’m sure you have too.

I’m going to tell you a story about making assumptions in some design thinking sessions in Norway. Continue reading No! We’re Not All Just the Same

So you want to be a UX manager?

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I remember a graduate student once asking me if she should continue on to a PhD program after completing her master’s degree. I asked her what she thought the benefits were to getting a PhD; she responded that having a PhD would put her on a faster track into management.

Her thinking was driven by a common and faulty assumption held by many—that eventually, to progress in your career as a UX professional, you have to become a manager.

The truth is, there are many career paths for UX professionals, including many leadership roles that don’t require managing people. In fact, organizations typically need a balance of managers and high-ranking individual contributors (meaning not managing people) to tackle varying leadership responsibilities that require different skill sets.

I’m more confident than ever that management involves distinct and sometimes intrinsic skills, and should not be viewed as the default next step in one’s career progression. And there’s a ton of research that supports this. According to one Gallup study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, only one in ten people possess the innate talents needed to be a successful manager. The same study quotes that companies fail to choose the management candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Continue reading So you want to be a UX manager?

Somewhere Between Vulnerability and Design Thinking

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My story of discovering, first-hand, how important psychological safety is to teams pinning their innovation hopes on frameworks like design thinking.

I sat up from the exercise mat I was lying on and pushed myself off the gym floor. I hustled over to the window sill where my jacket, water bottle, and phone sat. I anxiously fumbled to unlock my phone and to tap the rewind button on the audio book, Dare to Lead, I was listening to so I could hear the last part once more.

The author, Brené Brown, was reciting a thought she always imparts to the leadership teams she coaches at the very start of their engagements.

“What, if anything, about the way that people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with, what seems like, intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?

“While the question is complex, there was one answer that repeated…

“We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.” Continue reading Somewhere Between Vulnerability and Design Thinking

Do You Know Your Users?

Persona-Based Design for the Enterprise by:   |  Posted on

You think you’re just like everyone else. You think your thoughts, opinions, values, and habits are just the same as other people. Psychology calls this the false consensus bias1 because we assume much more commonality than reality warrants.

False consensus bias contributes to making bad decisions when we design software.

Alan Cooper noted this type of bias while wondering why otherwise smart, talented people often created such crappy software. He invented the persona-based design methodology to help facilitate insight into a product’s users and remove the designer’s bias. He wrote about the method in his seminal 1998 book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum.2

Have you ever heard anyone on your team say, “what if the customer wanted [some feature]?” Cooper used the term “the elastic user” to reference this shape-shifting, need-changing user who encompasses all edge cases. Good decisions can’t come from elastic users.

Imagine hotel software that is supposed to be suited for a hotel accountant, a front desk agent, and a retail worker in the hotel gift shop. The accountant is heads down in numbers and needs to focus. The front desk agent needs to be able to smoothly switch tasks and be friendly and helpful when guests walk in. And the retail worker may not be in front of a computer at all. Personas can help designers understand the nuances and needs of these different types of workers and create software that fits with their needs. Continue reading Do You Know Your Users?

Designing for Meaningful Social Interactions

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The age of cheap “like”-hunting needs to come to an end. It all started innocently enough with likes and tweets. Then in a few years, we suddenly ended up with governments scoring people and masses manipulated into meaningless activities to generate more ad revenue.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now the time has come for us—designers, working on digital products—to step up our game and act like real gatekeepers. Continue reading Designing for Meaningful Social Interactions