Design Leadership for Introverts

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How introverted designers and design leaders can operate successfully in a world where the extrovert ideal is desired.

Introduction

In Susan Cain’s 2012 Ted Talk, “The Power of Introverts,” she said that we live in a world where the extrovert ideal is desired. As a leader in design, this certainly feels true for me.

When people paint a picture of what a leader looks like, it often looks like this: A leader commands the center of attention. A leader is outgoing, talkative, and dominant. A leader is able to deliver charismatic speeches, rallying large audiences at a drop of a hat. A leader is the ultimate salesman; people hang onto their every word, waiting for their next one with bated breath.

A leader is, in essence, an extrovert. I’m not saying this is a BAD way to lead. I’m saying this is not the ONLY way to lead, and certainly not all the time.

Which begs the question: If we can accept that the world desires extroverts, how can we as introverted designers and design leaders operate successfully within it?

For years, I’ve grappled with my introversion and my desire to lead and thought the solution was an obvious one: Be more extroverted. Yet, every time I tried, it always felt unnatural; I was forcing myself to be someone I was not.

Little did I realize that all this time, the little workarounds, my ways of working I’ve used to achieve the desired outcome my way, were techniques that harnessed my introverted gifts. I was using my introverted ways as a superpower. Continue reading Design Leadership for Introverts

The Lessons Learned Running User Research Interviews

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In the world of user research, no idea is a bad idea.

If you have an idea for a great piece of research, act on it. In fact, your first epiphany is the seed from which all great things will grow. Your idea will eventually shape your hypothesis—your very best idea. This is your proposed explanation based on your current and limited evidence, paving the way from your starting point.

The investigation to follow is where your user research comes in.

For far too long, concepts such as Agile and Minimum Viable Product have been used by companies as a way of accelerating their strategy through design and development process. The problem with such concepts is that they allow a team to collect the maximum amount of validated customer research with the least amount of effort. Simply put, customer insight isn’t established until much later in the research piece, if it all. But, if you’re like me, you’ll fall into the camp that believe that at the heart of each and every methodology is learning. Learning should always involve your users. Continue reading The Lessons Learned Running User Research Interviews

How to Improve the User Journey on Your Website

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From the moment a user lands on your website until they either leave or convert into a customer, a series of steps lead them from one point to another. Buyer personas represent your typical customer and help address pain points your customers have as well as predicting actions specific audiences might take. About 63 percent of marketers use buyer personas when creating content.

From my experience, here are some steps to help improve your user’s journey once you develop your target audience’s unique buyer persona. Continue reading How to Improve the User Journey on Your Website

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?