I’ve gone independent and I’m thrilled about it. There will be more to come, but in the meantime…. if you need someone to help you develop a product or design strategy, conduct research and identify new opportunities, or develop your design team into something amazing, give me a shout. I’d love to talk.
Love that Google applies it’s expertise in data analytics to understanding internal leadership at Google. Historically, technical expertise was the primary requirement for leadership there. Surprisingly, here’s what they found:
But Mr. Bock’s group found that technical expertise — the ability, say, to write computer code in your sleep — ranked dead last among Google’s big eight. What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.
Not that this is a surprise but it sure is interesting that a technically driven company is looking more closely at the important of soft skills in innovation and product development.
Full article “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss“
Just finished a talk at SXSW on Effective Creative Leadership and hope to keep the discussion going. We are going to have a meetup at SXSW at the lego table at 2pm. There is a clearly a need for a supportive group of peers so we can all learn from each other.(#creativeleaders)
Slides are here: http://bit.ly/fRDExS
Remember, peeps, know yourself first.
After I gave a talk at An Event Apart one year, I got a comment asking me about the environmental costs of using so much paper. Now, it’s not that I hadn’t thought about my paper usage, it’s just that the digital alternatives just didn’t (and still don’t) cut it for many of the problem solving techniques use.
But hey - I am diligent about not using disposable shopping bags. Not that I’m defensive or anything.
3m is getting into the green game, though. They have a promotion where for each 3m of Post-it product purchased and registered, they’ll plant a tree. Their goal is to plant 100,000 trees. They only have 768 so far… some of their recycled products (post-its and easel pads) and register those purchases with them, they’ll plant a tree.
Every little bit counts, right? I mean, hey, you were going to use a billion post-it notes anyway, right?
“Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”
- Apple, statement in response to problems with antenna when user grips phone in left hand. Source
What a cop-out.
I’m a methods nerd. Does this surprise you? I’m a methods nerd but not so much of one that I have carefully documented and archived every method I’ve used or come across. Happily, some folks from various disciplines have been developing methods libraries to share with their constituents. Some of these databases are really useful for those of us in design!
<a href=”http://www.iaf-methods.org/”><strong>The International Association of Facilitators Methods Database</strong></a>
The IAF is the regulating body for professional facilitators. This database gathers a number of methods together and can be updated by members. Since it’s for facilitation, you can expect to see more methods that would be useful in design discovery, visioning, and strategy. Many of them are also useful when trying to untangle clients and teams.
<a href=”http://www.peopleandparticipation.net/display/Methods/Browse+Methods”><strong>People and Participation Methods Library</strong></a>
When these folks say participation, they mean participation in community, government and urban planning projects. That said, it does include a number of relevant tools for us, like customer journeys and action planning. While there aren’t a lot of methods, each one seems pretty well documented, including pros and cons, and cost.
<a href=”http://www.servicedesigntools.org”><strong>Service Design Tools</strong></a>
This library is the most relevant to folks here. They’ve done a nice job of documenting methods and organizing them by design activities, audience, content, and physical artifacts.
What libraries have you come across?
Lately, I’ve been using “customer experience” in proposals, conversations, and talks to describe the field in which I do my work. User Experience, as a label, always bothered me. It doesn’t really resonate with non-UXers or non-technical folks. It sounds more mechanical than human. Sometimes I imagine a robot voice saying, “HELLO…I…AM…YOUR…USER…EXPERIENCE… ENGINEER.”
Ok, cute, but I’m making more that just a semantic distinction here. Much of the work User Experience professionals do requires not only brilliant ideas but organizational muscle, dedication, and follow-through needed to realize and sustain those valuable experiences. We need the whole organization to be engaged.
Customer experience is something everyone should be concerned with. In an organization, employees typically (hopefully) see “customer service” as something they are responsible for, unlike “user experience” those people over in IT or the geeks in the next building do. If we use words that match the mental models of our colleagues, perhaps it will be easier to engage them in the work and broaden the impact of our practice.
Did some more poking around on the term “Silent Design.” Turns out the phrase comes from research conducted in the late 1980s by British researchers Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas. (The original paper is available through Science Direct). The objectives of this research was to identify the understanding of design, resource and support of design, and the operational nature of design management in UK organizations. They were less interested in identifying best practices in design management—they wanted to uncover the practice as generally applied. During the course of the first year of research, they identified what they call “Silent Design.” I have not yet located further updates to this research.
They describe Silent Design like this:
It can be argued that a great deal of design activity goes on in organizations which is not called design. It is carried out by individuals who are not called designers and who would not consider themselves to be designers. We have called this ’silent design’. p.152
I haven’t thought through this deeply yet, but one thing that strikes me is that, despite the introduction of the Internet which has probably more deeply ingrained and distributed Silent Designers throughout organizations, we face many of the same challenges faced in the pre-Internet 1980s.
The UK Guardian today has a 10 page supplement on Service Design. It’s exciting to see a description of the discipline paired with concrete examples of its power laid out in plain language.
So far, a couple of concepts have jumped out at me. They aren’t particularly revolutionary, but well articulated.
- Nick Marsh’s discussion of Silent Designers. These are people with good ideas, who know an organization well, but lack the skills to express their ideas and make them happen. These are candidates for learning the process of design (aka design thinking). These are the people I get the most joy from working with.
- Dan Pink’s comment that design without empathy is mediocre design (can’t find it online, only in the print version). Sounds obvious, but happens so rarely. So many people think that they are empathetic, think they know their customers well, but don’t take the time (aka spend the $$) to look closer and test their assumptions.
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I don’t know about you, but some days my little monkey brain has about had enough. Enough change, enough global anxiety, enough information, enough speed of business, enough of being under the fire hose. Then I meet someone who doesn’t even have a cell phone, e-mail, or internet access.
Sounds like whining, huh? Or a grass is always greener talk. Not at all. When I meet people operating in such a different information space, I see it as evidence of the great global transition we are experiencing.
Recently, I’ve been watching this new show on BBC called “Victorian Farm.” In the show, two archaeologists and an expert in the history of domestic arts spend a year living on a farm 1880’s style. They live as authentically as they can, even down to the breeds of animals they tend to. I know what you’re thinking - but it’s not one of those “20th century family meets old way of life and complains about it” shows. These people are excited about viscerally experiencing the life of victorian farmers from a scholarly perspective. They nerd out on everything from original nails to using milk to shift ink stains to playing victorian parlor games.
According to the show, the 1880s were a period of great transition. Society was changing from an agricultural one to an industrial society. During this period, people were discovering new ways of mechanizing labor while still using ancient techniques. These two ways of living were co-existing. Consequently, it was a time of liberation, social change, uncertainty, and great upheaval.
Sound familiar? It seems we are in our own version of the 1880s, with huge changes afoot in all aspects of our lives: social, intellectual, spiritual, and economic. It means we are both being liberated and thrust into a sometime overpowering sense of instability. Uncertainty and anxiety rule the day. We need turn on the news, talk to our friends, or even listen to our own heartbeat to know that’s true.
Sometimes, when I am watching Victorian Farm, I wonder if the people felt a similar sense of fear and anxiety or were they relieved to have these labor saving devices emerge? Were they worried about where the world was going, what it all *meant,* the way we seem to? Probably. But my sense is that they were still so tethered to the grind (literally) of daily life — four days to do laundry from start to finish *including* help from a machine — that most farmers didn’t have time to stop the show for an existential crisis.
As a society (in global terms), we are in a huge transition. Sometimes its hard to see where we are going or imagine what our future will look like. We have a little time for an existential crisis — thanks forty hour work week! — but what I believe is needed is creative leadership. Tolerance for ambiguity, willingness to take risks, willingness to ask challenge assumptions plus a set of problem solving techniques and methods are the design leader’s toolbox.
For creative people, it is our time to be leaders, to wear the headlamp into the dark cave, our clients tethered to our waists, and take one step at a time towards an unimagined future.