In 2001, I was diagnosed with an unusual type of bone cancer in my left femur. I was very fortunate to have excellent health care that discovered this very early. In the years since the first diagnosis, I have had a considerable number of treatments, all designed to save my leg and my life.
Human’s consistently use stories to manage the information we are exposed to. Without noticing it we develop simple stories made up of a hero, beginning, middle and end. We connect these stages through simple cause and effect.
One of the most important goals for me as a educator and facilitator is to figure out how much new information people will take away with them. I am always on the lookout for ways to increase the efficiency learning as well as the retention.
When designing a class or a facilitation session I spend some time identifying the learning outcomes I would like to achieve for the participants. I then spend some time organising the content together with the exercises for practice or repetition.
2018 was the year I got serious about subscribing to email lists. I have been on a few lists through the years previously and found them valuable, but typically canceled them when I literally drowned in emails or the amount of self-promotion got too great (this is a very fine line). I also limited my lists so that I actually have time to read and digest the content (Reading in Progress - RIP- limit 5-6). It is also worth noting that 4 of 6 newsletters (exceptions: Dense Discovery and On Hiring) are also podcasts which I can highly recommend.
Previously I wrote a post on the use of Appreciative Inquiry and the role of coaching in managing individual stakeholders in an organisation. This is effective on a individual level, but as organisations grow the communication points increase and become highly complex
Often you need a way to view the entire landscape of stakeholders in order to develop a strategy for implementing design efforts. I have found that viewing organisations as systems can help identify the key stakeholders, their relationships, and help develop a strategy to implement design from an organisational perspective.
I first understood the value of coaching when I became a UX team lead over five years ago. I had no ambition to lead a team before, but for the first time I enjoyed the creative aspect of the work and the team members were top notch. I had no formal management or coaching training, so I just used my instincts and the values I believed should be part of healthy team. After doing this sometime and focusing on people's strengths I realised by using carefully phrased question people would could reach realisations and help themselves. This was a powerful insight for me and I decided to dig deeper into coaching.
Recently I cam across a debate method that I found really effective.
I was introduced to this method on the The Long Now Foundation. I cant recommend the content on this site enough for some some thorough presentations of important topics. They group focuses on taking the long view of addressing problems (think ‘slower/better’ instead of ‘faster/cheaper’) and the power of debate to change minds.
About a year ago I read this quote from Julie Zhuo from Facebook. After reading this I had this nagging thought in my mind about outcomes for some time. I think everyone can understand the idea of an outcome in conceptual terms but the reality of things tends to get a fluffy.It seemed like such a simple thing, but I often found myself getting lost in the details and focusing on this more often then not.
I decided to spend some time and try to really focus less on the details and more on the end product I wanted to achieve. I applied this thinking to three major areas.
A large part of Design leaders role in organisation is communicating. I usually say jokingly that a large part of my job is talking...a lot.
The larger the organisation the larger the network of stakeholders that need to be managed and informed. Trust and relationships needs to be carefully cultivated. Communication is a key part of this.
I have found that approaching stakeholder relationships as a coach is much more effective than anything else. Coaching aims shows people the path to the right answers, not the answers themselves. Few stakeholders want to be corrected or to be educated in design.
Almost 25 years ago, I found myself sitting on a beach on the east coast of Ireland. I was with my good friend Rick who I studied together with at the University. We both had more or less quit our ‘first real’ jobs in Washington D.C. and decided to to take our savings and hit the road in Europe. Ireland was our first stop.
After consuming a decent portion of a bottle of Paddy’s Irish whisky we started to talk about jobs and the future. Rick studied English and Drama so he always had a flare for describing things well (in contrast to my Architect/Engineering view of the world).
Each year in the United States, every school child will be handed back as many as 300 assignments, papers, and tests. Millions of kids will be assessed as they try out for a team or audition to be cast in a school play. Almost 2 million teenagers will receive SAT scores and face college verdicts. At least 40 million people will be pursuing love online, where 71 percent of them believe they can judge love at first sight. And after we meet one another … 250,000 weddings will be called off, and 877,000 spouses will file for divorce.
Despite this barrage of feedback, we hope and believe all of this is good for us and that we develop. Many people hate it anyway. We avoid giving it and receiving it.
About 15 years ago, when the internet was new, I worked directly with the newly appointed CIO of a large Swedish organisation. My role was to facilitate the development of a ‘Internet Strategy’ for the company. No small task, but it was just the internet, how hard could it be ? To assist me, we had enlisted the help of a very large consulting company.
The project was one of my most successful, but not really for the end product but more for the process that was we used. The process comprised of a great deal of interviews with stakeholders, but also with a number of end users. We conducted collaborative sessions with the team to discuss and prioritise outcomes, develop the strategies and make a number of ’Straw Man Proposals’ to discuss and modify. I was particularly struck with the value of 'Straw man proposals ' in that encouraged the team to think in terms of 'unfinished' that could be iterated upon.
Critique is a integral part of the design process. As a UX designer you will need to effectively and receive critique. This can be tough, especially if you are on the receiving end of things. When I was in Architecture school the ‘unofficial’ objective of students in the class was to deliver such harsh critique that other students would eventually drop out. The logic was this led to less competition that way. Yeah, we were young. Looking back this was all wrong and we really didn't understand the role of critique in design. Today, I view Critique as a type of critical thinking. It is a way of determining the direction of a design and how well the design meets the goals.
For the last few years I have been a UX mentor to some great adepts in Stockholm. When I was first asked to do this I accepted without really reflecting on what being a mentor meant - I have never had an official mentor myself but was just happy to help. I have found the experience to be extremely beneficial as well personally challenging. During our meetings we discuss a very wide range of subjects that may or may not fall under the definition of UX - design solutions, UX trends, internal organisational politics to the design of restaurant menus.
Four years ago, I went from being a lead designer in a product company to be a manager of the UX team. I started to divide my time between ‘doing the design’ and everything that went in to that, to making sure and motivating others to ‘do the design’. My role developed into more of a coordinating function. In addition to this, one had to make sure each designer delivered at a uniform quality level (more or less). The more I thought about this, the more I found myself discussing what the appropriate level of UX quality was for each product and the business. Turned out this definition was different for different groups of people.
Here is a list of the tools and methods that are presently in rotation within our UX team so far this year. Most of these are refined continuously and when I come across a new method or pattern it will be practiced during an 'experimental' period. After that it will be formalised with an all Dev department education to everyone is one board.
This tools are used for designing new products, features to existing products as well as some internal systems.
I have found that an Experience Map is an effective way of beginning any UX effort.
A year has passed since I started using the Design Studio method within our company. What started as an experiment is now an assumed part of our product development process for three products and development teams. As the use of this technique has grown, and its value recognised, I have begun to see some challenges that come with increased scale. I also became aware of what Design Studio was not. A Final Solution
Last week I met with up with my friend Kajsa Hartig that works as a Digital Navigator at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm. We had been trying to link up and visit the Swedish National Museum that is going to be remodeled and had an exhibition that highlighted a large interactive touch screen based exhibition about the remodel of the museum (we thought).
When I was applying to one particular job at a UX form in Stockholm the issue of my MBA came up in the interview. ' How is your MBA useful in the UX area ?' they asked.
Now, I had never given this much thought and had seriously considered removing the MBA from my CV but my pride (and all the hours I put into to it) forced me to leave it on. Usually I just didn't mention it much.
I don't remember what I answered exactly, but it centered around strategy and analysis…..or something. As I remember it could have been a better answer.
Over the last few years I have found myself, more the once, saying things that make me stop and think - 'Whoa that is something my father would say'. I began to realize that much of my design and general 'creation' methods and philosophy comes from my father. My father would not call himself a designer, although when asked what he did at work, he usually responded 'making stuff'.
I republishing this video from 2011 since it had such a large influence on me. I admire Erik’s typeface work very much but more importantly he put into words a way of designing things that I had been using for sometime, but couldn’t really put into words. In the almost 10 years since then I have used these methods so many times and revisit this video for inspiration.
A very well produced interview with Erik Spiekermann.
It is raining, and as it often does my attention turns from the computer to my (read: our) present book collection. The simple fact is we have far to many books. So with fresh energy and intiative I dive in and consider which books can be recycled - no easy task. (Much easier since M is not here). More often the not, I find myself reading passages when I should be packing them in a paper bag, unable to put them down. I love thinking about when I first read the book, finding little quotes that I have forgotten.