A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled, Where Does UX Knowledge Come From?. In it, I talk about the one way that we can find and have confidence in the knowledge of our profession. In short, that is by combining both external knowledge sources (blogs, articles, etc) with our own professional lessons learned. I claim that by internalizing these professional experiences and combining them with the information we take in from books and more, the UX know-how comes from within us and we get better at our work.
The question I asked myself after writing this post is simply… what next? Let’s say that we go through this process, as many of us have, and internalize our lessons learned, as well as, couple them with external knowledge, then what? We can only progress so far in this regard, this path will only help us move forward so much. What happens when we hit the wall again, and how do we take our UX knowledge growth even further?
After thinking long and hard about this one, I’ve come up with an answer… the next step in UX knowledge gathering: Open your mouth and speak to your experiences. Share them with others. You need to get out of your shell and let others know about what you’ve done in your career. It is well known that by talking about your thoughts and experiences, you can get feedback and additional thoughts from others that may not have always been apparent to you. Thus sharing your insights, no matter how mature those insights are, is always a good way to expand on them, learn, as well as help others to learn. There are several different scenarios in which to do this. You could share them with a more junior professional whether in your organization or not. Another easy way to share these experiences and learn more about them is to use them in order to provide rationale for your designs… further in order to explain the rationale for your designs. When you are talking with your project teams and explaining why you did or did not do something, quote the lessons that you have learned from past projects & external sources. Lastly, of course, you could create some sort of blog or presentation to share with an even larger community. All of these types of sharing can, and should overlap…. there is not one path to sharing as well as no right/wrong way. Whatever your comfort level, whatever your style, the next step in extending your UX knowledge is sharing it, and learning from that process of sharing.
Sharing our UX experiences (can we have user experience experience? I vote Yes!) will cause many different outcomes to unfold. First when you go the route of sharing your past lessons learned to educate another you are ensuring that the same hard lessons don’t have to be learned twice. Thus, the UXer that you have educated is starting a leg up, and that means they can learn more lessons further up the scale and share those with others in their own realm. UX as a whole profession benefits. Second, when you share your past lessons to provide rationale, you are doing several things. You are reaffirming that you are a expert in your field, and your team will begin to show you more respect in that regard. You are also allowing yourself to talk through your own solutions which will enable you to gain more knowledge as well as clarify your thoughts. Lastly, by sharing your ideas to a larger community through something like a blog or presentation, you are allowing yourself to extend the reach of your ideas further and thus also extending the amount of potential feedback and input you can receive from the rest of the community. You are also, again, learning from explaining, but you could be learning a whole lot more due to the amount of feedback you could receive. Overall, there is only so much you can learn by yourself, after sometime you need to start involving others in order to learn further. There are many different ways that you can do this, but it is most important to remember that working in a vacuum can only take you so far in any profession. You need to get out of your own head in order to expand what is inside of it.