Building Business models is one of the most creative things we can do ~ Lou Rosenfeld, WIAD NYC 2013
It’s no surprise that I’m writing more about business and its intersections with UX. I see the many crossovers each and every day; from attending an event like World IA Day in NYC, to working on client projects. The theme even infiltrated the membership meeting at this years IA Summit. We are starting to see, more clearly, the rift that is being created by our field and it’s ignoring the need to understand better how businesses work. When I heard Mr. Rosenfeld say the above quote this year, it started to make me think that among the many misconceptions we have about business that help to cause this rift, the fact that we think it is not creative is probably one of the biggest.
Business? Creative? Is she serious? Yes, indeed! We as IAs and UXers tend to look at “the business” as the opposite of our field. Business is calculated and structured. We are adaptive and free flowing. They care only about profit. We care about and advocate for our users!
The reality is, our outlook is simply not true. Business is very much rooted in creativity. Especially when you think about the overall concept for how to structure businesses. Things like which roles should be involved, and how are we going to make money, these are, in essence, problems for information architects to solve.
However, we never get invited to help solve these problems, do we? We don’t even have the knowledge to go out on our own and start creating UX and IA led businesses, and this is why we all need to change our minds.
The reasons why we aren’t invited to the right conversations, or we aren’t using our creativity to create businesses are simple. We not only don’t know business, but we see it as the exact opposite of what we should know. This does not go unnoticed by our business partners who then decide that:
- They don’t trust us to have their best interests as a priority.
- They don’t think we “get it” so they don’t give us responsibilities outside of our little design sandbox.
No wonder you aren’t getting invited to the cool conversations to help make businesses better! Would you invite a person that not only didn’t understand UX, but saw it as “the enemy” to your UX party aimed at defining how UX should be structured? I didn’t think so.
But worse, if we don’t switch our frame of mind to seeing business as a partner, then we’ll never take the step to learn more about business. Further if we don’t know business, then we can’t start businesses. “No big deal”, you may be thinking, “I don’t want to start a business anyway”. The thing is, we NEED IA and UX first businesses to see our profession earn the respect we think it deserves. (Read more of my thoughts on this in my piece The Only Way).
What are we to do then? First we need realize that UX, as well as business, has a calculated side as well as a creative side. We have processes we stick to, and mantras (User First!) that we shout from the rooftops. Just like business has processes and mantra (Where’s the ROI??). Our professions are not so very different after all.
This mind shift, this realization, is really the only key. Because once we realize that business can be creative, and that it is not so different than us, several paths can unfold.
First, UX will see and take advantage of more opportunities to partner with our businesses to help make them better, instead of colliding with them. This will not go unnoticed by our business partners who will then be able to see our real value, instead of our omnigraffle skills. They will see that we can help them with their creative thinking around business and its necessary structures. Our sandbox will, in effect, grow.
With the walls down, many of us may also start to learn more about business. This can only set our profession up for more success as we move into an age where IA lead businesses will rule the day.
Thus, do we continue down this path of alternate reality where we see business as the opposite of us, uncreative, uncaring, inflexible OR do we start to see businesses and their ultimate potential? The choice is yours, but I caution you to choose wisely. The wiser of the two choices is the one that puts us in a place where we can help set our businesses up to be more geared towards our users, and how do you expect to do that, when you don’t understand how the business is run in the first place?