UX and Sports? Ya Damn Right!
This post is the second in a series devoted to pointing out How being a jock makes a better UX Designer (Also, if you are coming to Interaction 12 in Dublin, be sure to check out my talk How being a jock makes a better interaction designer!)
As UXers, we are really great at researching and designing solutions for our users. The problem is that we are not so great at convincing our teams and clients, that 1. research is needed, and 2. our design ideas are sound. One way to combat this is to understand The Importance of Rationale. However, today I wanted to talk about a new method gleamed from the wide world of sports that can help you to evangelize your ideas both within your organization as well as with your clients.
First, I think it is important to highlight why not being able to sell our process and design ideas is a problem. Besides the fact that it makes us completely depressed about our profession, and therefore makes us wonder why we are even part of a project to begin with; not being able to sell our work means that when we walk into the project we are prey waiting to be pounced on. Any know-it-all marketing person, business manager, project manager or other project team type can out talk us and make our ideas look idiotic (even when they’re awesome) just because they don’t agree with our solution (or it doesn’t work best for their part of the organization). Thus, what happens by us not being able to push our process and ideas is we end up sacrificing our expertise to the greater team (everyone is a designer, afterall) and allowing group think and design by committee to create solutions for our users instead of us. Now, of course there is always room for critique and brainstorming, but what I’m talking about is different. I’m talking about someone just pushing their ideas over you, and through the machine in order to be the hero of the organization.
So how do we solve this? One way is to look at a timeless lesson taken from the world of athletics. That lesson? Be a teammate. Yes, it really is that simple. All jocks know this one. To be successful, you have to be willing to swallow your pride, be the bigger person, and admit when something is and is not your responsibility. Sure, you can have opinions about anything, but to be honest, the marketing numbers or the coding, or other non-interaction design focused things are not your responsibility. Might you be a better marketing representative that the person on your team? Sure. But you aren’t the marketing person responsible for this project, you are the interaction designer. Respect the other person’s role. Offer up suggestions to them in a kind way, in a way that you want people to offer up design suggestions to you, and then… leave it alone. You are not the saving grace of this company, you are a part of the company team. By recognizing and taking control of your responsibilities and by letting your other team members do them same, you are showing that you have faith in your teammates, the overall team and the team philosophy.
The outcomes of being a teammate are mutual respect and acceptance on both parts (yours and theirs). Having these makes it a lot harder for people to rip apart your design ideas in a meeting just because they might clash with an opinion. By showing respect and acceptance, you are asking to get them back in return (see “Respect is Something You Need to Give” for more thoughts). By letting your guard down you are inviting your teammates to do the same. And once they do, they will start to see you as a valued part of the team and will then be a lot more likely to help you to curate the best solutions possible for your users.