BY: JACK COLE
In the user experience field, we spend much of our time looking for problems to solve and seeking out imperfections while aiming to enhance the digital experiences of consumers for companies and organizations. But while we’re busy doing that, we come across a lot of bumps in our own road.
Maybe it’s our keen eye for discovering issues, or our professional experience in resolving them for others, but as UX designers we often find ample problems to complain about. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: designers, whose very skill and passion it is to solve problems, complaining about problems that need solving in their own lives.
But, no one likes a complainer – even though at some point, we’re all guilty. The average person complains fifteen to thirty times a day, and for chronic complainers that number can spike much higher. And while some types of complaining can be constructive, others can create a lot of noise. Noise can irritate, stifle creativity, and (at the very least) distract you – and those around you – from the task at hand. But these are none of the things UXers stand for and much of what we work so tirelessly against.
As creative UX design professionals, it’s quite literally in our job description to fight against much of the tenets around complaining, mainly by seeing problems as opportunities rather than obstacles. When Motivate was founded and began its journey in 2009, our CEO created an open forum for everyone, regardless of filing status within the company, to identify problems and either propose or act on solutions. Rather than putting yourself, others, or systems down – which does little to help solve problems and often exacerbates the issues at hand – the company became a place that encouraged everyone to be part of the solution.
We took the best practices of UX design and applied them in our daily lives. We stopped complaining and we started doing. We reframed the way we looked at problems for our clients, and for ourselves, and followed a few simple rules along the way.
In My Humble Opinion
Stay humble and remember no one person’s ideas or views of the world are greater in importance or value than the team’s collective. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to keep in the forefront. By creating and fostering an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, you can begin to understand problems and their intricacies more deeply and with an empathetic lens. When employees feel comfortable opening up, they can riff and work together to design solutions that meet not only their needs but the needs of the entire team.
In UX, we often use ideation sessions to visualize a broad range of design solutions before narrowing them down and deciding which to test. But often when dealing with problems in our personal lives we can feel constricted and less comfortable offering up ideas or, conversely, think the first idea that comes to mind is, by default, the best. Yet both of these attitudes would be unacceptable in UX application, so why do we accept them in our lives?
With individual experiences that are likely unmatched by anyone else, we each have a perspective that can help a team in ways it is unable to alone. And being surrounded by a team willing to jump in and offer solutions can be invaluable when a role-specific problem pops up. Recently, we were looking to outsource audio recordings to a transcription service and through trial and error eventually found a company that suited all of our needs. When announcing it to the team, another member expressed their support, as his wife had a great experience with them in the past. Perhaps by acknowledging this specific issue with other members, the solution could have revealed itself faster. And while no one person can be made aware of every aspect of daily operations, keeping the lines of communication open and valuing the opinions of the collective can save time, resources, and energy.
We stopped complaining and we started doing. We reframed the way we looked at problems for our clients, and for ourselves, and followed a few simple rules along the way
You Do You
Don’t be afraid to utilize your special skills and talents, even if they fall outside of your original scope. As a UX research and design shop, we have a broad range of thinkers with varied passions and experiences on our team. Each lends their abilities in different ways and helps to create a well-rounded group capable of innovative and powerful design. And while everyone has their niche, they are not confined by it.
Encouraging the pursuit and utilization of endeavors that advance the cause of Motivate and individual team members is important to team morale and problem solving throughout the organization. When we use phrases like, “I’m not a designer but…” or, “I can’t draw so…” we immediately create challenges and obstacles in our path, limiting our potential. Oftentimes, these self-inflicted limitations can generate roadblocks in personal and group productivity and construct detours when bridging the gap between problems and solutions. But when an environment is created in which individuals feel supported, valued, and encouraged to grow, a culture can emerge that brings out the best in individuals and encourages them to do the same in others.
With Great Passion Comes Great Responsibility
While there is something to be said for not overthinking or overworking a project or concept, we are always striving to deliver above-average solutions and efforts to clients. This standard forces us to go beyond a “one size fits all” mentality and to think of creative solutions for unique problems.
But finding opportunities to create something great doesn’t mean straying from processes and procedures simply for the sake of inventing. By sticking to best practices and following UX procedures across different research and design methods, we stay true to what we know gets results, while always leaving ourselves open to exploring new and unique ways to improve and cater to client-specific needs. Apathy has no place on our team or in our daily lives. If we’re not consistently striving for something better, what are we doing here?
So, the next time you have an obstacle in the workplace, or in your personal life, remember that how one views a potential problem says a lot about their attitude in resolving it. Focusing on the negative is sure to bring about unsolicited complaints and additional frustration, but by reframing our views to see problems as opportunities for improvement and growth, we can begin to find solutions that not only solve for x but improve the process, function, or flow for others. And by using our knowledge and experience to approach others with ideas and potential solutions, we stop creating noise and start creating better experiences for ourselves and those around us.