Por: Federico Hernández Ruiz
En nuestro entorno y quehacer como empresarios hay una constante que aparece una y otra vez, esta constante es como debe ser la propuesta. Nos referimos a la propuesta de servicio o a la propuesta de producto.
Muchos de nosotros como empresarios definimos un producto o servicio y creemos que lo que sigue es comercializarlo para lo cual están las áreas de mercadotecnia y ventas.
La verdad es que todos comenzamos haciendo una propuesta con lo que tenemos o lo que creemos que debe de ser, esto no es un mal inicio. Es más, es el mejor inicio que hay, solo que este debe estar enriquecido por un halo de duda. A lo que me refiero es, lo que hemos mandado al mercado es una propuesta y como tal puede ser bien solamente recibida, bien recibida o incluso puede ser rechazada. Si concebimos que lo que hicimos fue una propuesta y que estamos reconociendo lo que la gente o el mercado quiere, entonces podremos mejorar o cambiar nuestra propuesta. Y es justo ahí donde muchos nos atoramos. Creemos que lo que proponemos es lo adecuado y que solo debe ser mercadeado o vendido adecuadamente, pero eso no es del todo cierto.
Efectivamente, mercadotecnia nos ayudará muchísimo. Sus técnicas y procesos facilitarán la manera en que nos comunicamos con la gente pero siempre necesitará contar con la clara identidad de la empresa. Si esta identidad tiene oportunidades no atendidas, mercadotecnia y ventas se verán limitadas en sus capacidades para entregar un mensaje claro, contundente y con la fuerza necesaria no solo para entregar, sino para que la gente lo pida.
Les comparto, hacer una propuesta necesita incluir una palabra: “Valor”. Necesitamos hacer una propuesta de valor. En la cual está implícito un beneficio para la persona o entidad que va a usar o consumir el producto o servicio. Así es, nuestra propuesta debe beneficiar a alguien y por supuesto a nosotros también.
En este diálogo que existe entre lo que ofrecemos y entregamos, con quien recibe y usa, es donde muchos perdemos camino o dejamos de ver con claridad hacia dónde vamos. Creemos que si cambiamos nuestra propuesta, dejaremos de beneficiarnos, dejaremos de ser quiénes somos, perderemos nuestra identidad, la razón de ser. Yo les comparto que esto no es así.
La razón es que antes que nada, nuestras empresas y nosotros somos entes sociales y funcionamos en sistemas de convivencia. Nuestro intercambio es eso, un sistema en el que participan diferentes actores o elementos y todos construyen una experiencia que sucede.
Todos vivimos la empresa y sus productos. Al manejar un carro, no solo consideramos la marca, sentimos los asientos, olemos el interior del carro, escuchamos el motor, vemos los accesorios y tocamos las vestiduras, los asientos y el volante; al manejar, escuchamos el sonido de todo el carro en tránsito. En fin, es un sistema que vivimos con la marca y el modelo, sabemos que la identidad y su propuesta es la que nos gusta.
Es por está razón que nuestra propuesta y nuestra identidad están estrechamente relacionadas, necesitan reconocerse en un sistema en el que ante todo hay intercambios. Intercambios de productos y servicios por dinero, pero también hay emociones, relaciones, vivencias, espacios… Es un conjunto de elementos que debe tomarse en cuenta para reconocer con mayor claridad: quiénes somos, cómo participamos, cómo somos percibidos y lo mejor, cómo nos concebimos.
Es un sistema que está vivo y que puede moldearse o cambiarse en el momento que sea necesario.
Esta dinámica de vivencias le sucede tanto a la gran empresa como al micro empresario. Todos participamos y contribuimos en estos sistemas. Todos podemos cambiar y transformarnos para tener una mejor relación con nuestro entorno, para ser más competentes, si así lo queremos ver.
Podemos ser y tener la identidad que decidamos, para hacer la mejor propuesta al mercado. Una propuesta de valor que nos beneficia a todos.
Si reflexionamos sobre nuestra identidad como empresa y recordamos que la identidad se vive y sucede, entonces podemos relacionarla con el cómo queremos que esto suceda. Yo tomo como principio las características que definen ser competente y éstas son:
“Parecer ser, ser y actitud”
Todos conocemos empresas que podríamos colocar en esta definición. Es más, por ella tomamos muchas decisiones para relacionarnos con ella. Nuestras decisiones van desde el coche que usamos, el lugar en el que vivimos, el grupo con el que convivimos, etc. Como personas nos sucede exactamente igual. Convivimos en el sistema y llegamos a acuerdos o principios que nos guían para actuar.
La identidad de una empresa está estrechamente relacionada con su propuesta y es por ésta que podemos ver con claridad si nos propone un beneficio.
A todos nos ha pasado que hemos sentido desconfianza sobre un artículo, un servicio o una persona. Hay algo que no nos gusta. La respuesta está en cómo nos sucede ese contacto, cómo identificamos si nos conviene o no. La razón atrás es que el sistema está actuando y el conjunto de elementos que están participando no entregan un mensaje coherente y congruente. Sencillamente hay algo fuera de lugar. Y no digo que algo esté mal, digo que hay algo fuera de lugar, algo que desentona y que muy posiblemente necesite ajustarse.
Parecer ser, ser y actitud no son características que se dan por creación espontánea, son expresiones de la empresa. La empresa, sus empresarios y colaboradores construyen de manera cotidiana esta identidad.
La identidad por eso no se puede inventar o colocarse, la identidad es una expresión única de cada empresa.
Como dice el dicho: “La mona aunque se vista de seda, mona se queda”, y la empresa no es ajena a este dicho.
Un buen ejemplo del manejo común de la identidad es la de crear un logotipo. Un logotipo puede servir para identificar a la empresa, para que la ubiquen solamente. Pero no llegará a ser una identidad hasta que contenga y represente a ese sistema dinámico que es la empresa. Un logotipo se transformará en identidad hecha marca al contener esa expresión cultural de empresa.
Una identidad puede tener diferentes propuestas, entendiendo propuesta de servicio o producto durante el tiempo. Además es la manera en que interactúa con su entorno. Una identidad es un proceso que nunca termina, que trasciende en el tiempo y contribuye a la construcción de una cultura.
Una identidad implica poder ofrecer un servicio desde el interior de su razón de ser. -Por quien somos, proponemos y resolvemos para tu beneficio, para el beneficio de todos-.
Tener una identidad con una propuesta clara parece sencillo y sí lo es. Lo único que se requiere es disposición para reconocer que participamos en un sistema. En el cual tenemos características únicas por las que hacemos y ofrecemos un producto o servicio. Lo hacemos con una propuesta que corresponde a nosotros, gracias al proceso de reflexión constante, continuo y estructurado que hacemos. Tener identidad y una propuesta significa que hemos diseñado quiénes somos y cómo nos relacionamos.
El secreto está en el diseño. La palabra clave es: “Diseñamos”. Diseñar no es otra cosa que recrear un proceso de reflexión que nos permite cuestionarnos el por qué hacemos lo que hacemos, cómo lo hacemos, para quién lo hacemos, qué esperamos y qué esperan de nuestro producto o servicio. Diseñar no es embellecer, no es acomodar para que se vea bien. Diseñar implica observar, reconocer, crear ideas, hipótesis, probar y experimentar.
Diseñar nos invita a instalar un proceso continuo de reflexión, capaz de alimentar a la empresa y expresarse en todas las áreas, incluyendo la manera en que se entregan o se brindan servicios. Identidad y propuesta requieren ser definidos por diseñadores. Si eres empresario, este es el momento de comenzar a diseñar tu empresa, sus productos y servicios. Con ello podrás contar con una de los capitales más grandes que una empresa puede tener: el ser querida, deseada o admirada.
Podrás lograr con tu empresa ser la razón por la que muchas personas conducen sus vidas, ser un contribuyente de valores y riqueza en la sociedad. Con tu aportación, la sociedad entera te retribuirá con lealtad y con sentido de pertenencia. La gente adentro y afuera de la empresa se sentirá orgullosa de pertenecer a ella, a tu empresa.
Ahora sí, si en tus planes está darle identidad a tu empresa y crear una propuesta, acompáñate de los diseñadores adecuados como lo son los consultores de la comisión de Consultores de Coparmex en Querétaro. Más de uno podrá acompañarte, pero sobre todo, podrás liberarte de los mitos que te detienen.
Si decides contratar a un diseñador para crear una imagen que te identifique, cuida que no sea solo un embellecedor o creador de disfraces. Con él o sin él, saldrá a relucir la verdadera identidad de quién eres y cómo es tu empresa.
|D.G. Federico Hernández RuizSocio fundador y Consultor en Identidad estratégica en asimetagraf y representante para la CGTFL en México de Duraznos, Nectarinas y Ciruelas California
Como consultor se destaca en la creación de sistemas de identidad especializado en productos de consumos. Su trayectoria cuenta con más de 20 años de experiencia y ha colabora desde grandes transnacionales hasta pequeñas y micro empresas. Algunas de éstas son: Kellogg’s, Heinz, La Perla, Grupo Pando, entre otros.
Actualmente representa a la California Grape and Tree Fruit League “CGTFL” para la promoción de duraznos, nectarinas y ciruelas California en México. https://www.facebook.com/CaliforniaDNC
Para conocer más de asimetagraf y su propuesta, favor de entrar a: http://www.asimetagraf.com
Para contactar a Federico y conocer más sobre su trayectoria, entrar a: http://www.linkedin.com/in/federicohernandezruiz
This content was created by the DTAction Lab team.
The Context of the Innovator
In his book “The Ten Faces of Innovation,” Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO (*), describes the following roles:
1. The Anthropologist
Anthropologists are constantly observing the world around them with a fresh eyes, and are capable of “seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one has thought.” They are good at seeking inspiration from unusual sources, and reframing problems in new ways.
2. The Experimenter
Experimenters love to prototype and are creative gurus when it comes to using what is available to physically represent their ideas. Every stage of the ideation process can be prototyped so experimenters will usually be the first to suggest a prototype of a marketing or sales plan through acting out a storyboard or creating a short video.
3. The Cross-Pollinator
Cross-Pollinators draw associations between seemingly unrelated ideas, bringing in a stream of new content from other disciplines. Using a breadth of knowledge in many fields with a significant understanding in at least one field, cross-pollinators spark innovative hybrids.
4. The Hurdler
Hurdlers push through obstacles by viewing problems as opportunities. They take their passion for design and tie it with the passion to create things to help people so that when obstacles arise they are seen as opportunities rather than roadblocks. “The essence of a Hurdler is perseverance.”
5. The Collaborator
Collaborators value the team over the individual, and act as facilitators that keep a constant flow of excitement and energy through a project team, while also providing the glue to bring together people from diverse backgrounds in order to make the perfect dream teams. With a huge heart, collaborators can always be counted on “to jump in when and where they are needed most.”
6. The Director
Directors see the big picture and provide inspiration and empowerment to bring the best out of everyone in the organization. They keep the momentum constantly flowing by leading when it is needed and delegating when the time is right.
7. The Experience Architect
Experience Architects realize that there is no one method for every occasion; they are constantly designing experiences for every unique product or service. They keep their eyes open for “trigger points,” which are the aspects of a product’s design that need to be emphasized for the best possible experience.
8. The Set Designer
“Set Designers care about the intersection between space and human behavior.” They adapt the physical space to balance private and collaborative work opportunities and to promote a culture of creativity. A Set Designer might be the team member prepared with markers and pens to create working spaces on the go.
9. The Caregiver
Caregivers, with big ears and big hearts, are always champions of empathizing with others. They are constantly listening to customers and take into consideration how ideas will affect their general audience.
10. The Storyteller
Storytellers understand that “stories persuade in a way that facts, reports and market trends seldom do, because stories make an emotional connection.” Storytellers “capture our imagination with compelling narratives of initiative, hard work, and innovation.” They not only transmit the values and goals of the organization or team, but they also make heroes out of real people.
This content was created by the DTAction Lab team.
Guidelines for Interviewing
These guidelines will help you set the tone for the interview and get the most out of it.
1. You may bring a few prepared questions, but the most important thing is to maintain a connection with the interviewee and show that you are listening to what they are saying (ie, look at them, not just at your notes). Also, you should always follow up on interesting answers, instead of mechanically moving through a list of questions.
2. Take notes or record the interview. Capture on paper the person’s own words whenever possible, instead of rephrasing during the interview. If you record the audio of the interview (with permission), you will need to extract quotes from the recording later.
3. Start the interview by introducing yourself and the project you are working on, and start with lighter, more general questions to establish a connection and put the interviewee at ease
4. Listening is as important as talking (your interviewee should talk about 75% of the time). Also, showing that you are really interested in what the other person has to say goes a long way. Think of the interview as aconversation.
5. Ask open-ended, non-leading questions: “What do you think about that school?” is a better question than “Don’t you think that school is great?” The former doesn’t imply there is a right answer.
6. Be curious and ask “why?” often, even when you think you know the answer. Many answers will surprise you. Always follow up on answers that sound interesting, or whenever the interviewee says “I think…” A good way of doing this, in addition to asking “Why?” is to say “Tell me more about that.”
7. Ask for stories about concrete events. Instead of asking people how do they “usually” do things or how do they “usually” feel, ask them about the last time they did something, or the most memorable moment (in fact, do NOT use “usually” at all).
8. Don’t be afraid of silence. Resist the need to ask another question when there is a pause. The interviewee might reflect on what he/she has just said and say something deeper.
*Bonus points* If you have access to observing someone during an event that is relevant to the challenge (for instance, writing a resume, looking for jobs on the internet, etc.) and can talk to them while observing them in action, that would be extremely valuable to get insights about the challenge from the point of view of that person.
Demo interviews on the EMPATHY forum
The value of different types of questions on the EMPATHY forum
Interviewing for Introverts: http://ethnographymatters.net/2012/03/22/interviewing-for-introverts/
II. Guidelines for the Empathy Map
Using the Empathy Map framework you will process what happened in the interview, make inferences about the thoughts and feelings of the person based on what they said, and connect the dots to identify a need or problem he/she has related to the challenge.
We suggest that you spend about 20 to 30 min creating the empathy map (longer if you need to transcribe an audio recording of the interview).
Go through the sections of the empathy map in this order:
SAY section. Write down here all the quotes from the interview that catch your attention as you review your notes. Be as literal as possible (as opposed to rephrasing what they said in your own words).
DO section (optional). If you observed the person in action, describe here behaviors you saw. You can also combine interview and observation, by asking the person to walk you through what they are doing. **Note that you may not have anything in this section if you did not have the chance to do observations**
THINK and FEEL sections. Here is where you will make inferences (educated guesses) about the meaning of what the person said. What if you are wrong? You may very well be, but if you don’t take a leap and make inferences, you won’t get at deep unexpected needs. At later stages in the process you will get more data that will allow you to refine your understanding and definition of the problem.
III. Guidelines for the Problem Statement
With the problem statement, you encapsulate concrete problems related to the challenge for the person you interviewed. In the next stage (IDEATE – next week), you will creatively solve them.
Since the person you are designing for might not articulate any needs/problems related to the challenge (these would be implicit needs), it’s your job to make educated guesses about those needs, based on the stories and data you gathered in the interview.
Write Problem Statements in this form:
STAKEHOLDER needs a way to ________(PROBLEM/NEED)____ Because ____(INSIGHT)_____
STAKEHOLDER: Here you should describe the person you are designing for (one you interviewed). Use at least 5 adjectives to describe that person. Make sure you add enough information to paint a picture of the person to someone who has not met him/her (“A detailed-oriented, reliable, degree-holding accountant, who is curious and able to work in teams, as well as collaborative and creative”).
PROBLEM/NEED: Use VERBS instead of NOUNS to define the problem/need. Nouns are often already solutions: as an example, contrast “Joe needs a better pencil” with “Joe needs a better way to write” or “Joe needs a better way to capture data.” In the first case the solution is already implied in the problem statement, so there is only opportunity for incremental innovation. In the latter frames, there is an opportunity to come up with innovative solutions that may go beyond an improved pencil.
INSIGHT: Here you provide a justification for the need you stated. The insight often comes from connecting the dots between different elements on the empathy map.
In order to get a good Problem Statement, craft more than one and then select one that is not too narrow (eg, Joe needs to get a job as accountant) nor too broad (Joe needs a way to improve his career) to continue the process.
Here is a template that contains and Empathy Map and Problem Statement:
Jean Paul Gaultier Unveils Coke Light Limited-Edition Bottle Designs13 Apr 2012 | Subscribe to RSS | Get news delivered to your emailhttp://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?api_key=your%20app%20id&channel_url=http%3A%2F%2Fstatic.ak.facebook.com%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter.php%3Fversion%3D5%23cb%3Df37ce8bcac%26origin%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fdesigntaxi.com%252Ff3f8268084%26domain%3Ddesigntaxi.com%26relation%3Dparent.parent&extended_social_context=false&font=lucida%20grande&href=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FdesigntaxiFB&layout=standard&locale=en_US&node_type=link&sdk=joey&send=true&show_faces=false&width=500Recently-appointed creative director of Coca-Cola Light, Jean Paul Gaultier, has unveiled the new limited-edition bottle designs for the soft-drink brand.
The two bottles are designed in the couturier’s signature blue-and-white Breton sailor stripes, corsets, and unique tattoos.
By Tonya M. Peck, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation
Tonya Peck At DMI’s June, 2010 event in San Francisco, “Re-Thinking the Future of Design,” Darrell Rhea and Roger Martin continued their conversation from 2009 exploring Integrative Thinking and its sibling Design Thinking. It was an alluring conversation, surely: if we just “think different” we could finally solve the myriad complex and systemic issues currently confounding corporations and communities. Roger’s book, The Opposable Mind, offers us his four-step process for Integrative Thinking. Richard Florida, Roger’s colleague at the Rotman School of Management, paints a related and irresistible picture of urban renewal and recovery achieved by attracting “high bohemians” (the very people predisposed to integrative thinking). And Dan Pink has popularized the notion that right-brained creatives would soon remake the world into a better place. Under-employed left-handed architects, your time has come! Certainly, integrative thinking and design thinking hold a lot of promise. But will these methods lead us to the effective solutions our corporate and community sponsors require, and the authentic connections with customers we hope to create? And will we realize a future of design that includes the increased impact we seek? I believe the answer is “Yes, yes, and…” Yes, these methods can be effective. Yes, they can drive impact. And they could drive more impact if we apply the behaviors that they require to ourselves and not just to external problems and research subjects. It’s not sufficient to think different, we must be different by demonstrating compassion, curiosity, openness, a comfort with ambiguity, and an unconditional positive regard for our experiences with one another. Let me demonstrate this reasoning using Roger’s four-step process.
1. Salience In the last decade, design as a function, an awareness, a differentiator, and a strategy, has grown from niche and premium markets to the mainstream, the classroom, and the boardroom. Yet scenarios like the following remain all too common. Imagine you’re in a review meeting presenting concepts for a new hand-held consumer device experience. You’ve pursued your work with the utmost fidelity to the principles of Integrative Thinking. You’ve guided your design team through the ambiguity of the diverge/converge cycle, helped them remain curious and empathetic towards their research subjects, and now you’ve pulled together your concepts and scenarios into a pitch. Around the table your colleagues from marketing and finance sit, including a few in possession of hybrid design/MBA degrees. You notice a few behaviors in the room that drive up your anxiety. One colleague has their head in their laptop triaging email. Another flips quickly through your artifacts quickly before quizzing you on basic principles. A third wants to jump to the question, “how much will it cost?” Your stomach flutters, your heart-beat races. You never get to present the customer personas on which your team iterated so hard. You feel yourself losing traction in the room. What’s happening here, and how do you handle it? More importantly, have you been trained to handle an experience like this? Do you and your colleagues around the table have a common language and skillset for pausing and parsing this experience in the moment? Are you able to detect, differentiate, and articulate the thoughts in your mind from the feelings in your body? Can you sense the reptilian urge within yourself to fight or flee while at the same time, feel sufficient empathy for and curiosity about your colleagues? In short, do you have what it takes to direct this potential conflict into an opportunity for collaboration and learning? And, to raise the stakes even higher, could you do so if these colleagues were not internal colleagues, but clients instead?
2. Causality This scenario strikes at the heart of the challenge many design groups face when shepherding their ideas to market. It may not be our designs, or the method by which we develop them, that fails. It may be our behaviors, because we’re under-equipped to navigate the group dynamics that emerge when diverse mindsets meet. We don’t own this challenge exclusively, but as designers, I believe we experience it acutely because our work, our role, our very way of being, is often that of the change agent. In the decade it took for the influence of “think different” to grow from an inspiring Apple ad campaign into a multitude of mainstream MBA programs and BusinessWeek articles, three parallel developments emerged in science and society. Let’s diverge for a moment to explore them. First, brain research has revealed that our limbic brains, the middle portion of the brain that regulates our internal state, also regulates and is regulated by other limbic brains. Like computers, we are more powerful when connected, and less so when that connection is weak or breaks. Research by Daniel Siegel has demonstrated the impact of early childhood on our ability to connect. The very organ we expect to perform design and integrative thinking grows from birth in response to the forces of feelings and connections with those around us. Children raised in unconditionally loving and supportive environments are more likely to grow up into adults with healthy limbic brains capable of curiosity, emotional resilience, empathy, and adaptability; traits necessary to manifest the behaviors of integrative thinking. Second, our awareness and acceptance of diversity, not just of thinking different but of being different, has evolved in the last decade. What we once defined as a list of demographic descriptors that influence human resources and hiring practices (what I call ‘little d’) has grown to include our rich variations in perceptual, cognitive, learning, communication, behavioral, and conflict management styles. Taken together, it’s these diversity factors (what I call ‘big D’) that likely have a more significant impact than ‘little d’ on the experiences we have with others, on the effectiveness of our teams, and on the level of innovation we can deliver for our customers. Third, the dynamic that has emerged since the late 1990’s is the acceptance that emotional intelligence (EQ) becomes a more significant factor in leadership effectiveness and career success the higher one advances. Cary Cherniss’ paper “The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence” (Rutgers University) offers numerous case examples from industry and the military in which positive organizational improvements occurred after hiring and promotion practices began filtering for the various competencies of EQ. The technical skills that once differentiated us as a field have become, like many other fields, common. And what we previously dismissed as ‘soft skills’ we now understand to be the harder, and more necessary, skills to practice. I believe these developments hold important information for us as a field. How can we hope to create emotionally resonant products, services, and experiences for customers if we struggle to connect with each other? It’s not enough to adopt or promote a different way of thinking, whether design, integrative, critical, contemplative, or otherwise. We must leverage our role as change agents by bringing our full self, both our thoughts and our feelings, into the room in service of connecting with our colleague’s limbic brain to limbic brain. This requires that we apply the behaviors of compassion, empathy, curiosity, iterative learning, and unconditional positive regard to ourselves, our colleagues, and our experience of each other in the moment. If you were the design manager in the pitch meeting scenario above, you might feel drawn down the easier path of caving in to cost questions and crunching another spreadsheet. The harder path would require marking the behaviors you observe in the room, sharing their impact on you, and inquiring positively into whether that impact is what your colleagues intended.
3. Sequencing So where to begin? How do we equip ourselves to take the harder path in the pitch meeting scenario? What does it take? In a conversation with John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, he suggested we must discard the archetype of the designer-as-supplicant in favor of the designer-as-leader. But how? I’ve been exploring leadership behaviors in the design field since joining Microsoft in 2002. Back then, the corporate environment was aggressively left-brained, and the whole community of designers fit into a single large meeting hall. Our collective narrative about life in the company often touched on themes of feeling “undervalued,” “lacking a seat at the table,” and “only called in at the last minute to make the product pretty.” I observed myself and my peers becoming risk-averse when conflict emerged, and we probably missed a few creative opportunities along the way as a result. In truth, I failed the pitch meeting scenario myself a few times before recognizing I had to develop my leadership skills in order to succeed. And after several years advocating we do so as a community, I was offered the chance to give it a try. In 2007 I began creating Microsoft’s first leadership development program for user-experience designers and researchers (UXLP). I condensed topics and techniques from my own graduate studies in applied behavioral science (a form of organizational development) into an eight-month long experiential learning program. I asked managers to sponsor participants they perceived to have emerging leadership qualities. We launched the program in January of 2008 with 18 attendees at an intensive three-day off-site based on Kurt Lewin’s T-Group method. We taught them the core skills of differentiating, articulating, and inquiring into their thoughts, assumptions, wants, feelings, and intentions. We taught them how to observe the unfolding group process from a systems perspective, how to track their own reaction patterns, and how to broaden their range of response flexibility. In our subsequent one- and two-day sessions each month we returned to the T-Group format and layered in additional core concepts from the field of organizational development. We reinforced the core concepts via project-based learning, with attendees working in sub-teams on ways to strengthen Microsoft’s design community. And we encouraged participants’ managers to attend key sessions so they too could practice skills like giving and receiving behaviorally-specific feedback in the safety of our “learning lab.” At the graduation ceremony, several managers shared their experience of participants’ increased leadership effectiveness over the course of the program. And several participants reported the impact the program had on their effectiveness in their wider lives outside work. We’re now ramping up our third class of UXLP participants, and the response continues to be very positive. Recent attendee feedback includes: “I learned a lot about how I react to certain behaviors, and how others react to mine.” “I believe in the value of open communication. But in this program I really learned how conflict can signal an opportunity for learning, and how the specific behavioral choices I make can either close down communication, or open it up for that learning to emerge.” “My experience in this program has taught me that we judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by their behaviors. This paradox of team life makes it incumbent upon me, when I’m confused or activated by their behavior, to check my assumptions about their intentions.” Many UXLP participants have also expressed frustration about “why wasn’t I taught these skills in school?” As I’ve begun sharing the UXLP story with academic design programs, I’ve heard similar reactions among the students. While addressing a recent class at the University of Washington, one graduate student made the connection between leadership development and his career prospects. “An employer is going to expect me to lead like this,” he said. “If I walk in with just my Masters-level technical design skills, I feel underequipped.” 4. Resolution Tim Brown, President of IDEO, describes Design Thinking as “not only-human centered” but as “deeply human in and of itself.” In this light, the true gift that Design Thinking and Integrative Thinking have brought us is not some innovative thinking methods, but in the shared vocabulary and causal wisdom we now have to use with each other. Similarly, the “way of being” I’m suggesting we adopt here, bringing our thoughts and feelings into the work of design, is not new. Carl Rogers first described it in his 1961 book On Becoming a Person, and his student Roger Carkhuff expanded on several of the practicable skills required to manifest it. Peter Block, during his keynote address at the annual OD Network Conference 2009 in Seattle, defined the work of organizational development as “restoring humanity to the places that have so de-humanized us in pursuit of process, performance, and profit.” As a designer, this resonates for me as well. And I believe it’s in this direction that we, as individual designers and as a field, must grow in the future.
Biography: Tonya M. Peck has, for over 20 years, focused on building and leading effective product design and development teams in the US, Europe, and Asia. Last year she shifted her professional focus to the organizational development of product teams, and recently delivered the largest learning program in the history of Microsoft’s Windows division. She is eager to hear from other members of the DMI community exploring similar ideas, and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the September 2010 edition of the DMI News & Views.Copyright © 2010 Design Management Institute All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the copyright holder. Feedback on DMI Viewpoints and article proposals are always welcome! Please email jtobin(at)dmi.org
Shared ’cause I do care 4
Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
- Allow events to change you.
You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
- Forget about good.
Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
- Process is more important than outcome.
When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
- Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
- Go deep.
The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
- Capture accidents.
The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
- Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
- Everyone is a leader.
Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
- Harvest ideas.
Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
- Keep moving.
The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
- Slow down.
Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
- Don’t be cool.
Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
- Ask stupid questions.
Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
- Stay up late.
Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
- Work the metaphor.
Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
- Be careful to take risks.
Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
- Repeat yourself.
If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
- Make your own tools.
Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
- Stand on someone’s shoulders.
You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
- Avoid software.
The problem with software is that everyone has it.
- Don’t clean your desk.
You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
- Don’t enter awards competitions.
Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
- Read only left-hand pages.
Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
- Make new words.
Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
- Think with your mind.
Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
- Organization = Liberty.
Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
- Don’t borrow money.
Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
- Listen carefully.
Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
- Take field trips.
The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
- Make mistakes faster.
This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
- Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
- Explore the other edge.
Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
- Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms.
Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
- Avoid fields.
Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
- Power to the people.
Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.
I share it, because I do care 4.
The Main Failing Of Design School: Kids Can’t Think For Themselves
As Pentagram’s Michael Bierut argues, designers are too often trained to think simply about the design itself, and not what it means or what it’s hoping to accomplish.
The following was Michael Bierut’s first published essay, from 1988, and appears in Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design.
Graphic designers are lucky. As the people who structure much of the world’s communications, we get to vicariously partake of as many fields of interest as we have clients. In a single day, a designer can talk about real estate with one client, cancer cures with another, and forklift trucks with a third. Imagine how tedious it must be for a dentist who has nothing to do all day but worry about teeth.
The men and women who invented graphic design in America were largely self-taught; they didn’t have the opportunity to go to fully developed specialized design schools, because none existed. Yet somehow these people managed to prosper without four years of Typography, Visual Problem Solving, and Advanced Aesthetics. What they lacked in formal training they made up for with insatiable curiosity not only about art and design, but culture, science, politics, and history.
How can a designer plan an annual report without some knowledge of economics?
Today, most professionals will admit to alarm about the huge and ever-growing number of programs in graphic design. Each year, more and more high school seniors decide that they have a bright future in “graphics,” often without much of an idea of what graphics is. This swelling tide of 18-year-old, would-be designers is swallowed up thirstily by more and more programs in graphic design at art schools, community colleges, and universities. A few years later, out they come, ready to take their places as professional designers, working for what everybody cheerfully hopes will be an infinitely expanding pool of clients.
There are many ways to teach graphic design, and almost any curriculum will defy neat cubbyholing. Nevertheless, American programs seem to fall into two broad categories: process schools and portfolio schools. Or, if you prefer, “Swiss” schools and “slick” schools.
Process schools favor a form-driven problem-solving approach. The first assignments are simple exercises: drawing letterforms, “translating” three-dimensional objects into idealized high-contrast images, and basic still-life photography. In the intermediate stages, the formal exercises are combined in different ways: Relate the drawing of a flute to the hand-drawn letter N; combine the letter N with a photograph of a ballet slipper. In the final stage, these combinations are turned into “real” graphic design: Letter N plus flute drawing plus ballet slipper photo plus 42-point Univers equals, voilà, a poster for Rudolf Nureyev. Of course, if the advanced student gets an assignment to design a poster for, say, an exhibition on Thomas Edison, he or she is tempted to (literally) revert to form: Combine the letter E, drawing of a movie camera, photo of a light bulb, etc. One way or another, the process schools trace their lineage back to the advanced program of the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland. Sometimes the instructors experienced the program only second or third hand, having themselves studied with someone who studied with someone in Basel.
The Swiss-style process schools seem to have thrived largely as a reaction against the perceived “slickness” of the portfolio schools. While the former have been around in force for only the past 15 years or so, the latter are homegrown institutions with roots in the 1950s.
While the unspoken goal of the process school is to duplicate the idealized black-and-white boot camp regimen of far-off Switzerland, the portfolio school has a completely different, admittedly more mercenary, aim: to provide students with polished “books” that will get them good jobs upon graduation. The problem-solving mode is conceptual, with a bias for appealing, memorable, populist imagery. The product, not process, is king. Now, portfolio schools will rebut this by pointing to the copious tissue layouts that often supplement the awesomely slick work in their graduates’ portfolios. Nonetheless, at the end of the line of tissues is always a beautifully propped photograph of an immaculate mock-up of a perfume bottle. Seldom will portfolio schools encourage students to spend six months on a 20-part structural analysis of, say, the semiotics of a Campbell’s soup label as an end in itself. Unlike the full-time teachers of process schools, the portfolio schools are staffed largely by working professionals who teach part time, who are impatient with idle exercises that don’t relate to the “real world.”
However politely the two camps behave in discussions on design education, the fact is, they hate each other. To the portfolio schools, the “Swiss” method is hermetic, arcane, and meaningless to the general public. To the process schools, the “slick” method is distastefully commercial, shallow, and derivative.
Oddly, though, the best-trained graduates of either camp are equally sought after by employers. East Coast corporate identity firms love the process school graduates; anyone who’s spent six months combining a letterform and a ballet shoe won’t mind being mired in a fat standards manual for three years. On the other hand, package design firms are happy to get the portfolio school graduates; not only do they have a real passion for tighter-than-tight comps, but they can generate hundreds of stylistically diverse alternatives to show indecisive clients.
What, then, is wrong with graphic design education? If there’s a smorgasbord of pedagogical approaches, and employers who can find use for different kinds of training, who suffers? The answer is not in how schools are different, but how they’re the same.
Both process schools and portfolio schools have something in common: Whether the project is the esoteric Nureyev poster or the Bloomingdale’s-ready perfume bottle comp, what’s valued is the way graphic design looks, not what it means. Programs will pay lip service to meaning in design with references to “semiotics” (Swiss) or “conceptual problem solving” (slick), but these nuances are applied in a cultural vacuum. In many programs, if not most, it’s possible to study graphic design for four years without any meaningful exposure to the fine arts, literature, science, history, politics, or any of the other disciplines that unite us in a common culture.
Well, so what? What does a graphic designer need with this other stuff? Employers want trained designers, not writers and economists.
Perhaps the deficiencies in the typical design education aren’t handicaps at first. The new graduate doesn’t need to know economics any more than a plumber does; like a tradesman, he or she needs skills that are, for the most part, technical.
But five or 10 years down the road, how can a designer plan an annual report without some knowledge of economics? Layout a book without an interest in, if not a passion for, literature? Design a logo for a high-tech company without some familiarity with science?
Obviously, they can and do. Some designers fill in their educational gaps as they go along; some just fake it. But most of the mediocre design today comes from designers who are faithfully doing as they were taught in school: they worship at the altar of the visual.
The pioneering design work of the 1940s and 1950s continues to interest and excite us while work from the intervening years looks more and more dated and irrelevant. Without the benefit of intensive specialized programs, the pioneers of our profession, by necessity, became well-rounded intellectually. Their work draws its power from deep in the culture of their times.
Modern design education, on the other hand, is essentially value-free: every problem has a purely visual solution that exists outside any cultural context. Some of the most tragic victims of this attitude hail not from the world of high culture, but from the low. Witness the case of a soft-drink manufacturer that pays a respected design firm a lot of money to “update” a classic logo. The product of American design education responds: “Clean up an old logo? You bet,” and goes right to it. In a vacuum that excludes popular as well as high culture, the meaning of the mark in its culture is disregarded. Why not just say no? The option isn’t considered.
Our clients usually are not other designers; they sell real estate, cure cancer, make forklift trucks. Nor are there many designers in the audiences our work eventually finds. They must be touched with communication that is genuinely resonant, not self-referential. To find the language for that, one must look beyond Manfred Maier’s Principles of Design or the last Communication Arts Design Annual.
Nowadays, the passion of design educators seems to be technology; they fear that computer illiteracy will handicap their graduates. But it’s the broader kind of illiteracy that’s more profoundly troubling. Until educators find a way to expose their students to a meaningful range of culture, graduates will continue to speak in languages that only their classmates understand. And designers, more and more, will end up talking to themselves.
[Top image: Christopher Meder/Shutterstock]