Monthly Archives: March 2010

“Killing two birds with one stone.”

Multi-tasking may work for some people, but rarely is it effective on human beings. People want you to pay attention to them – it’s a basic human need. If you try to serve two different customers at once, it may cause one or both of the customers to lose interest. You will frustrate yourself because you expect to win them both over, but when it doesn’t work, you will lose momentum and motivation.

If you try to kill two birds with one stone, you will run the risk of wounding the birds, and not really killing them. Your customers will not be happy if you promise duck on the table for dinner, but serve birds that aren’t even dead yet. I always appreciate someone who devotes the time and attention to each customer, report, task, — and still manages to ship on time. They may serve one customer at a time, but they certainly don’t lose momentum, or motivation.


Hand Gestures and Distractions

One thing I tend to do a lot is two-handed gestures when giving a talk, speech, or presentation. I somehow don’t know what to do with my hands, so I claspe them together, or wave them around, etc. But from watching other speakers – one handed gestures seem to be not only less distracting, but more effective. It is so much more obvious that you are making a point. I don’t know why this is, but perhaps ‘less is more.’

Simpler is Better. Only one hand is necessary, and more likely to get your audience to focus on your message. There’s a reason why pedestrian stop lights only have one hand to tell you now to walk.

The Tribes We Lead

The Tribes we lead are both internal and external to the organizations we serve. Internally, we lead tribes of people who care about the work we do. These people continuously find value in our work, and keep coming back asking for more.

Externally, we lead tribes of people who care about the good work we produce. They care more so about the end result of what we do. These people care more about what difference it makes for them as consumers, customers, or buyers.

We must find creative ways to give back to both Tribes.

Inspired by Tribes, by Seth Godin.

Gorillas and Public Speaking

“There is a reason that the number one fear reported by most people is public speaking.” Seth Godin, Linchpin

About two years ago, my husband and I visited the gorilla exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo. It was sort of inside a covered cave, and there was big glass window that separated humans from the gorillas. Most of the gorillas were hiding, but one was walking towards the window. I said, “He’s coming – let’s say hi to the gorilla!” I got down on my hands and knees, and flexed my arms and muscles like a gorilla would do, to sort of play with the gorilla. I looked right into his eyes, which were the sweetest little eyes, and then BAM! Before I knew it, he had taken his big fist, and pounded it against the window, right at my face!

In his new book, Linchpin, Seth Godin uses this gorilla analogy to illustrate why humans are so freaked out by public speaking. He illustrates how eye contact is threatening to gorillas, and has lead to attacks. Then he goes on to explain that:

“Eye contact all by itself is enough to throw your lizard brain into a tizzy. Imagine how scary it must be to set out to do something that will get you noticed or perhaps even criticized. There is a reason that the number one fear reported by most people is public speaking.” – Seth Godin, Linchpin

Gorillas may never overcome their fear of eye contact. But I think humans can.

“Heart and Soul”

“Heart and Soul” is a blast to play with someone else. It challenges both people to be in sync with each other, with the rhythm, and with the melody. One player can’t start playing their own tune. They must listen to each other, and find a way to play together.

Teamwork takes practice, it takes listening, and a willingness to play the same tune. In the end, if you do these things, you might just play a wonderful duet that will delight (and maybe surprise) those who hear it.

Creating good experiences for your customers means your experience needs to harmonize with their expectations. Together, with their insights, you can make a fantastic experience.

Spend some time improving what’s inside your head

One of my classmates in graduate school once commented in class, “I am overloaded with information – everything is just coming at me on TV, radio, etc.” In response, our professor said, “I don’t watch TV – there really isn’t anything good on there anyway. I read dozens of books a year, I read 5 newspapers a day, I seek information out, instead of waiting for it to come to me.”

I was really impressed, and for some reason, his words always stuck with me. But how do you do this? How do you find time to read more books, read more newspapers, and actively seek to be informed? I recently came across a great blogpost by Seth Godin that talks about where to find time to do these things:

“1. Delete 120 minutes a day of ‘spare time’ from your life. This can include TV, … commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.

2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:

  • Exercise for thirty minutes.
  • Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
  • Send three thank you notes.
  • Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
  • Volunteer.
  • Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
  • Give a speech once a month about something you don’t currently know a lot about.”

3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.

If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people don’t, you’d have a wider network and you’d be more focused.

My professor, always had the most amazing ideas to improve and create great experiences. I always wondered where his brilliance came from – and I think at least in part, it came from the time he spent improving what’s inside his head.

Becoming more efficient

Many of us want to be more efficient with our work. We want to cover more ground in less time, use less energy, etc.  Runners seem to have this down to a science.  They aim to accomplish more in less time, cover more ground, and use less energy.  They prepare well, and push themselves beyond their limits.

What’s even more special is:

“After completing the training and the marathon, many runners break through mental confidence barriers and go on to accomplishing things they never thought possible before their finish.” – Jeff Galloway’s Blog

Becoming more efficient helps runners accomplish more than they ever dreamed. If  you became drastically more efficient, what would your life look like?

Shipping Gifts from the Heart

Seth Godin’s book Linchpin discusses the importance of shipping – he asserts that good ideas mean nothing unless you can ship them. He says we don’t need more creativity, because there are plenty of ideas out there. What we need is to get those ideas out there, ship them, and see what happens.

When I think about how this applies to User Experience Design and Research, I think about generating more ideas, getting them in front of users, delivering more opportunities to observe people using these design ideas. However, what seems most amazing to me, is how these ideas get implemented – getting these ideas from testing to release.

User Experience professionals typically rely on skilled product development teams to make their ideas come true (writing code, writing documentation, QA testing, etc.). User Experience professionals don’t really ship anything that end-users can actually use, they ship ideas, test those ideas, and work with product development teams to see those ideas get implemented.

I think people who rely on others to implement their ideas should ship more of these: thank you notes – to users, stakeholders, and team members. These cost hardly anything to ship. If you are short, concise, thoughtful, funny, and write from the heart, they can make all the difference in the world to users (who inspire your ideas), to stakeholders (who pay you for your ideas), and product team members (who implement your ideas). Also, your team, stakeholders, and users will feel more connected together too.

Seth says to ship the things you enjoy giving, and gifts that help improve lives. Ship more appreciation and gratitude, and your life will improve too!

Designing efficient experiences

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”~Juma Ikangaa, NYC Marathon Champion

Marathon Runners learn to be efficient. They try to cover more ground in less time. When they can’t shave off time, they try to cover more ground, with less energy. It is all about becoming more and more efficient, and the runner who runs most efficiently wins.

What is interesting to me is the techniques and strategies runners choose to use to prepare to win. Speed workouts, rest, long runs, recovery, and cross training all go into that preparation, and in the long run, it helps them get to the finish line in few steps than before. Metaphorically speaking, can the same techniques be applied to cover more ground with the work we do?

As User Experience professionals, we need to make the experiences we create more efficient. The experience using our designs needs to be faster, so that the user doesn’t have to take as many steps. Our goal should be to help users accomplish their goals in less time, using our system. In order to do this, we need to constantly be testing our experiences, and seeing how fast they are – how quickly do they allow users to use them? As NYC Marathon Champion Jumaa Ikanga said, our “will to win means nothing with out the will to prepare.” If we want to build great experiences, we need to train our systems to be efficient – through constant “speed workouts” with users.