A transcript of Episode 119 of UX Podcast. James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom talk to Stephen Anderson about facilitating structures. How do i facilitate someone’s discovery? How we can help both ourselves and others along their journey as a designer?
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UX podcast episode 219.
You’re listening to UX podcast coming to you from Stockholm, Sweden,
helping the UX community explore ideas and share knowledge since 2011.
We are your hosts Per Axbom.
and James Royal-Lawson,
with listeners in 188 countries from Lebanon to Norway.
Stephen P. Anderson, is a speaker, educator and design leader based out of Dallas, Texas, a former high school teacher, who now has more than two decades in the design industry and is currently head of design at Capital One’s innovation garage. His personal mission – to make learning the hard stuff fun by creating things to think with and spaces for generative play.
Steven is also an author, wrapping up his second book Figure it out, getting from information to understanding and back in 2011, he published Seductive interaction design.
UXLx this year, we had the chance to talk to Steven in person around the intriguing topic of facilitating structures.
We touch on the dogma of tools, the paternalism of design, the need for humanity centred design and the designer as a coach.
You’re going to talk soon about the visual display of information, which in its in itself sounds like a very exciting topic.
But you’re also talking about the future of design. I love the spread of these. But what is it, What is it that’s giving you the kind of the urge to to speak at the moment?
Oh, gosh. Well, as always, I’m interested in way too many topics.
So I think that’s why you see a workshop on one thing completely unrelated to the keynote that I’m giving. I think behind it all though, I’m only just learning how to articulate what’s behind it all.
And it’s really this passion for learning, education, teaching, facilitating, that think has been there all along. My going way, way back. My background was actually, I was an educator, I taught high school English and gifted talented classes in high school.
So I think that’s part of why I returned to doing workshops and in the mid 2000s or so. But I think that idea of how do I facilitate someone’s discovery is coming through more and more.
So doing a workshop. Obviously, that’s like facilitating people’s journey to discovery and learning and my own workshops have gone from, I guess master classes is what you would call them where it’s more me lecturing and occasional exercises to now.
My goal is to speak as little as possible and and facilitate as much as as much as possible. So yeah, there’s definitely that. I think I’m using the phrase facilitating structure behind everything.
It was interesting to hear that you think it’s it’s moved. You’ve moved on maybe have used to work with things you don’t remember when we first met you 2011.
The concepts you were communicating through the cards you had also through the frame, and you’re doing the improv stuff of pretending to be a website.
But that was that was facilitating, even though it was like on the stage. Speaking out to us, or at least I felt it was facilitating because you did open up your mind to further thought.
Happy you say that. Thank you. Yeah, yeah, even on the stage, I would I would break, break the wall and like, you know, actually have interactivity.
I think that’s again, going back to those teaching roots. I think I’m doubling down more on that lens on what I do these days. So even though it’s been there all along.
It’s Can I articulate more of that and do more of that? I think that’s what energises me. And I think here at the midpoint of my career, I’m thinking a lot more about what energises me what drains me whether when I always do more of what do I want do less of, and that really is those types of things.
So like you’re talking about the role playing the browser exercise, or even the mental notes cards, and I have a lot more ideas like that. To me, those are that case, those are tools to facilitate learning.
One of the things that was I wouldn’t say was planned for it was a nice surprise with the mental notes card deck was all the different ways people would write to me and tell me they were using them.
That’s awesome. I put this tool out there. But then people are using these amazing different ways.
So whether it’s a tool, or a canvas, like the polarity mapping stuff that,
yeah that we talked about, in one of the link shows we had
whether it’s that whether it’s you know workshop, whether it’s like in the keynote tomorrow, I’m actually going to hand out sort of, I hesitate to say infographic, infographic concept model, but it’s really to tee up questions we should be thinking about as designers,
I don’t have the answers. But what I’ve tried to do is frame or articulate the questions we should be asking about.
Nice. So I love it when you’re saying that as you’re actually learning more and having more to say, you’re speaking less.
You’re allowing the participants and the learners to actually be the ones will talking more and actually reflecting on what they’re doing. That’s my interpretation of what you’re saying.
Absolutely. That’s hard. Like, especially if you’re opinionated, you have a lot ideas, you want to get them out there.
But there’s enough, it would, you can speak for an hour and watch people take away a few tidbits or you can double down on the essence of what you want to say and figure out how to create the conditions where people engage with that.
And the effectiveness of the latter approach is so much better. And so it’s one of these things like I’m going to try to say last or do last, but what people will get out of it will be even better.
There’s also, there’s also along with that, something I’m honestly wrestling with the idea of empowering people to discover things on their own and discover their own ways of doing things.
Versus particularly as designers, I think we often have this idea of this intent or this outcome that we want for people. And I struggle with that. Like sometimes I have this you know learning outcome where I want to lead people and but is that a very specified thing?
Like do I want them to think like I do? Or do I want to guide them I journey if they arrive somewhere else? That’s okay. Like that’s something I start with.
What could they Teach me then as well.
What could they teach me as well, Yes, absolutely
isn’t one of the challenges that passes is just how our whole way of working is framed, that we’re kind of built up to, to kind of, oh now we’re going to do a workshop, we’re going to a journey mapping workshop, or now we’re going to do this. We’ve kind of got that.
But it’s not the, it’s not deliverable thinking, but it’s the expectation that others UX will know what tool to use and will will will run with that tool and it will deliver what we need to make good stuff.
And it’s not really that that simple.
Oh, no, absolutely not.
Yeah, I think with these tools actually have a couple thoughts there with these tools. A lot of it’s about articulating a point of view, like so a customer journey map, and we want to talk about, here’s the ideal customer journey. Here’s how things should go.
Like here’s how it’s broken today. Here’s how we’ll make it better tomorrow. So do a current state, future state. I have a great tool. I have a couple of challenges. For that, though. Um, one would be one would be what we were just talking about the whole idea of intent.
So who’s to say that’s the best experience all things considered. I mean, there’s, there’s a definitely a bit of paternalism there. Like I’ve done the research, I’m the designer, and the Creator, I know what’s best. And in many cases, I mean, that may be accurate.
Like, if you design an experience, you design a podcast, you have best practices, you have experiences, so you want to see things better.
It comes from a good place, right. But I’m, I’m learning to challenge that, particularly in learning areas or discovery areas where I might have something to learn myself as the designer.
So that intent part is the one thing we’re wrestling with. The other is, I look at a lot of our artefacts, and they’re designed very much at the level of an individual person, or user.
And I think increasing the problem increasingly, the problems we have aren’t that straightforward or simple. They’re more of a systems nature, where you have multiple players and multiple users.
And so I’m looking for more and more tools that show the interaction of all the actors and all the stakeholders and treat them more equally, and don’t just double down on one particular actors journey, our person’s journey.
And that’s, that’s my talk I’m giving right now on the future of design. That’s one of the things I say is, and this is kind of a catchphrase that I picked up from elsewhere, but it’s from
We’re moving from human centred design to humanity centred design. And it’s the idea of there’s a lot more people involved. I like that just as a catchphrase or to anchor against something that contrast there.
is that what led you to think as well about the polarity mapping.
Absolutely. The Yeah, I think I in the post I wrote on that that was for UX Xmas, I hinted that there’s a I want to start sharing a lot more tools like those that help us facilitate come complex discussions. And the great thing there with polarity mapping was I think so many of us are different, adjacent space.
So many of us, particularly with a business mindset, are trained to think in a very rigorous analytical way where the goal is to make a decision. So then you get to tensions.
I think the example I used in that article was learning and research versus just execution, doing diving in right and learning that way. And we see companies who’ve doubled down on one than the other.
And the point was, it’s a both and, it’s not an either or it’s a both and then the polarity mapping tool, or as an exercise that you do in an afternoon.
It helps teams with those different biases, different perspectives come out and say, Oh, yeah, we can’t double down on one perspective or the other.
We have to, we have to be very Zen like, balance them all, all the time. And if we do double down on one perspective, or the other, we’re going to lose in some way.
Yeah. Which is other things that many of us do have those kind of noble causes.
And you’re you’re kind of bloody mindedly go for your noble cause. But it’s not, it’s not going to happen. They get these noble cause. It’s more balanced in reality.
Yeah. And there’s, it’s, I was quick to point out, there are things that are in fact, problems that need rigour and analysis, and you have to commit and make a decision.
It’s when we treat things that aren’t that that are complex. And there does need to be this balance when we treat them in this this one dimensional way.
That’s when things get go go south very quickly.
And so the the challenge there was, all right, if this is something where it seems like it’s a polarity and not a problem to be solved, then then let’s use a different tool that whose aim is not to pick one or the other aim is to understand that all times the virtues of both and the danger, the dark sides of both.
Yeah, which is facilitating,
which is just facilitating, yes,
I love doing that exercise where I mean, I found this tool, the polarity maps, I didn’t create it all. And then there was facilitation, even in the labelling of the polarities for for the whole room exercise. And I even learned along the way, like what I had labelled the the intent of those words didn’t mean the same thing for everyone.
So there were some groups who said, Well, we changed the label of the clarity to this, because that made more sense. I was like, that’s great. Right? That’s, that’s and I opened the door for that.
For groups to do that, because I was like, I’m not entirely sure that these I’ve named these correctly. I know there’s.. the entities are right. I don’t know if I articulated them, or label them accurately.
And that was actually one of my question say the tools how rigid are they? What do they evolve over time?
Because I’m thinking of the empathy map that Dave Gray drew many, many years ago that he has evolved over time made new releases of that.
And have been used in different contexts.
Yeah. And actually involving the people in your workshop into evolving the tool. That’s fantastic.
Oh, yeah. I. I am frustration of mine is the dogma that we attach
Just going to ask you about that.
When we get that whole things like what tools do we use? And and how do you? How do you open up?
How do you explain a tool and keep conveying the value in the tool at the same time as you convey, Or you you open up, like you said the door, to let them tweak things and play with it?
Yeah, so that’s so it’s weird, I’m gonna I’m gonna make a statement. But in the coming off of polarity mapping, I’m going to say like, that’s a tool that’s rigorous and been tested, that’s probably for what it is really good.
Not that you couldn’t do a forked version of it, or something different. But I would say it things like the business model canvas, they’ve been tweaked.
And they’re pretty good as as although in the case, even the case of the business model canvas, there are variants and things that have come even the the the folks that created that have created a you know, related versions, like the value proposition canvas.
So I mean, I think in general, though, yeah, these are all tools. They’re all I like to use a word from architecture, they’re all just scaffolding.
And so we put it up while we’re making the building, but the scaffolding gets taken down the thrown away afterwards. And so these whether it’s an artefact we create like a customer journey, or whether it’s a tool to facilitate a difficult conversation like clarity mapping,
it’s all scaffolding to get people thinking in the same direction or aligned or communicating or understanding or sharing ideas. That’s, that’s their function. So it frustrates me when I see people locking on to the details of this is how you do the tool.
No, you can’t change. I’m like, No, it’s just it’s just a structure that someone created somewhere and it worked in their situation. And they shared it more broadly because they thought other people could done it.
That’s the the fact the workshop. One of the challenges of the visual display of information workshop that I’m doing is I think there are folks who walk in want to know, okay, how’s this gonna help me make better journey maps or better wire frames or better data visualisations or whatever. And it’s not that I’m very clear about that.
But I will, I’m challenging people with is, this is a little bit deeper than that. It’s more of the universal visual language behind all of this. And if you understand this visual language, then you’re not trapped by these tools or a slave to these tools, you can make these tools, do whatever you need them to do.
So customer journey is a great example. customer journey, service blueprints, very popular, right.
But I work with folks who will do something different, where suddenly will just change up all the lanes and instead of the normal, like front stage, backstage lanes or the emotional journey, and then the you know, everything else will say, well, let’s make all the lanes actors, because we’ve got 13 actors. In this case, it’s not about one, like and let’s do something simple like that.
And the question comes with what kind of artefacts? is this? Is this a, you know, I’m Like, I don’t know, it’s just had time on one axis and had actors on the other. And then we had that third axis where we looped in tools, you know, in this group, like, I don’t know, we just made it up, right. But we used a visual language to create something that was relevant to ourselves and our problem.
And that has to be the real question what is the intent of the tool you’re producing. It’s not it, did you fill it out correctly? It’s, is it performing? Is it performing a task that you want it to?
Is it having an impact?
Yeah, that battling with our innate desire to label things and, and put it into categories.
So we took we learn the tools, you go to, you know, conferences, or workshops or education sessions, and we go now I’ve learned how you do that mapping tool or whatever. And I’m going to now put it into that box in my head. That’s that tool, that purpose.
One of the problems is, of course, the clients I see are learning that this is a delivery.
so the clients actually ask, we want a customer journey map. And if it doesn’t look like they expect it to look, then that’s a problem.
Yeah, I’ve been in that. Yeah. Historically, I’ve been in that situation.
I think the more kind of codified the right word, the more hardened that UX gets, the more you have that.
I just feel like that’s dangerous, because that gets us into the and I think there’s an article going around right now the McDonaldification of UX, like it’s just, we’re we’re Our goal is to crank out these artefacts.
And that, I think if you play that forward, again, going back to like future design topics, you play that forward that ultimately devalues our industry, because then you have a lot of people doing UX theatre going through the motions, but it wasn’t really the right tool or the right thing for the job.
And yeah, the long, long tail of that is our long effective that is, yeah, what’s all this UX stuff, we don’t need it like we tried it, they created their customer journeys and blueprints didn’t really help us.
And in doing so we lose sight of why those things were created in the first place was just to solve a very specific problem that maybe that we didn’t have the same problem in this case,
On what basis they were created as well. Because what’s interesting about some of these tools, like the customer journey map is that people start making them before they actually do any research.
So pretty, I love them. It’s it’s almost like it’s accepted within the industry sometimes to start doing it, and you can test it afterwards and then you never have time to actually do the research.
It’s like, yeah, this is kind of right, because we talked to the client. And this is how they see their situation.
didn’t do the research course, you would have their workshop with the client where you get all the information you need to produce it.
I’ll tell you the interesting thing I’ve ever had is in Europe, but we’re seeing like these tools adopted beyond designers.
So design practices are being embraced by product teams and engineering groups. And you have teams of engineers, I’ve been asked to go out and do research, which I think is awesome. It’s part of the democratisation, democratisation of design.
But in doing so what happens is, I think you get more of that dogma, right, more of this is how it has to be the context of those some of those tools is lost, and you get a lot of what I’ve described as the adolescent humbling, where people are trying new stuff, and they’re doing it poorly.
But, bless their hearts, like they’re using these tools. They’re embracing this design mindset and these design tools.
And so I’m seeing the role of designer shift to be more of a coach and a supporter in these cases, and also correcting and saying, Yeah, you don’t need this tool in this case. But the thing that I was going to ask because I know it’s unique in the US, or we’re seeing this all over, but I’m seeing companies where they’re starting to mandate, like internally, every team will do a customer journey map, right?
Every team will do these things. And you see exactly that where someone will come to a designer, because you’re a designer, you know about this, right?
So yeah, we need to create one, it’ll only take a few hours, right? And no research is just an artefact. Right? And it’s, you know, bless their hearts well intended, right, but someone’s told them has to be part of the process. And so there’s no context or understand the why it’s useful or valuable.
That’s why we know through teaching, when you know that you often learn things best when you try and and, and fail, because you don’t really fail, you actually just learned why that first attempt wasn’t going to succeed.
And this is kind of what we’re saying with some of these these tools. I mean yeah. Let them, bless outs, let them get on with using this.
And they kind of they need to see that it doesn’t work like that. So you can then facilitate or enable the further learning of what is going to work better in that situation.
So that goes back to to an opinion I’m forming, I think increasingly, I mean, there was, before I make the statement, there’s always going to be a need for the craft designers who know what they’re doing are really skilled. But I’m seeing more broadly, particularly talking about UX and experience design topics.
You need, more folks are comfortable switching and being more coaches and consultants and mentors, coaching teams of multidisciplinary teams on how to do these things and how to do it better, how to improve. And in the process learning as well, you know, as I had thought of that way, that’s that’s pretty cool, right?
I don’t know, how many of us are ready for that switch? Obviously, it’s something I love doing. But it is a different, different mindset to get your hands off the thing and say, my, the object, the artefact I’m working with now as people, right and cultures like that’s my design focus.
I think I’ve been playing with this thought as well, recently. I’m not sure exactly what to call it. But I think it’s like it’s almost like the UX of UX.
We’re that we’re kind of moving on maturing.
And there is this realisation that we need to facilitate things more, rather than just kind of do things. And that kind of means, it says, we need to start thinking about how do we experience it? How do we deliver UX in itself?
So you end up being almost lopping on yourself the UX of UX.
Absolutely, I think I think researchers are sort of the canary in the coal mine. For this.
Where I’m seeing more groups where again, everyone’s asked to do research, everyone understands the value of research. But not everyone’s a good researcher. And so those who are on staff and are trained, I think the increasingly important role is for them to work through others.
And you know, for 80 90% of the user research, just coach or look over the interview questions or shadow some folks who are doing research, and then actually do research directly, maybe 10% of the time when it’s a really tricky case, or I need someone who’s really skilled and trained at research.
But that’s, you know, that’s, you see people who like I’m a researcher, I just wanna keep doing research. That’s what I’m good at. And people like, know that that makes sense. I’ll, I’ll, instead of being the bottleneck, I’ll train up 20 other people to do research.
And in the near term, they won’t do it as well as I can, because that’s not what they went to school for or trained for. But wow suddenly we have a culture that’s embracing research, not skipping that,
So what we’re saying is really, you can increase the value of your design team, mentally by just making certain the rest of coach in place.
Yeah, I’ve, you know, in my role, it’s a bit of an education role. But I’m quick to say I’m not here necessarily for the designers as much as the design practice, as I see more and more people embracing design and practising it.
So in that coaching role, what what what is it that you have to think about as a coach, for designers, one of the most important aspects of it,
Everyone’s a bit different, I would say the biggest lesson I am learning is, there’s a big distinction between being a coach and being a consultant.
So as a consultant, you’re often hired to bring a point of view, very strong point of view, often, As a coach, it’s almost the opposite, where you’re trained to ask questions and help people figure things out.
So even if in the first two minutes, I know exactly, I could diagnose know exactly what’s going on. It’s not my job to tell them, it’s my job to let them figure that out.
So it’s all about asking the questions that will guide them to that conclusion. Or, you know, maybe I’m wrong in my diagnosis, and I’ll learn something along the way.
But it’s Yeah, it’s it’s very different. And that’s, that’s hard. Like, I’ll go into one on ones with folks that are coaching or mentoring, which is different as well. And it’s, yeah, it’s hard for me to bite my tongue and like, not just say, God, this is the problem, you got to go do this.
And it’s amazing. I maybe 45 minutes in the conversation, people say, you know, I thought maybe what I need to try is x and then X’s will pop in my head, you know, they begin the conversation.
I’m like, Yeah, that’d be a great idea. They came to that conclusion, they own it. Or maybe it’s not, it’s not exactly X I thought of in something different. I’m like, That’s fabulous. I think that’s great. But it’s their idea. they own it, there’s agency involved.
It’s not someone else saying, you know, this is what you need to do. And, you know, I think that ownership in the agency is really critical.
You said that nothing between being a consultant and being a facilitator or coach, sorry. But then what about the difference then between being the coach and the leader?
So I actually have it. So I have a point of view on this. I actually think the role of leaders, particularly in the 21st century, and information environments, is, is more of that facilitator.
I think we are in the same way facilitator of a workshop says, here’s the goal, I think leaders should set the purpose or the vision, non specified, but specific enough that everyone knows when that’s achieved, right.
And that’s, that in itself is a challenge, right? Because you have these lofty vision statements, mission statements that are so fuzzy,
they they’re not, they’re nothing to grab on to. So you need to craft a good, like, here’s why we exist, Here’s how we’re going to change the world, here’s how will be different five years and here’s, how will know, reach that, that last parts really critical
we’ll know we’ve reached this vision when this happens, right?
So I think your job is to do that. But then get out of the way and let the teams figure that out.
And courage that autonomy. I see so many cases where the people who know the most are it’s kind of cliche, but it’s the people on the front lines doing the work.
And if they could just be empowered to make the choices and direct things, companies would be so much better.
But you know, we’re we come from this historical command and control, we have this altitude view that you don’t so just, you know, their details you can work out, but we’re calling the shots,
and I must embrace a reversal that are flip.
And in terms of the altitude, and we see things you don’t see, well, that’s the facilitating structure, right?
That’s the we’re going to we’re going to draw the borders, we’re going to define, perhaps who we think our competition is, or the competitive experiences,
but in our vision, but you go figure it out, like we made the sandbox, now you go play in it and and show us what can be done.
So do you think you can? Can you adopt the leadership style that is facilitating?
Or do you need to? Do you need to build the culture, Or the organisation first to allow that to happen?
That’s an excellent question. I would say,
I didn’t know where your question was going. So I was gonna say both and
Right. But you’re right, if you were to walk into a culture that wasn’t used to that, and they expected more of the top down.
I don’t know, as I’m digging more into this, I’m dig into a lot of books and research around organisational cultures.
I’m seeing it’s almost a release or leaf when you have a change in leadership, and the leaders do say, you know what, you know, more than I do, or I’m going to, I’m going to draw the boundaries, right grid, the sandbox, but you figured out
and so I mean, the extreme of this are some of the, you know, flat is a meritocracy type organisations, right.
Zappos is brought up, there’s others in Europe, they’re brought up doing this.
But I think in general, there’s still a lot that these organisations are learning every situation is different.
I think, in general, it tends to be an improvement over the way things work. And when there’s a change in leadership again, and someone tries to bring back the old way that usually fails miserably, but seems to be the conclusion.
So I think it’s this it’s just the natural course of things. It’s just we have a whole generation or two of business leaders who were not trained to think in this way.
It’s almost like you would coach that change, because part of coaching is also asking the people, how can I help you? And if they need leadership of the former style? Yes, they’ll actually ask for that. And you can move incrementally towards more autonomy.
Yep. Yep. We’re, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of training being done that almost gets pushes people in the slow way, or nudges people in a slow way to this. And it’s very interactive. It’s focusing on this mindset. And so I can say it work, we’re doing a lot of self awareness training.
And the whole ethos is to move the company from being are moving the company from being an ego driven company, where you get competition and hierarchy and all that to being more of an eco driven company.
That’s the ethos of this particular programme that we’re doing. But you see it show up also with folks like Renee brown and her focus on vulnerability and courage and values. You see it show up with the work of Amy Edmundson, talking about psychological safety and building safety in the workplace.
And I think a lot of her work gotten the limelight in 2015 when Google to their study on what was what made effective teams. A lot of the stuff about radical candour I mean, you’re seeing these, these ideas come into the forefront in business circles.
I think they’re all part of this ethos of how do we empower people? How do we create a safe space? How do we create a culture where people can be authentic and be themselves?
And I think part of that’s kind of revolt against the traditional, we’re going to treat people as to say, a big cogs in a machine, right. And we don’t do that literally anymore. But in many ways, we still have these hierarchies and decisions are made at the top and ripple down
exactly, once you zoomed out, then it does become headcounts and kind of activity and, you know, all these kind of…
You have individuals, people who bring really, really great things to the organisation, but that’s not what we need from this role. Right?
And so it’s like, how do we flip that inside out and say, you know, here are the amazing, here’s the amazing talent we have, are the people on the bus to use that phrase, like, Can where do we want to go? What can we do with the people we have?
Which for me, also brings it actually to the domino effect of like, how I am treated is how I will treat others so I can lead the people I am designing for I will treat them better, by being better treated myself by my organisation.
So positive outlook. I love that.
Yeah, that that’s really hard. Like, in these trainings, where we’re talking about being vulnerable, it often requires one person to, like, shed their armour first.
And the question is, what if I dropped my armour? I expose myself and the other person doesn’t they just, they just spear me, right? And that’s a that’s a valid and common fear?
And I mean, there’s no easy answer, but I usually challenge people with is okay, you can both keep your armour on and keep going the way you have. Or you can take your armour off, take a risk. And yeah, either it goes poorly or the other person takes their armour off to and now you’re in a much better place is the risk worth it to you,
though you need to make sure you built up sufficient trust, before you take the armour off.
Trust although sometimes taking the armour off is the act of building trust. Again, every situation is a little bit different. But But yeah, I think that’s the idea is can you can you be your whole self? Can you be vulnerable? And where will that lead in the faith and the hope is that it will start, over time, to create these more authentic, wholesome organisations
Positive and lots of food for thought and looking forward to hearing more from you in the future. Thanks for sitting down with us, Stephen.
Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Wow. teaching workshops, tools, coaching, facilitating, leadership, we went on a bit of a journey there didn’t we?
But I think the theme running through it was was Stephens passion for facilitating, and that that whole thing about trust, openness, humility, not being precious about our work and artefacts and not being trapped by dogma.
The designers as design coaches.
Yeah. And I do love how a lot of the people we are talking to nowadays are talking about coaching, as a way forward for designers and design leaders to actually help and not have exactly that not have these dogmas around what tools to use, how we do our work, but actually help people discover their own path.
And the interesting thing about this is that I, I keep thinking that we need to take it one step further. Because as a designer, and since we touched upon a bit, we could have talked about it more the paternalism of design, the thinking that we do this research. And so we know what’s best for the user. And so that’s what we’re going to build, we need to move further away from that. And help designers become better at being humble in the way that coaches are humble.
Meaning the way I’m thinking about it, that we actually need to help our users explore their own paths. As they’re making decisions on our websites. And in our services.
We haven’t decided for them what the best outcome is for them, we need to be as open as Stephen is in his workshop, when he’s facilitating, he’s not teaching his practices so that other people that will adopt his practices, he’s teaching people that they can be in charge of their own path.
And so you can interpret things in so many different ways and allowing people to interpret things and moving in their own direction, even as you are designing for the people, the users as we tend to call them and realising that they too, also need to be able to make their own decisions.
This is difficult. I mean, in a business sense, it’s it sounds really scary. That why would we not make sure that people follow this path which leads which leads to profit for the company. But this, I think, is the Sustainable Future way of thinking around this.
We need to everybody’s adopting this new way of facilitating and coaching, we need to bring that further into not just the way we work, but what we actually produce.
Oh, I think, I had a, related or another, a similar kind of experience of looking back on this and, and but I framed it a little bit differently in my head, but at the same time similar, that both me you and Stephen, we’re UXers or designers, I’ve been in the business for over 20 years.
And and the whole thing of designers, as coaches or the maturity into coaching roles is very much tied to our experience and our generation, perhaps. Or as you’ve picked up on that, that that communication, or that interface towards the user, as a designer, I was thinking about the the way you look at this from being a new designer into the industry.
Because, yes, it’s one thing coaching, or mentoring or coaching people in the industry to be finding their own journey, and so on, rather than stuck in dogma and using tools and deliverables. But if you come into this business of ours, and if you are.. we are very much hung up on those artefacts and especially in the very early stages of your careers.
So I can see that as a real challenge. I mean, how, how do you how do you kind of dive straight into design facilitation as someone who’s Junior in the industry, when they expect expectation upon you, perhaps from the organisation, we touched on culture in the interview, if you if you’re faced with a culture of processes, and artefacts, and you’re still learning or becoming to understand the importance of facilitation, and, and finding a path for the user and find a path for yourself. In all this. That’s a challenge.
It is a challenge I and I totally agree with with the challenge and how I mean, I know that when I’m teaching, everybody asked me about so what tools do you use? Or what models do you use? How do you go forward?
That isn’t the solution somehow that when you come out and start working that you need to work alongside someone who is aware of the coach, coaching, thinking, the coaching practices, so that it’s you learn from each other?
It’s not it’s not, you can’t just go out there and learn it, start doing it, but it but it’s a muscle you need to practice.
Yeah, I’m actually laughing a little bit now, because I’m realising we’re always kind of doing what we’re, we’re kind of living what we talked about. We’re we’re looking for the we’re looking for the recipe, we’re looking for the answer, we’re looking for the we’re looking for the process Per, to say, this is what everyone should do.
Whereas, you know, what Stephen talks about, or we mentioned was that, yeah, there are going to be organisations where you need to be the facilitating leader, depending on who’s on your buss, what resources you’ve got, what can we do with these wonderful people.
And the same thing, when you apply for jobs, when you kind of start out in firms that – or organisations, find one that matches you or gives you that right feeling and that’s maybe, exactly – you know, if you feel like you do want to kind of work on deliverables for a while, then find somewhere that will allow you to do that while still growing,
I think, I think so you’re onto something there that I mean, you need to feel accomplished using the tools before you can let them go.
And it’s just that a lot of people don’t let them go. And you need to be aware that at some point, these tools need to be something that is flexible, that you use out of different tools that different and you you model the tools differently based on the circumstances and the context.
The last course that I do and where I teach with ethics is last course actually in two year programme, what I tend to tell them is and to start off with is what if you just learned during two years, is completely wrong.
Which would sort of I mean, that’s daunting for the students, of course, but it’s a fun way to start talking about it.
How could we solve problems in different ways, because by then they’re also mature enough to realise they’ve started seeing patterns in the way they work, they know what works and what doesn’t work, and how they can feel brave enough to try out new things.
And also, I think, what sounds interesting and I can imagine being a valuable lesson from that is it trains your skills of empathy and understanding and facilitation and moving from from place A to place B, because if you’re a group, you’re suddenly told what you’ve learned is wrong.
You then have to discuss what that was, and then discuss what right could be and transition everyone in your group from a space where what they knew was right and is now wrong to a new place where they they together accept the new way of doing things.
I love this. So we should we should explore this more. This is really interesting.
Yes, I agree with you.
But time’s up Per,
Time is running out. Thanks for spending your time with us. Links in notes from this episode found on uxpodcast.com as per usual, and if you can’t find them in your pod ply pod puh. That’s that’s a tongue twister, your pod playing tool of choice
and recommended listening after this one, Episode 201 consistency, which features two excellent articles one by Jared Spool about consistency and the other Of course, by Stephen, which we referenced a couple of points, a couple times during this interview. Polarity mapping.
and remember you can contribute to funding the show by visiting uxpodcast.com/support.
Remember to keep moving,
see you on the other side
This transcript has been machine generated and checked by a human.