Tuesday Mar 04, 2008


I'm taking an interesting UCSC seminar-course "User Experience Managers Speak" led by the Richard Anderson, famous for his roles in leading BayCHI and DUX.

Those of you who are not familiar with Richard Anderson's work or taken any of his courses are missing out!
Check out his blog.

One theme that is emerging is the importance of Trust. We don't hear a lot about that in the literature or in casual conversation of the HCI business; usually we talk of Us (HCI people) versus Them (engineering). In this class, however, ALL the successful manager-speakers so far (4) have stressed the importance of the UX Manager and staff establishing Trust relationships with the engineering teams they work with.

The speaker at the first class was Jim Nieters, formerly of Oracle and now director of UX at Yahoo. He said that as a leader, a UX manager needs strong relationships with many key people across an organization. These relationships are emotional bonds - trust - and very important. He said that this is far more important than more traditional UX organizational concerns such as "whom you report to in the org chart". He cites a "Trust Gap" between UX Staff and senior corporate executives in most organizations. (Many UX practitioners are not trusted to be pushing for things that the company really needs). He also points out that trust requires face-to-face physical contact- meetings, conversations, etc., and that trust is earned.

Anderson has blogged about Nieter's lecture.

An interesting related tidbit is that Trust was mentioned twice at xDesign's Design Summit. Notably, that establishing Trust relationships requires face to face physical human contact; an interesting problem at a distributed company that employs telecommuting so extensively.

Tuesday Oct 23, 2007

A designer's take on the myths of innovation

Maya Venkatraman is an Interaction Designer at Sun Microsystems. She started working in the area of Human Computer Interaction in graduate school, where she earned her Ph.D, and has been working in the industry for almost a decade, designing software that is easy to use.

http://www.scottberkun.com/wp-content/themes/scottberkun/images/myths_cover_small.gif There seems to be a tight coupling between each phase of the internet era and a set of buzz words. The omnipresent and overused buzz word for the web 2.0 era is "Innovation".

My garden supply site , a respected business journal, and everyone in between wants to tell me about their innovations, how to innovate, who is innovating, why we are not innovating enough, and many, many more innovative things.

Given all of this attention to the topic of innovation, I found it hard to resist buying and reading Scott Berkun's latest book The Myths of Innovation. After reading his first book , The Art of Project Management, I expected this book to be pragmatic, realistic, entertaining and informative. I was not disappointed.

The earlier book, The Art of Project Management, is about the effective management of the environment in which designers work. But this book is about the everyday work of designers and the way their work is perceived. While I learned a lot of new facts reading "The Art...", I found a lot of supporting evidence for existing beliefs when I read "The Myths...".

The book is organized into ten chapters, each chapter focusing on debunking one myth. I have taken the liberty to translate the list into design parlance:

  • Myth 1: Good Design is the Result of a Single Moment of Inspiration or Epiphany
  • Myth 2: Winning Designs Are Immediately Obvious
  • Myth 3: There is One Single Method to Get to Good Design
  • Myth 4: People Love New Designs
  • Myth 5: The Designer Works Alone
  • Myth 6: Good Design Ideas Are Hard to Find
  • Myth 7: Your Boss Knows More About Design Than You Do.
    (probably not, but he can create an environment where it is safe for you to innovate)
  • Myth 8: Problem Statements Do Not Matter
    (they do, phrasing the problem correctly can give you half the solution)
  • Myth 9: The Best Design Always Wins
    (no, the design that is optimum for a given situation and time - wins)
  • Myth 10: New Designs are Always Good

I can see myself reaching for this book when I want to use a quote or anecdote to make a point, but I can also see myself using this book to analyze the "innovation trajectory" of projects that I'm involved with. My favorite quote from the book is, "An idea is not an innovation 'till it reaches people."

Entertaining and informative, I would highly recommend this book to anyone involved in, or nearby, a design project.


xDesign is a software user experience design group at Sun.
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