Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Start anywhere

Where do you start if you would like to change the role user experience plays in your business?

According to a chapter entitled, "Where Do I Start?" in the new book "Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas" (see my recent "Patterns for Achieving Change" for more info on the book and its contents):
"an effective change agent begins as an Evangelist. That is, we see this pattern with this name as the starting point for the rest of the pattern language. The name has a religious flavor and there's a good reason for that: We've found that unless you are truly passionate about the new idea, others will not be convinced to leave the tried and true ways and follow you."
In a chapter entitled, "Strategies to Make E-Business More Customer-Centred" in the 2001 book "The Usability Business: Making the Web Work," I and my co-author answered the question in a different manner. We called a strategy we used in a variety of organizational contexts, "Starting in the middle and working our way backward and forward simultaneously." As I state on my website:
"this strategy employs techniques which enable development of the kind of understanding of user experience that is needed for moving forward appropriately but that could have provided critical direction to earlier activities. Recognition of the latter by those responsible for the earlier activities can increase the chances that this kind of understanding of user experience will be developed earlier in the future and, hence, will play a different and more valuable role in the process."
A tweak of the label to refer to organizational hierarchy rather than process yields another starting point that can be a good one: "Starting in the middle and working your way UPWARD and DOWNWARD simultaneously."

The most appropriate starting point, and how best to frame it, will depend on the situation in which you find yourself.

However, I like the advice of Patricia Ryan Madson, as presented in the new book, "improv wisdom: don't prepare, just show up." Patricia describes why a particular San Francisco improv trio is so successful:
"They understand this vital improv principle: All starting points are equally valid. They begin where they are, often in the middle."
(See "Done any good improv lately?" for more on the relevance of improv to changing the role user experience plays in business.)