Sunday, November 16, 2014

Disrupting the UX design education space

A version of this post has been published as an interactions magazine blog post.

My teaching partner Mandy and I stood in silence looking around the room one last time in which magic had happened the preceding 10 weeks. We teach the UX Design immersive for General Assembly in San Francisco. 10 weeks, 5 days/week, 8 hours/day of teaching and learning, of intense, hard work, of struggle, of laughter, of transformation, of bonding that will last forever. Educational experiences don’t get any better than this.

The UX Design immersive is intended mostly for people wanting to make a career transition. Students make a huge commitment by signing up for the course, stopping whatever they were doing prior, and in some cases, traveling long distances to do one thing: to become a UX designer.

General Assembly is one of several new educational institutions that are slowly disrupting the higher education space. Jon Kolko has identified the following qualities shared by many of these institutions’ programs:
  1. they are short;
  2. they focus on skill acquisition;
  3. they produce a portfolio as evidence of mastery;
  4. they are taught by practitioners;
  5. they promote employment and career repositioning, rather than emphasizing the benefits of learning as an end in itself;
  6. they typically focus on "Richard Florida" type jobs and careers: the creative disciplines of software engineering, product design, advertising, marketing, and so-on.
As described by Jon:
“Students who graduate from these programs have a body of work that they can point to and say ‘I made those things.’ This makes it very easy to understand and judge the quality of the student, particularly from the standpoint of a recruiter or hiring manager.”
“These educators have a deep and intimate understanding of both the material that is being taught and the relevancy of that material to a job.”
Given the increasingly heard argument that academic programs are not producing the kinds of designers needed most by industry (see, for example, "On Design Education")… And given that 90% of UX Design immersive students secure jobs within 90 days of the end of their cohort... (I will be moderating a panel contrasting different institutional instructional models at the Interaction 15 Education Summit in February.)

What is it like teaching the UX Design immersive at General Assembly? To get a sense of this, read the interactions magazine blog post written earlier this year by our fellow UX Design immersive instructor in Los Angeles, Ashley Karr, entitled, “Why Teaching Tech Matters.” Also, Mandy and I will be conducting a mock classroom at the Interaction 15 Education Summit in February to give attendees a mini-experience of the immersive program.

—— o ——

Tears filled the room on the final day of the course. We all had put everything we had into the preceding 10 weeks, and we could not help but be emotional. We hope the magic will happen again when we teach the course again beginning in December. But it all will happen in a different space (a new campus opens tomorrow), and Mandy and I will be paired with other instructors instead of each other. 

I will miss the magic of Room 202 in the crazy, crowded 580 Howard Lofts with only one bathroom and no air conditioning, situated next to a noisy construction site; I will miss the magic of working closely with the amazing Mandy Messer; and I will miss the magic of getting to know a certain 21 special, fabulous people who are now new UX designers. 

But we will do it again, and we will try to do it even better.

(photo courtesy of Celso Rodrigues)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bringing together designers, ePatients, & medical personnel

A version of this post has been published as an interactions magazine blog post.

Back in 1989-1991, I served on the committee that founded BayCHI, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of ACM SIGCHI. I became its first elected Chair and served as its first appointed Program Chair for 12 years. I also served as SIGCHI’s Local Chapters Chair for 5 years, supporting the founding and development of SIGCHI chapters around the world.

Much has happened since then. Perhaps of greatest significance were my horrific experiences with the U.S. healthcare system. My healthcare nightmare changed my life and has prompted me to focus on what can be done to dramatically redesign the healthcare system and the patient experience. Indeed, several of my interactions blog posts reflect that focus, with a large part of that focus being on changing the roles and relationships of and between patients and medical personnel and designers. You’ll see that in, for example, “Utilizing patients in the experience design process,” “Learning from ePatient( scholar)s,” “Are you trying to solve the right problem?,” “The importance of the social to achieving the personal,” and “No more worshiping at the altar of our cathedrals of business.” 

All this has led me to start a new local chapter, but this one is not of SIGCHI. This one is for a combination of ePatients, medical personnel, and designers. This one is for changing the healthcare system. This one is the first local chapter of Stanford Medicine X.

Topics/issues to be addressed by the chapter should be of interest to many interactions readers. They include the ePatient movement, peer-to-peer healthcare, other uses of social media in healthcare, human-centered healthcare design and innovation, doctors and patients as designers, the quantified self, patient and doctor engagement, empathy, healthcare technology, patient experiences of the healthcare system, and more. When Jon Kolko and I were the Editors-in-Chief of interactions, we published lots of articles that addressed this level of topics/issues. One of those was a cover story entitled, “Reframing health to embrace design of our own well-being.” (Somewhat coincidentally, two of the article’s authors made a presentation about the content of the article at a BayCHI meeting.)

If you reside anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in the topics/issues listed above, I invite you to join this new local chapter. If you know of others in the San Francisco Bay Area who you think might be interested, please let them know about the group as well.

The chapter is just starting. Indeed, our first meeting has not yet been scheduled, as I'm still seeking venue options (and sponsors). If you know of any venue (or sponsor) possibilities, please let me know.

It feels good to be getting back into the local chapter business. I hope you’ll check us out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What serendipity is providing for me to read

A version of this appears as an interactions magazine blog post; a version was expected to appear as a "What are you reading?" article in an issue of interactions magazine, but it was deemed far too long for that.

My use of Twitter and my attending local professional events have had a big impact on what I'm reading. Indeed, both have increased my reading greatly.

Everyday I spend at least a few minutes on Twitter -- time which often surfaces an abundance of online reading riches. You can get a sense of what comprises this reading by taking a look at my tweet stream, since I often tweet or retweet about compelling readings I learn about via Twitter. A few recent examples:
  • The Unexpected Benefits of Rapid Prototyping -- In this Harvard Business Review blog post, Roger Martin (former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto) describes how the process of rapid prototyping can improve the relationship between designers and their clients. Roger and a colleague wrote about the importance of designing this critical relationship in a piece published in interactions magazine when I was its Co-Editor-in-Chief. This blog post extends that article.
  • some of the blog posts written for interactions magazine -- Too few people know about these posts, as they are somewhat hidden away and don't all receive (individual) promotion via Twitter. But some are excellent. I've been most impressed by those authored by Jonathan Grudin (e.g., Metablog: The Decline of Discussion) and those authored by Aaron Marcus (e.g., My Apple was a Lemon). A guy named Richard Anderson occasionally has a couple of worthwhile things to say here as well. ;-)

             Essential, indeed.
Local events I attend sometimes feature authors of books, and sometimes those books are given away to attendees. I've been fortunate to have attended many events recently when that happened.

Lithium hosts a series of presentations by or conversations with noted authors about their books in San Francisco. Free books I received because of this series:
  • What's the Future of Business? Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences -- This book by digital media analyst Brian Solis alerts businesses to the importance of designing experiences. I've found the book a bit challenging to read, but its message and words of guidance to businesses are important to experience designers.
  • Your Network is Your Net Worth: Unlock the Hidden Power of Connections for Wealth, Success, and Happiness in the Digital Age -- I think I'm pretty well-connected as it is, but I'm finding this book by Porter Gale to be of value. You might as well.
  • Crossing the Chasm (3rd edition) -- Attending Lithium's conversation with Geoffrey Moore about the updated edition of his classic book was well worth the time, as I suspect will be true of reading the book. I should have read the 1st or 2nd edition; now I can catch up.
I attend numerous events at Stanford University. A recent event there featured Don Norman talking about his new edition of The Design of Everyday Things. I loved the original (when it was entitled The Psychology of Everyday Things), and shortly after this event, Don sent a copy of the new edition to me. It included the kind inscription: "To Richard -- Friend, colleague, and the best moderator ever." (I've interviewed Don on stage several times, once transcribed for an interactions article; see also the partial transcript and video of the most recent interview, with Jon Kolko.) I'm looking forward to reading this new edition and to interviewing him on stage again.

Carbon Five hosts public events every so often in San Francisco. Authors of three books were featured recently (two of which were given away):
  • The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets -- Authors Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits join the many now touting lean in this book about starting or evolving businesses. This is a valuable read, given that designers are increasingly playing key roles in these activities.
  • Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification -- Here, Rajat Paharia, founder of Bunchball, offers a book that should be of great interest to experience designers. I've found the book to be too formulaic in structure and presentation, but...
  • Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design -- The enjoyment of the on-stage interview of authors Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland prompted me to purchase this book, which proved to also be too formulaic for my tastes. Yet, given the increasing importance of the presence of design-oriented leaders in executive offices...
At a recent event launching GfK's new UX San Francisco labs, Aga Bojko talked a bit about her new book, Eye Tracking the User Experience: A Practical Guide to Research. In addition to offering complementary copies of the book, this event offered some of the best port I've ever tasted, from three different vintners! Plus Arnie Lund spoke about user-centered innovation. An excellent event it was, plus the book looks excellent as well.

Always an excellent event is the (near) weekly local live broadcast of the radio show West Coast Live. Early during the show, audience volunteers operate an ancient maritime device known as the biospherical digital optical aquaphone, after which the volunteers receive a gift. Recently, that gift was a copy of the book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life -- a book by Scott Adams, who was once a guest on the show and is the creator of the Dilbert comic strip. I wasn't sure I'd read the book, but I've found it to be thoughtful, entertaining, and compelling. And given the current mantra in our business regarding the importance of failing often and quickly...

Neo, the employer of Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience, hosts a series of events on lean UX in San Francisco. I heard Jeff speak about lean UX just before the publication of his book last year, and at a recent event, Neo was handing out a few copies. I'm finding the book to be concise and a quick read -- an excellent supplement to Jeff's talk and the many articles and presentations I've seen on the topic.

Kim Erwin spoke about her new book, Communicating the New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation, at another recent event in San Francisco. Unfortunately (and surprisingly, given the tendency revealed above), she was not giving away copies of her book, but since her talk was terrific, I made the purchase. I'm glad I did -- an excellent book touting collaboration and participation.

One of the final two books I'll mention -- and I could mention more! -- was sent to me by UX designer Katie McCurdy, whom I first met at Stanford Medicine X 2012. Katie and I were both there as ePatient scholars, so she knew of my health(care) nightmare story and knew that I would want to read a similar story told by Susannah Cahalan in the gripping book, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. This book and a similar book entitled Brain Wreck: A patient's unrelenting journey to save her mind and restore her spirit by Becky Dennis say much about why and how the U.S. healthcare system needs to be redesigned. All experience designers working in healthcare need to read these books and the many patient stories like them that are available on the internet.

Is this a typical collection of reading material for someone working in the experience design (strategy) field? Probably not, but I kinda think it should be. Is this typically how people working in this field learn about and acquire their reading material? Again, probably not, particularly for those who don't live in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area. But I'm delighted with the mix of reading material I learn about and consume due to serendipity. Thank you to those I follow on Twitter, and thank you to those responsible for local professional events.