Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"User Experience Managers and Executives Speak" update

I've been lining up some of the best San Francisco Bay Area managers and executives -- approximately 14 in total -- to appear during the unique course I'll soon be offering entitled, "User Experience Managers and Executives Speak." The course is being offered in Silicon Valley and will meet 7 consecutive Wednesday evenings from 13 February -- two weeks from today -- through 26 March, 2008.

Want to compare your challenges and approaches with those of managers and executives from a diverse collection of companies including well-known companies such as Google, Wells Fargo, Yahoo!, SAP, Autodesk, Kaiser Permanente, eBay, and Oracle, and several smaller and/or younger and/or less-known companies?

Come hear from and ask your questions of people such as:
  • Irene Au, Director User Experience at Google and former VP User Experience and Design at Yahoo!
  • Christi Zuber, Director Innovation Consultancy at Kaiser Permanente's Sidney R. Garfield Healthcare Innovation Center
  • Jeff Herman, Senior Director User Experience Design at eBay, author of "A Process for Creating the Business Case for User Experience Projects" and "Creating a System to Share User Experience Best Practices," and former designer at Apple
...and many others.

And share your own challenges and approaches as well.

Can you bypass such an opportunity?

The enrollment fee goes up tomorrow: $495 through January 30, but only $550 after that date.

More information, including a link to the registration site, is available on my website.

Friday, January 18, 2008

User Experience Managers and Executives Speak

I'll soon be offering a unique and exciting course via UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley entitled, "User Experience Managers and Executives Speak." The course is scheduled to meet 7 consecutive Wednesday evenings from 13 February through 26 March, 2008.

From the course description:
"How do user-experience managers and executives achieve success? What are their strategies? How do they approach the multitude of organizational challenges they face? What approaches do they recommend or avoid?

Receive answers to these questions from a wide range of user experience managers and executives from fields such as financial services, consumer electronics, health services, internet services, enterprise software, telecommunications, design services, and insurance, and who are or have been in such roles in companies of a wide range of sizes and at different stages of "user experience maturity." Ask your own questions of the weekly special guests (usually two guests each evening), share your answers, and begin to formulate or make adjustments to your own strategies and approaches.

Among the many guests slated to appear:
  • Irene Au, Director User Experience at Google;
  • Secil Watson, SVP Internet Channel Strategy at Wells Fargo;
  • Klaus Kaasguard, VP Customer Insights at Yahoo!;
  • Jeremy Ashley, VP Applications User Experience at Oracle;
  • Jim Leftwich, Chief Experience Officer at SeeqPod;
  • Mark Plakias, VP Strategy & Design at France Telecom Orange Labs.
This course is intended for those who presently are, or may in the future become, a user experience manager or executive. The course is also intended for other types of managers and executives who (will) work with user experience managers and executives and/or can impact how user experience is addressed and positioned in their companies.

After completing this course, participants will be able to more effectively:
  • position user experience in their own companies;
  • address their own organizational challenges;
  • increase the influence user experience has in their companies;
  • lead their own user experience groups or organizations, or work with such groups or organizations led by others."
Please pass on this information to any of your friends, colleagues, bosses, ... in the San Francisco Bay Area who you think might want to take advantage of this special offering.

The enrollment fee is only $495 through January 30; $550 after that date. You can register via the UCSC Extension website.

I'll be providing updates on the course in this blog as the course nears.

Friday, January 11, 2008

interactions magazine comes alive

I am delighted to announce that the January+February 2008 issue of interactions magazine -- the first issue for which Jon Kolko and I are responsible as Editors-in-Chief -- has finally emerged from the printer and should be appearing in subscribers' mailboxes soon.

As subscribers will see, the magazine now has a very different look and feel, and content that reflects a new vision.

And interactions finally has a website, one via which people can access interactions articles (from the current issue as well as past issues), access content not available in the print magazine, and interact about the magazine's contents.

Advance press has been very positive. For example, Mark Vanderbeekun has written:
"Interactions Magazine seems to be heading into an exciting direction under its new editors-in-chief Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko. The new byline ('experience - people - technology') is already a mission statement in itself, especially since the magazine is published by ACM, which stands for 'Association for Computing Machinery'."
And in "Interactions Magazine Relaunched," he wrote:
"The content looks very exciting indeed and the editors-in-chief have done a great job at getting some of the best people in the field to contribute."
However, as Mark references, work remains to get ACM to make full articles accessible to more people online. (Note that the contents of this issue are in the process of being added to ACM's digital library and will become accessible via the interactions website in the next few days.)

Should you be interested in subscribing to the magazine, writing for it, advertising in it, learning about our vision for it, learning about the regular contributors to it, etc., you'll find information of relevance on the new website.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Preconceived notions

During his CONNECTING 07 World Design Congress plenary presentation, Richard Seymour (pictured at right) argued that the primary obstacle design and designers face is NOT ignorance regarding what design is and what designers do, but is instead "preconceived notions" regarding the same. As Richard put it, ignorance is easier to deal with; dealing with preconceived notions is very hard.

It was interesting to see how often some variation of this message was echoed throughout the conference.

Some examples...

Futurist Paul Saffo spoke of the great extent to which the future will be about "personal media," but he argued that even those in attendance at the conference couldn't really understand what he meant by that, because we all think we already know what it means.

Janine Benyus spoke of how carbon dioxide is viewed by most these days as a major problem in need of a solution, though in nature, carbon dioxide is often "a solution" (e.g., it is a building material for plants and for mollusks). As described by Janine, the world's focus is largely stuck on exploring and developing solution options that view carbon dioxide only as a problem, whereas biomimicry -- "the conscious emulation of nature's elegant, energy-sipping, non-toxic designs" -- offers very different, often superior options.

On the lighter side, Sir Ken Robinson polled the audience regarding the number of senses humans have. Most responded that humans have five senses, or five plus a spooky sixth sense. How many senses do humans actually have? According to Ken, scientists presently believe we have seventeen.

And Roger Martin, whom I referenced extensively in "'Designing in hostile territory'," explained how the common notion that risk needs to be minimized for a business to be successful is a hindrance to innovation and development of competitive advantage.

In my workshops and presentations, I often talk about how preconceived notions of the meaning of a lot of the terminology used by user experience personnel -- sometimes including the terms "user" and "user experience" -- can get in the way of the success of user experience personnel and the amount of influence they have in business. I've written a bit about this in past blog entries, including "Is 'user' the best word?" and "Words (and definitions) matter; however..."

I've often run into preconceived notions of multidisciplinary collaboration among user experience personnel. Reactions of "we already collaborate extensively" and "we've been doing that for years" have signalled that achieving change will be challenging.

I also often ask workshop or course participants what is "holding user experience back" where they work. The source of many of the answers? Constraining, preconceived notions of what "user experience" is and what user experience personnel do.

In our first issue of interactions magazine, Secil Watson, Senior VP Internet Channel Strategy at Wells Fargo, writes:
"Five years ago, when I told people I managed customer experience, they thought I ran a call center, as 'experience' was synonymous with servicing. ... When I told people I designed the website, they thought I was a graphic artist."
Secil and others have been doing a great job of changing those preconceived notions at Wells Fargo during the past five years, but many still encounter similar or related notions.

One of the tools used by Secil and her staff to change such notions was repeated presentations within the company about what her customer experience team does and why. Stephen Anderson has posted a delightful presentation of this nature, and such presentations are important.

But they only go so far.

John Seely Brown has explained part of why this is the case, in a presentation about "learning to unlearn."
"...a lot of us who are struggling in large corporations know first hand that the hardest task is to get the corporate mind to start to unlearn... It turns out that this learning to unlearn may be a lot trickier than a lot of us at first think."
John attributes this to the fact that so much of what we know is tacit knowledge, which is not as readily changed via such presentations.

In short, more is needed. And Secil and others have done much more at Wells Fargo, as she describes in her article.

What more is needed? Words attributed to Confucious and quoted by Bill Buxton in his 2007 book, "Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design," provide both a partial summary of this posting and a hint at the answer to that question:
"Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand."

Look for an article from Richard Seymour in our third issue of interactions magazine -- the May+June 2008 issue.