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The Secret behind UX: BE HUMAN

User experience... or UX as all the cool kids call it... is an important slice of the pie. It's the place where the thing you've been pouring your energy into intersects with the humans for whom it was made. And this angle of industry is ubiquitous because essentially it's function is to make sure that when that happens -- when people touch / feel / experience what you've worked so hard on... it's a genuinely positive situation. UX is not limited to a department. Proper UX should be woven through the fabric of your brand/organization/product from start to finish. Here's why:

UX = EMPATHY

To effectively filter your ____ through UX, you simply must approach it with empathy at every step of the journey. From "What question does this answer or problem does it solve?" to "Does this aspect of the design create a seamless engagement for the human interacting with it?" ... To literally every other question you should be asking -- the common thread -- the golden nugget -- the question behind the question -- is always centered around placing oneself in the heart/mind/soul/shoes of that person you intend to engage. It's not just about your product. It's not just about your brand. It's ALWAYS about how those things come in contact with that end user -- and ultimately how it makes them feel.

Here's a quick litmus's test: If you've compromised significant quality or design that you know is better/important to the people you touch -- you aren't being empathetic. Try again. Be human.

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EXECUTION

Naveen Jain said "Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation, but from flawless execution." His point was no that breakthrough or innovation are bad. In fact, they are pretty important for forward movement. At the end of the day, the thing that allows some to leap ahead while others don't even cross the finish line is simply the grit to do what they set out to do.

So what does effective execution look like? What does it entail?

NO EXCUSES. NO QUITTING. NO WAITING.

Having this mindset creates a powerful culture and shifts the atmosphere. 
It sounds simple. And while it is simple, that doesn't mean it's easy. Any venture worth doing -- large or small -- is going to have hiccups and reason to sideline the project. But if the thing you've set out to do is in line with your vision and strategy, not completing said task is simply not an option. Why? Because to do so would erode the things you say matter, and make it easier to quit or "change direction" again the next time it gets tough! Having this bedrock mindset also means that when you hit that hiccup, instead of it creating a sense of defeat, the auto-response is immediately one of problem-solving. How great would it be a to see each derailment as an opportunity to find new solutions?! And when those difficult projects reach completion, it builds team confidence that the next hill is capable of being taken as well.

The point is this: the cost of incomplete or poor execution are greater than that singular project. It creates cancerous consequences and can alter your organization DNA and trajectory. So... NO EXCUSES. NO QUITTING. NO WAITING.

 

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STRATEGY

There is literally nothing in our world that thrives outside of strategy. I'm so convinced of this that if you can prove me wrong, I'll buy you dinner. Strategy is simply the outworking of clarity. When we get clear, the natural progression is to ask, "So now what?" And that "so now what" is NOT just going out and doing things... it's the incredibly important precursor to that. If we skip this step, it's like a basketball team hitting the court knowing it wants to win, but not having any plays in the playbook. (I hate using sports analogies so please forgive me for indulging in one.) Here are three keys to effective strategy that can apply to any context:

GIVE IT AN OWNER
Each and every "thing" that is determined to be important or worth doing should have a person who champions it, and that champion should have a regular drip of check-in's on progress. Outside of this, accountability is impossible because you can't talk to the person in charge of the thing if the thing doesn't have someone in charge of it.

MAKE IT MEASURABLE
Each task needs to have clearly defined metrics attached to it. From calendar deadlines, to budgetary restraints, time allotment ( i.e. "spend no more than three hours per week on this task"). Without metrics, it's impossible to get an accurate feel on progress when check-in's occur. 

SUPPORT IT
Someone with clear ownership and objectives will still fail if they are not resourced well. The simple question of "How can I help?" is not trite, it is absolutely necessary. And following through with that resourcing and help is paramount in things getting done. 

Strategy doesn't have to be complex or burdensome. It does need to exist though. Get clear, get a strategy, and then we can get to work.

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GOOD | BEST

"NO." -- A powerful word that is vastly under-utilized.

Time and energy are two of our most precious resources. They are both finite, and in the case of time, it's not replenish-able. You can take a day off and recoup your energy, but once that five minutes is gone, it's never coming back. And in regards to time, recent studies show that just 30 seconds of distraction can take as much as fifteen minutes to regain the degree of focus you had pre-distraction. So how we use these assets is incredibly important. So the things we say "yes" to matter all the more in light of this. While in many cases I'd posit that "best is the enemy of good", I'd say in this one context, the rule is entirely reversed. Here's what I mean:

Saying yes to too many "good" things distracts us from investing in what is ultimately best.

How does this happen? How we we end up in the place where we have so much "good" that's happening that we end up missing out or shortchanging the things we say really matter? It's because we haven't weighed that "yes" against our goals. We've allowed our clarity to become clouded. It could be because that "thing" we want to say yes to is a passion, but isn't aligned with our actual goals. Or it could be that the idea we just heard would make us a quick buck, but cause us to miss important deadlines for the bigger things that matter. But in any capacity... the more good things we pile on, the less room we have to keep laser focused on what is actually best.

So say it with me... "No." ... Say it again... "NOOO." It stings. But it's necessary. Stop doing good things and do only best things.

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CLARITY

When was the last time you heard someone say, “Have you seen the water in the West Hudson River?? It’s dirty and amazing!”  No? Oh. Well what about, “Man I love the sound quality in these cheap headphones I use… it’s so garbled!” Hmm.. nope to that too? Okay okay… what about when you’re on the phone with someone and they have you on speaker phone as they drive down the road with their window down. Love that? Nah. Of course not. It makes me want to pull my hair out, and I’m already bald.

We all love clarity. Whether it be crystalline waters, crisp high-fidelity music in our ears, or the ability to simply hear and comprehend every word of a phone conversation – we want things clear. We crave clarity because clarity makes it easier for us to comprehend/interpret, and interact with whatever the medium is.

Clarity is just as important in any organization/pursuit/product/you-name-it. But what does that even mean? What are we trying to get “clear” on? Clarity means we know who we are, and what matters to us. And in so doing, clarity equips us to make decisions based on those things that we say matter. Clarity also gives us the freedom to say no to the things that really don’t (or shouldn’t) matter.

Clarity is a balance between our goals and our passions. It must be both because if it’s a goal that’s not attached to a passion, our motivation to achieve it can wane faster. If it’s a passion that’s not attached to a goal, we might be expending valuable energy on something that’s ultimately completely useless.

So – marry your passions and goals, get clear, and then you’ll be ready to effectively move into step two: strategy.

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AMATEUR.

This morning I was surrounded by men, many of which close to twice my age, discussing business and profession and the like. One quip stood out to me more than anything else. A quick observation on the word "AMATEUR".

That word. It's almost intended to be an insult. "Look at that person over there... What an amateur."

But we have it dramatically backwards. The word's original intent had far more to do with PASSION than it did PAY. In other words, the meaning shifted from doing something because you're passionate about it, to doing something without pay. If you google the word right now, it speaks to doing something for free, and the implication is that you're probably not that great at it (otherwise you would in fact be paid for it!)

So, why does it matter? Why bother with semantics?

I would say that we have far to many people working hard to validate themselves as professionals when what we need are few more people who exhibit fortitude and drive hard because it's born out of their passions. We need people doing what they LOVE. Passion is contagious. Passion fuels us. Passion, coupled with a plan, can yield results that exceed simple exterior motivations. Passion fuels us past obstacles. Passion will carry us beyond our natural abilities. Passion is what starts sweeping movements.

The next time you see someone do something amazing or share a revolutionary idea... pause and say, "Whew... now there's an amateur."

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DREAMS AND FORTITUDE

The American dream "is the best brand out there... it's stronger than Apple and Microsoft and Google combined times 10." - Dara Khosrowshahi (Uber's new CEO)

Dara came to the US as a nine-year-old Iranian refugee.

What brand is he referring to? Freedom, peace, and opportunity. In that order.

 

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WALT DISNEY WAS AN UTTER FAILURE

Attempt number 303. That's the one that counted.

Because 302 times, Walt Disney's idea... dream... vision for Disneyland was rejected by bankers. That's a crushing blow every single day for nearly a year before the idea was even considered! Truly innovative ideas are almost always met with incredible resistance. As usual, the reason we remember Walt is not for those first 302 tries. Fortitude is mandatory.

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RELEVANCE IS IRRELEVANT

I'd like to ask permission for a brief moment of honesty to discuss a topic that seems to be a favorite in some circles: "Relevance." And I would say this about it... The idea of relevance is actually rather silly. It's silly because relevance is completely subjective. In a desperate effort to be "relevant" to one audience, you instantly make yourself irrelevant to another. It's just how it works. So I would submit that we change our language, and change our thinking. Instead of filtering our ideas through relevance, let's filter them through transcendence. In other words, what are the elements that transcend one audience? What are the ingredients? What is that thing hiding inside the idea that will move anyone/anything? THAT is the spark we're after. That's the flame to fan. Anything less will burn out and -- ironically -- end up being completely irrelevant. 

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