I’m a fan of the unconventional view that most people, most of the time, worry about the wrong things.
When it comes to the world of UX, designers, usability engineers, and the rest, they tend to complain about how little power they have, but spend little time doing skill development in how to gain influence and power. The average designer or IA would be better served by going to a sales conference and learning sales and pitching skills, than going to yet another design event. They’re already good at design, but they’re probably not very good at pitching design ideas to non-designers.
One fallacy in how designers and HCI experts are trained is the lack of recognition that most of their careers will be spent working with people who know almost nothing about design or HCI. They are set up to be marginalized and kept in the corner of organizations, since they’re never shown that their success hinges not just on expertise, but the ability to translate that expertise into terms the people who they work with, and for, can understand. The biggest skill gap the UX world has are advocates, translators, and persuaders, people who are not afraid to sell and convince others on the value of their work.
Last year at UI14 I met Alastair Simpson, a UX manager who, in a former life, worked in sales. I asked him to blog about how to apply his sales background to the challenges of working in UX, and finally he did.
Here’s an excerpt:
Each time I visit a conference I hear the same problems faced by UX professionals. Not the never ending search for a perfect interface, the perfect user flow, or a usability test that passes without incident. Most commonly it is “If I could only get the budget, my CEO just doesn’t listen to me in meetings, they seem to switch off and just don’t understand my point of view”. In the majority of cases this is probably your problem, not theirs. Successfully pitching your ideas and making your managers, and their managers buy into the UX problems on your site is essential in getting sign off for your projects.
Read the full post here.
I don’t think UX, or anyone, ever gets everything they want. But if you know how to sell, build trust, and choose wisely, you can often get any one thing that you want. And having the courage to do this is how respect, power and influence are earned.