stop trying to solve everything

long view of the river going through Zion canyon, Utah

newsletter #4  |  02-Feb-2016

How did you get interested in the career path that you are following? When I ask people this question, the answer I often hear is “because I wanted to make things better.” There are so, so many things out there that make your eyes roll. Clearly the people who designed those things could have put a little more thought into them. So, you’re going to fix everything. You’re going to think things through from several directions. You’re going to make things easier to understand, flow better, require less attention, etc. You’ve got the experience to solve things.

But … because of extenuating circumstances, design decisions often get compressed into fire drills. There are always some kind of extenuating circumstances–it’s not your fault. And yet, you wish you could show people the perils of just stepping into someone’s shoes and running. You hope to put effort into evangelizing pre-design research at your organization. You can do these things if you kick everyone out of their problem-solving mindset.

“Forget for a minute that you are a designer and that you have this mechanism inside of you that insists on finding a fix for a problem. Turn off that mechanism if you can. Let go of your product and what you were hired to do, and just empathize. After you have a deep understanding of the customer’s world, then you can fire up your brain and solve problems.”

Here are two articles that contain five short examples. The examples show people who don’t immediately jump to solutions, but first explore the human intentions and reasoning. Pick your favorite example and bring it up over lunch with your peers in another department, or while walking down the hallway with your boss. Talk about the way the example changed perspectives and influenced design decisions. Refer to it over and over until you wedge open some time in the project schedule every few months to do a little additional exploration.

Intelligence vs. Understanding

Look at It Another Way


What’s our best fit?

quick research help

“We’re trying to explore the problem space, but we’ve run into problems. Can you double check what we’re doing?”
quick help

mentor the team

“We want to make sure we do the research right. And we want the skills in-house so we can keep exploring.”
mentor the team

custom research

“We want to explore something, but we don’t have the cycles to get involved. We want answers that are credible.”
custom research

training & coaching

“We want to do solid problem space research. We want a workshop or coaching to tighten up our skills.”
training & coaching