7 qualities of an effective experience (and designers who create them) – Quality #1
“7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is a highly acclaimed book written for business leaders by Stephen Covey. In the book, Covey discusses what he calls a principle-centered approach to becoming an effective business leader or person in general. Covey’s principle-centered approach is comprised of seven habits which identify personal principles displayed by successful and effective individuals throughout the world. Today, his book still stands as one of the top go-to guides for business leadership.
I first read this book about three years ago. At the time I had no intentions on becoming a business leader, but rather seeking another resource to read about how I could get better in everything that I do at work and at home. It wasn’t til late last year that I was home one evening and had glanced at the book while checking up on work email or the like. Then, it hit me that the concept of creating a successful experience for a “user” requires a nearly direct translation of those seven habits, among other things. Further, being an effective designer in my opinion, is also to demonstrate the very habits Covey talks about in his book.
The first habit in the 7 Habits, is Be Proactive. What does it mean to be proactive? The definition of proactive itself is:
Creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
By that definition we are, as designers, charged with taking the initiative to learn, meet and exceed the needs and expectations of those we design for. The nature of user-centered design aims to create a proactive experience. A good experience will meet the needs and expectations of the person having that experience. A GREAT experience will meet and exceed those expectations by not only allowing that person to have the experience they anticipated, but introducing something easier or more delightful than they would have imagined. For an experience to be effective, it’s no longer enough to deliver “me too” design, which is to copy other established conventions and/or competitors.
Being a proactive designer and person follows the definition above. In his book, Covey talks about proactivity as not simply taking initiative and avoiding reactive thinking, but responsibility. Covey, however, breaks responsibility down.
Covey’s definition of response-ability is making choices based on self and shared values rather than the person’s conditions and surroundings. We have the ability to respond. In the world of knowledge work and design, we have ability to influence our surroundings and conditions, rather than them controlling our work. Our roles as designers are often accompanied by a set of expectations and unspoken boundaries by others in the companies we work for. Proactive designers know don’t allow those unspoken boundaries to affect their circle of influence (as Covey would put it) as they aren’t making decisions affected by the outside stimuli and rather self and shared values. Ultimately, designers have the ability to respond to other forces and make decisions based on what’s best for the company’s values, the experience and most importantly the users’ needs. Realizing that we have the ability to respond to outside requests, as well as taking the responsibility to do so is what makes one an effective designer.