UXers: What do you believe?

In Simon Sinek’s blockbuster TED talk about how great leaders inspire action, he outlines the Golden Circle which describes what motivates human behavior and consumer buying decisions. The premise is that humans seek to align themselves with entities and people who hold beliefs that they identify with, and that describing the “why” of a product must come before the “how” and the “what” in order to create appeal at the most visceral level. As Simon says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

As UX professionals, we are selling the value of user research and design for the betterment of our companies’ products. Too often, we fall into the common trap of describing what can be better designed and how, but we fail to energize and rally the product team around a design vision because we haven’t told them the whole story. We didn’t explain the “why,” the core beliefs that are the reason we come to work every day, why we think we can make a difference. Sometimes we attempt to do this by defining principles to guide our design thinking, but those tend to have a technical bent. So… if we had to level up, what beliefs guide our goals, behaviors and actions?

This question was on my mind as I prepared for a team meeting that I was about to hold for the first time in a new role. What are my beliefs about design? What are my teams’ beliefs? Will we align, and how can we use those beliefs as cornerstones to build a closely knit community that understands their “why” and uses it to inspire others? And if beliefs drive behavior, perhaps our team and individual goals and measures should not only tie back to our organizational goals, but also connect back to our beliefs, thereby giving our daily actions deeper meaning.

As I pondered this, I realized that my perspectives around the “why” of design all seem to coalesce around a core belief that “design is empowering.”

A rise in design expectations has empowered end users. In the past, especially in the enterprise product space, buying decisions have been made by executives who didn’t actually use the product they were buying and were wooed by the product that could do the most things for the most people. Awareness of the power of good design has filtered into the enterprise from our app-driven world, and has changed all that. Design is now a great equalizer that shifts the balance of power from the executive decision makers to the masses that actually use the software day in and out. There is something in this shift that almost feels like an online civil rights movement in which we are moving towards a more ideal world where all users are created equal.

Design is also empowering because it enables people to be more productive. My core belief is that people are meant to be industrious in working towards fulfilling their human potential, both personally and professionally. Enabling them to get stuff done with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of efficiency (with a little delight thrown in to lighten the mood :-)) is just being respectful of the human condition, and gives us the leverage to focus on the things that should matter more. And on the flip side of that, design is also a vehicle of empowerment for the things that do matter more… consider the amazing impact that some of today’s health apps are having on people’s quality of life.

Design is empowering. What do you believe?

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