dedicated to Terri, who told me this story when I was a young whippersnapper
In a previous post, I talked about a particularly challenging job assignment I had. In my darkest hour, a seasoned co-worker pulled me aside. She told me a story that left an imprint on me to this day. Now, I don’t know Terri just made it up, so don’t get mad if this story is misquoted or actually belongs to Jared Spool.
the avocado story
It’s the first day on the job for two new employees. The team lead calls them in for a simple assignment (but it’s really a test).
He asks them to bring him an avocado. They have 1 hour during lunch break. The two hires go their separate ways and tackle the mission.
An hour elapses and the new hires return.
Employee A returns with an avocado and places it on the President’s desk. He says proudly…
“Here’s the avocado you asked for”
Employee B returns with 3 avocados, and begins to explain…
“See, I don’t know what type of avocados you’re looking for, so I spoke to a vendor at the farmer’s market. I found out that there are over a dozen types of avocados! But in my conversations, I learned that there are 3 types in season right now.
I recommend the Haas, which is the bestseller and most popular with customers. The farmer said I can bring back any uneaten avocados the end of today if you don’t want the other ones.”
_ _ _
Terri gave me a few seconds of silence for that sink in. I was struggling in my first job out of college, because I was acting like Employee A. The difference is clear. Employee B is the clear winner.
how does this relate to UX Design?
If you think about Employee A’s approach, it was focused on production. Get the assignment, then produce the result as fast as possible.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach — we all have deadlines, and sometimes it is necessary to just knock something out.
But Employee B’s approach resonated with me on a different level, especially after I’ve had a few years working as a UX Designer. Not only has this employee produced the result, but he/she has focused on strategy. And that, my friends, is a key differentiator that new UX Designers need to understand.
Let’s break down what Employee B did right…
“I spoke to a vendor at the farmer’s market. I found out that there are over a dozen types of avocados!”
Doing even a bit of upfront research can make you stand out as a designer. Through this process the designer tells a story and educates the client on the problem space, which will make the client appreciate the work even more.
“I recommend the Haas, which is the bestseller and most popular with customers.”
Having a well-reasoned recommendation gives clients more confidence in your solution. It also gives you freedom to make mistakes. If the client understands that you did your research and came to a logical conclusion, it’s hard to blame you even if the avocado sucks :p
Exploring Alternative Options
“The farmer said I can bring back uneaten avocados the end of the day if you don’t want the other ones.”
Not only has the consultant provided a sound recommendation, but has mitigated risk by allowing the client to choose freely without incurring greater cost.
strategy is the differentiator
The key lessons I took from this story is that having a strategy, doing a bit of research and providing a thoughtful recommendation goes a long way. UX Designers are the new breed of talent that can fill the strategy gap in product design.
Throughout your career, you may come across production-oriented environments in which you are handed assignments without much explanation of how they should be done. Or what the point of a project is in the first place.
As UX Designers, it’s up to us to be the thinkers and strategists in order to elevate our users and their experience of our products.
And if you need a story to job your memory, just remember Design Avocados :)