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May 26, 2015

User Experience Design – “What’s Your Risk Worth Taking?”

by Alberto Scotta

This year I chose the Managing Experience to find interesting and inspiring ideas for my daily job as Head of UXD in deltatre.

I’m travelling alone, but, as the live broadcast is the latest trend, few minutes before #MX15 begins I decide to launch Periscope and give my colleagues a taste of what’s going on here at the Parc 55 in San Francisco.

The different time zone is not helping, but the idea works big time. Thanks Periscope.

Oh, write this name down…we’ll come back to it later.

Day 1

As in a wedding ceremony, the round tables help us socialize, and here we start. Spotlight on Maria Giudice, Facebook Product Design Director.

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After 30 seconds of her speaking you know what she is saying is high-quality. First she fascinates the audience with the story of a new role rising in the UXD field, the DEO (Design Executive Officer) (http://riseofthedeo.com). And then one of the leitmotifs of this #MX15 comes out right away: who are the risk takers?

Taking risks forces us to put aside the rational part of our brain, fuelling intuition. Risks train our mind, and this is a mandatory condition to create innovation.

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Designers are not only digital artefact makers. We do more than crafting deliverables. As in Giudice’s words, “designers are champions of a connected society. To design is to embrace change”.

And to synthesise her philosophy, she leaves us a designer handbook in five points:

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After Maria Giudice, more high-quality speakers come in succession on the stage. At the end of the day, I can make my list of the top three.

  • Lisa Kay Solomon takes on an issue everyone in the room knows very well: the who-should-I-invite-to-the-meeting issue.
    “I should totally call Tom. Yeah, but if I invite Tom, then I have to say it to Dick…Ok, I will invite Harry too, just to be sure”.
    This is a clear example of bad politics that results in losing time and losing sight of the focus.
    Lisa shows a comic strip that says it all on the topic:

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  • In the afternoon panel with Ian Swinson, Greg Petroff, Catherine Courage, Margaret Gould Stewart and Sara Ortloff Khoury the main issue is our ability to discuss methods and processes, in particular data and analytics. Two sentences strike me as very important in my everyday work:
    “Design is a human act: data is important, but sometimes we should trust our intuition”.
    “Use a couple of insights, not millions of insights”.
  • And in the same panel it emerges that the importance of the pre-mortem meeting – the importance of asking ourselves:
    “What are we doing that is working? What are the things that we should stop doing? What are the things that we should start doing?”

Interesting ideas to reflect on, and most of all good suggestions to put into practice once back in Turin.

Day 1 is over. A T-bone steak, a short walk north towards the Pier 41, and back to the hotel. Tomorrow is workshop day.

Day 2

I chose “The Management of Design” workshop.

As we step in, they ask us to draw an animal that represents us, stick it on our chest and then look for similar animals to combine in the same group.

Free-hand drawing is not exactly my job and I must say that choosing a panther is not choosing the easy way. I try twice and then go for a lettering version (P-A-N-T-H-E-R). That’s better.

We do exercises, we brainstorm, we write down on lots of post-its to discover in the end that all 10 people sitting at my table, including me, are playing countless roles in their UXD department.

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And we discover also that the shades of UX designers are way more than those described by E.L. James. 🙂

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The most interesting part of the workshop though is when they ask us to describe the role we would like to have in our UXD group.

It has to be something more than a job description, going straight to the heart of the matter. Doing this, I understand what I really want from my team at deltatre. I will totally do this exercise with my colleagues in Turin and see if we are on the same wavelength.

The workshop ends with a sentence that really blows my mind.

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Nothing happens by chance. Never rest on your laurels.

After lunch, the last speakers get on the stage to put the cherry on top of this #MX15.

Russ Unger explains how important is it to have a Critique Team, providing constructive criticism in order to make everyone grow, getting better everyday.

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And there is still time to read a slide from Gretchen Anderson that makes me recall me something I said in a meeting, back in in 2011. We were facing a problem that seemed impossible to solve and I said to the client: “There’s always a solution”. Good to see I’m not alone thinking this way.

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When Adaptive Path CEO, Brandon Schauer gets on the stage, you can’t do anything else than be charmed by his ability to engage. Although it is late and the last two days have been quite intense, I’d stay here listening to him for hours.

In the end, we’re back onto risk. The answer is:

“What’s your risk worth taking?”

Good one. I’m wondering what Angy’s boyfriend thinks about it.

I met Angy yesterday during the conference. She works as UX Manager for one of the biggest companies here in the Silicon Valley. Getting out of the Parc 55 she told me that, months ago, her boyfriend had to choose between two career opportunities.

On one side there was Apple. On the other side a pre-start-up working on a video app. They didn’t even have a name. All Angy’s boyfriend knew was that his best friend worked there. “Come with us. It’s gonna be fun”.

But Angy talked him into taking the other way, the safe way.

“C’mon Mark you can’t turn down Apple only to work with your buddy.”

The start-up was just a pre-launch then.

It needed the time to find a name, be sold to Twitter for $100 million (a percentage of which has been given to employees), and be listed in the most downloaded apps on iTunes.

That app is Periscope. No need to tell.



About the author

Alberto Scotta
Head of User eXperience Design

I graduated in Telecommunications Engineering from Politecnico, Turin at 24. I joined deltatre in 2001 after gaining some experience in TLC companies.

After 10 years as Interaction designer (winning a webby for london2012.com) and one year as IxD Manager, I’m currently Head of User eXperience Design.

I love daily challenges, managing and involving my team to find together to most innovative and creative solutions for each projects.

Optimistic, with always positive attitude towards life, I love football, I’m addicted to fashion and I like writing poems. I don’t like too many other things, but what I do like, I love passionately.

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