Tools Of Change For Designers: Activating

Activating — getting stuff done or making it happen — is the fourth tool for change that designers have.

I draw this term from Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. Strengths are like talents. They are a way of thinking or behaving that comes easily to you. According to the book, there are 34 key strengths; Activator is one of them. Here is part of the definition of an Activator:

“’When can we start?’ You are impatient for action. Only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act.”

While negotiating is about saying “No” to get to the bigger “Yes,” activating is about saying “Yes” and getting stuff done. It’s about getting beyond the conversations and commitments and moving into action. It’s about doing the work, but it is also about being the change you want to see in the world.

To win the hearts and minds of those who depend on you, as a designer,  to be agents of change, we not only need to do the work, but we also must model the process, share the tools, provide templates for artifacts and set higher standards. In effect, we get to design where we want to go, know what to leave behind as we advance and lead others as we discover the path forward ourselves.

This means that designers should not only activate ourselves, our teams and our organizations, but also activate our discipline. We start by creating a new vision of possibility, and we give others the power to participate in creating the kind of world we all want to live in. And our work reveals how things can change.

Customer Experience Design. Information Architecture. Design Thinking. Visualization, Usability Engineering. This is what we do. Our art is making ideas real, concrete and valuable. Activation is the ignition switch.

Designers should strive to activate proactively. When you don’t do this, you lose control of the timeline and the choices you have in the now. When you lose control of the timeline, you are forced to react to the default reality, a reality that others created, and not necessarily by design.

Create the reality you want to live in. Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do, how to think, what to build or how to work.  Activate.

Harry Max is Vice President of Experience Design for Rackspace. Harry’s role includes responsibility for everything experience: from product design to customer service tools to the employee experience. Be sure to visit the blog next week for Harry’s final tool of change for designers, Advocating. Also check out Harry’s previous posts on Illuminating, Educating and Negotiating.


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