Tools Of Change For Designers: Educating

Educating, the second tool for designers, is about developing skills, capabilities and knowledge. Educating involves discovering what we need to learn, teaching others, helping our organization get smarter and bringing what we’ve learned to the design discipline in the form of case studies, stories and examples. Ultimately, educating is about growing capabilities and changing behavior.

I believe that designers can’t teach others until we have an understanding of how to do things ourselves. Once we’ve internalized these skills, we can help model new behaviors. This is “training people by accident,” modeling the behavior your want to see in your preferred version of reality.

There are three categories of skills and capabilities that Richard Bolles, one of my mentors, wrote in What Color is Your Parachute:

• Domain-specific skills (like card-sorting)
• Basic transferable skills (like typing)
• Personal-adaptive skills (like active listening)

Personal-adaptive skills are the finer skills you apply to all areas of life, and which you adapt to different situations. Most people don’t pay enough attention to these skills, such as Precision Question and Answering, Active Listening, Decision-making or Effective Negotiation. These are the tools of the agents of change.

The opportunity is for you to first educate yourself and learn what’s necessary to do the work. From there, you can educate others, then teams of people to further understand the design problems you face, and how you will work together to develop potential solutions that stick.

For me, educating others means modeling simple frameworks, which they can in turn use and model for others. Some of my favorite frameworks include:

Outcome-Based Thinking – specifying what’s wanted, and how you’ll know when the goal is achieved. This tool gets people on the same page and aligns insights for action.
Current-State Analysis – observing and orienting in the present, by looking at reality for what it is, not what you want it to be because the facts are friendly.
Visual Road-Mapping – capturing the dependencies, progressive phases, and critical success factors over time in a framework inspired by Dave Sibbet

I find it amazing what happens when people start asking better questions and giving more relevant and succinct answers. Frameworks like these transform your ability to accomplish things and to interact more effectively across your organization.

You want the overall organization to see what you see, to understand what you understand and to use design thinking to solve the tough problems. Your role as a designer is to educate your organization on this manner of solving tough problems in this new way of thinking.

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 third tool of change for designers, Negotiating. Also check out Harry’s previous post on Illuminating.


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