here is a revelation for anyone who has never been to a conference that’s relevant to their profession: it’s a great way to validate that you actually know what you’re talking about. I mean, honestly, we mostly operate within the duck quack void of self-appreciation and we’re only really interrogated and challenged when we’re required to present, with authority, our opinion on what our interpretation of ‘good’ is in the narrow context of our own practice. but spending a day or two listening to people just like you, presenting their own ideas, propositions and theories, is a day or two where you quickly come to the realisation that you’re not, in fact, the imposter you thought you might be. you’re actually reasonably good. fuck it. you’re very good.
a colleague of mine is out in san francisco this week, at a conference where there are some very clever, very smart people talking about design practice. I say they’re very clever and very smart, but really, I’ve no idea. at least I’ve heard of them. they’ve mostly written a book about something or other that’s relevant. but, you know, I’ve never worked with them, so I can’t personally say whether they’re any good at what they do. but they tell a good story. and that’s what we’ve got to go on. and this colleague reflected on her first day at the conference with a telling phrase: I am getting the feeling we actually are doing stuff so right! and she means that as a company and as the individuals that make that company what it is. and I’m not surprised. because that’s the feeling I get when I attend similar events.
when you find yourself in a safe environment, and there’s not much safer than conferences, especially those with a significant proportion of first-time speakers, then that’s when you give yourself permission to evaluate your own position. my first speaking engagement was at the IA summit. I’d never done any public speaking before, least of all about my own practice. but that environment was as perfect a place as any to evaluate, compare, contrast and make your own conclusions about how you’re placed on the weird global/parochial peer spectrum. and really, it’s not a question of relativity. it’s much more about reassurance and a sense of acknowledgement.
which is all a rather roundabout way of saying that there is much to be gained from attending a conference of like-minded individuals to understand your own position within that community. I advocate conference attendance as a learning experience. bluntly put, I recommend conference attendance as the place where training budget is invested, because I believe that proactive conference attendance adds value as a career development opportunity by a factor of at least ten over traditional training or courseware. it’s definitely where I spend all my training budget. and if that runs out, especially where the IA summit is concerned, I’ll pay for it myself. it’s a no-brainer.
I think I did a good thing™ at the dare conference in London this month. I was asked to do a 5 minute lightning talk on overcoming a fear. I chose to speak on the fear of becoming an artist which is really the fear of calling yourself an artist without adding ‘a bit of a wanker’ in the same sentence.
I was very happy to do this. I like lightning talks. I like the format, the excitement, the tension, the clarity, the medium, the message, the constraint, the openness, the execution, the delivery, the focus, the rigour, the directness, the fear. the wit. the mischief.
I had a particular vision for how this talk could be delivered. I’d harboured a fantasy for the last year or so about curating a event about design delivered entirely in spoken word format. like, you know, poetry. words. with structure and meaning and context and life and narrative and darkness and cadence and rhyme and passion and space and pace and pathos and pain and light and heat. and wit. and mischief.
I knew the dare conference would be the right place to try this out. and it very much was. taking a risk was all part of the deal. so many thanks to the dare conference team and particularly to jonathan kahn for his efforts in making the thing happen.
most of these words came together in about 90 minutes on a train to somewhere in a haze of impulse I’ll never forget. if you’re interested in playing along, lightning style, they don’t actually start until slide 2. you’ll get the idea.
in addition, the event was recorded, which means you have the dubious pleasure of witnessing me reading the words out loud on a stage and everything. I included dramatic pauses, because I know you like those. many thanks to the folks at dare for the recording, and to Michael Adcock for extracting and hosting the 5 minutes that you can find here (note, the official version now included – thanks Dare Conf).
if you feel like taking part in a spoken word event with a focus on design, let me know. it would be awesome. find me at tim at timcaynes dot com. or on the twitter. or here. or anywhere.
I said it’s art, it don’t look like much, but it’s the way that I see and I think about stuff I said it’s art, and it don’t look like much, but it’s the way that I see and I think about stuff
and you said, I don’t get it, what’s that meant to be? what’s that thing right there? it that supposed to be trees? if this is your art then I ain’t buying. it’s just a bit shit mate, you’re not even trying.
I said that’s not the point. it’s a manifestation. not some allegory on deforestation. just a representation. an approximation. the way that I deal with life’s complications. it’s the way that I see things, life through my lens. I put it on paper to see how it ends.
and you said all I’m saying is don’t give up the day job. I said I’m 8 years old. I don’t have a day job. but the words they cut through me, I took them to heart. and I put away childish things I called art.
and this is music, it don’t sound like much, but it’s the way that I wish I could speak about stuff. and this is music, and it don’t sound like much, but it’s the way that I wish I could speak about stuff.
just listen a minute, I wish I could say, cos these notes and these lyrics I arranged in this way are the sounds of my fears slowly drifting away, if only today I could make you press play. if only today I could make you press play.
but I’m being a idiot. who’d want to listen? who’d want to put themselves through the embarrassment? it’s just miserable teenage artistic pretensions when narcissism is the mother of all your inventions. don’t worry, it’s nothing, I’ll put it away. I’ll keep to myself the things I want to say.
and what is an artist anyway? cos I think I might be one, but I just couldn’t say. could I take this one line, just six seconds of time, to define in a rhyme my perception of artist as somebody who, just believes what they do. would that work for you?
and the thing I feel most, much stronger than fear, is the desire to confront it, the very idea, that being an artist will somehow expose the things about me that nobody knows. there’s things about me that nobody knows.
and since I’ve started, the artist: creative catharsis, the role that we play to frame what we say art is, the channel, the filter, the lightning conductor, the creator, the canvas, the wilful disruptor. protagonist, lover.
the artist. it’s just a label. don’t worry. it doesn’t matter.
I said it’s me. I don’t look like much, but let’s start with that and move on a touch. I said it’s me. I don’t look like much, but let’s start with that and move on a touch.
and wait, before you say, yes it is supposed to look that way. you don’t like it? that’s fine, I’m learning to deal with the things you might say and the way that I feel, because taking the risk is all part of the deal. taking the risk is all part of the deal.
and thanks for coming, this exhibition was hard. three hundred and sixty-five days have gone past but of this thing I’ve created, I’m immensely proud. it’s lifted a burden. it’s lifted a cloud.
see the thing that I’ve learned, the one thing that’s true, is noone can tell you what might get you through because art is in everything, the words that you say, the pictures you make or the music you play, the simple and beautiful you do every day
in the pieces of you in the trail that you leave as you touch and you see and you feel and believe, as you pass through this world seeking meaning and wonder, at times you’ll feel desperate, at times you’ll go under, but fuck it if this isn’t why we try harder, fuck it if this isn’t why we try harder
an apology. no, not for the language, but for using this book like some kind of appendage. but I’m not really reading, it could just be blank. it’s an act, it’s my art, since we’re on the south bank.
see, art is expression, it just needs some arrangement. it needs curation as a personal statement and when I thought to do that, I was over the fear. when I thought to do that, it all became clear.
art is in all of the things that you do. and being an artist is just knowing that’s true. art is in all of the things that you do. and being an artist is just knowing that’s true.
it feels like it’s been a lifetime since I returned from Baltimore after the glorious IA summit at the beginning of April. it’s the event that leaves you feeling like that when its over, like the end of a long hot summer where you gambolled through the shimmering and abundant fields of learning, dancing like a teenager with your new best friends dipping your toes in the stream of enlightenment and talking like you don’t know the words for the things you have to say, watching the proud and beautiful stags of truth barking atop the mountain as if to say THERE IS NO TRUTH, JUST THE ONTOLOGY OF TRUTHS, COME HEAR ME, FOR I AM THE STAG OF BEAUTY AND I SPEAK OF THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO MAKE AND BY THE WAY SINCE I’M A PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF ALL YOUR ENDEAVOURS I REALLY AM THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN THE COGNITIVE AND SPATIAL DEFINITION OF CONTEXT THAT DEFINES IT ALL. HURRAH!
or something like that. to be clear, there is a reason I allocate 100% of my available budget to attend this one event each year. it’s because I get a year’s worth of worth from it. I mean, I go to quite a few smaller events throughout the year and meet splendid and lovely people and see inspiring and challenging speakers and learn so much about things that are totally relevant to me. but the IA summit is quite different. without wishing to get weirdly evangelical and creepy about it (and not the dan willis kind of creepy), I believe it’s an event that changes lives. overstating it? maybe. but I know that attending for the last few years has changed me for the better. and I’ve spoken to many people who have attended, often for the first time, who are so touched and moved and surprised and enlivened by their attendance that they can’t quite express what it is that it’s done to them. I’m not about to qualify what ‘better’ means, because that’s not the point. I don’t do definitions. but what better means to me is what counts. the change for the better is what I recognise in myself and how I attribute that change to my attendance at the IA summit is up to me. nobody can alter that.
in the grand scheme of things, with so much going in the world, and so many demands and so little time and so much to do and so much to say and so many responsibilities and so on and so on it is perhaps easy to say fuck’s sake it’s only a conference for people who get weirdly obsessed about the structure of things and why are you getting so worked up about it there’s more important things to worry about but whatever. let me bark this at you. THIS EVENT IS AN OASIS OF AWESOME. IT CHANGES LIVES. I AM THE STAG OF TRUTH SO HEAR ME ROAR.
thank you to the beautiful people, old and new, that make the change happen. I love you. if anyone would like to tell me to calm down, don’t bother.
A continuing and repeated conversation at the IA summit in Baltimore this week is about knowing how to say what you think you can say about the things you’d like to say.
That can be having a bazillion drafts of blog posts that you think nobody is ever going to want to read, or wondering whether anyone in their right mind would sit through 45 minutes of you telling them how you actually have no idea what you’re talking about but that’s alright because you’re not about to change the world with your reimagineeration of practice fundamentals you just did a thing recently that included some of the stuff that everybody here also seems to be doing but you weren’t sure whether you were doing the right IA thing and actually you weren’t even sure it was IA at all but, like, it was just a good story about how I did a thing which you think is a bit like how other people do a thing and perhaps is would be interesting to other people to see how I did it you know like let’s understand how we actually do what we do with the things we know and see if we might learn something or validate an approach or find a different way to do it rather that necessarily trying to understand how calling something a fish means I’ve subconsciously induced a cognitive brain spasm which can be expressed as an inducement to a systemic failure in brain pattern structure mapping that is an unavoidable and not entirely unexpected relation of disentropy that exposes your failing as a labelling person to understand the role of that artefact in the ontology of the universe of stuffz.
We want to hear and read and see and discuss that stuff. We just want you to tell a story about what you’ve been doing. It’s pretty simple. I mean, we like the big crazy things, but there’s nothing like a good story, well told, about a personal experience, that helps us say YES I DO THAT TOO.
My first speaking gig was at the IA summit. I mean, I didn’t piss about, I went for it. In the end, it was actually a good place to do your first proper public speaking event, because those IA summit folks really know how to look after first timers. But it was rather a deep-end approach to learning the public speaking thing and a pretty expensive and nerve-wracking one too.
Tonight I’ve spent a most agreeable few hours in the company of some other people having their first go at standing up in front of a room full of their peers, talking out loud, and wondering if the words that are coming out are actually being heard by the people in front of them or they are just being thrown into the air and intercepted by some cognitive unbalance field that catches them, turns them into unintelligible arse and thrusts them backwards into the ears of blank-faced gibbons who are suspended in some alternate time universe where the only facial expressions available are wholly blank or mildly indifferent and the occasional metaphor for insignificance in the face of the impenetrable vastness of the vacuum of space gently drift before your eyes like the last dying leaf of the relevance tree as it flutters downwards amidst the eternity of the silent, slow, nod of the donkey of empathy. Maybe that’s just me.
The untapped event, organised with some impressive vigour by Sophie Freiermuth and Richard Wand at Possible, in London, was an admirable showcase for unheard UX voices from within the community. You know, those people you actually work with who say interesting things, have interesting views, and can have a conversation like real adults do, but don’t seem to have a good place to share that with a wider audience of their peers. Or, if you like, it’s a chance to hear from people you’ve never heard of speaking about things that you’ve often thought of. Or, if you like, it’s just not Jason Mesut again. Honestly, that’s not a dig at Jason Mesut, but he would acknowledge, I’m sure, that he is become one of the UX circuit in the UK, and there is room for others. I might say that say of myself. I dunno. WHATEVER. I’m stuck on a train right now waiting for the fire brigade and national rail to assess a chemical spill just outside Hatfield Peveril, north of Chelmsford and my train hasn’t moved for 30 minutes and I won’t be home until at least 2:30 am and I’m suddenly getting a bit stabby.
Notwithstanding that, the reason for my involvement with the event, and, indeed, Jason’s, was that I had volunteered to help out as a mentor for one of the new speakers. I thought that maybe what I’ve learned from my short tenure as ‘most famous speaker from Norwich who occasionally stays on-topic about UX but generally arses about with long words to try and look clever and simply resorts to cheap jokes to see if the audience are still awake’ might be useful to others in some shape or form, and so I was very lucky to included as part of the mentoring team. For each speaker, a mentor. A one-to-one relationship. A chance to pass on some of the things I’d learned over the years to someone who might even find it useful.
And it all turned out lovely. Alex Ng, who is currently working with me at Flow, was to benefit from my exacting principles about literal, metaphorical and unintelligible jokes, slide subversion, easter eggs, audience poking and general narrative intensity. We spent some nice times together, and it was all a bit like that bit in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they ride around on bicycles, laughing in the sunshine to a sensory backdrop of instagrammed Jimmy Webb and teal. At least, he took my point about full-bleed images. And proceeded to smash it out of the park when it came to it. To be fair, all the speakers, including another colleague of mine, Matt Radbourne, did an excellent job for a first speaking gig, but, you know, I only cried into my free white wine following Alex’s 20 minutes, because, like , THAT’S MY BOY! (he’s 33 you know. Yes, that’s what I said.)
Untapped was a hugely enjoyable event. It encouraged those with an idea to come forward and add to it a voice. That voice was their own. New, unheard, untapped. I played a very small part in contributing to the success of the evening. Sophie and Richard incepted, inspired and, um, envisioned, or something, the evening. If I had hats, I would take them off to them, suffice to say, I think I love them. Looking forward to looking forward to the next time.
At the Lightning UX event in London a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to share the stage with some very clever people talking about designing for mobile. Except that I wasn’t talking about designing for mobile. I happened to be the speaker who forgot to read the brief. So I talked, lightning style, about something completely different
I chose to speak about the hopelessness of trying to keep up with new and re-invented user experience methods and practices. As UX further develops and evolves, it can sometimes seem that every week it attempts to eat itself.
As a UX professional with a relatively long service, this can be difficult to keep up with, especially when you’re just trying to do some work. For any relative newcomer to the profession, this must be like trying to herd cats blindfolded, whilst everyone in your Twitter timeline is riding around on fixed-gear bicycles, shouting at you about which cat you should herd.
UX Method Interpolation Theory
So to help me make appropriate decisions about what to do and when, I’ve developed by own UX Method Interpolation Theory.
In short, in UX, there are too many methods and too little time. Simply choosing the right methods at the right times is a reasonable strategy. In practice, if I’m feeling left behind with new methods or practices that I’m expected to know, I tell myself this:
You don’t have to know everything
You’ll never know everything
And actually, as far as UX goes, there isn’t, and probably never will be, an everything
Thankfully, I don’t have to go into great detail here, because, as usual, the Lightning UX folks recorded the whole thing and, if you’re inclined, you can give up 6:45 minutes of your time to see what I had to say.
Without giving too much away, I won’t be able to give this presentation again. Which is a shame, since I hoped to see some hands go up.
Last week I was kindly invited to take part in the Hot Source 7×7 event hosted at our very own Foolproof Group offices in Norwich. Hot Source is a community collective of digital creative, natives, professionals, amateurs, enthusiasts, start-ups, business owners, in fact, anybody who might have anything to do with digital in and around Norwich
The last Thursday of every month, we gather together, have a couple of drinks, and invite a couple of folks to talk about something that means a lot to them and might be of interest to the rest of us. And very nice events they are too. This time around, we thought we might change the format slightly, to get a few more people up and talking and, on a warm summer evening, get a little more informal.
The short-form talk format is pretty popular these days and allows a pretty diverse set of subjects to be covered in a short space of time. In this case, seven speakers each had seven minutes to talk about something that mattered to them. As you might expect from such a broad community, the subject matter varied greatly, which is what makes these kind of events really dynamic. Tom Wood, who helped put the schedule together, seemed to strike a good balance with the speakers and subjects. Tom Wood, who helped put the schedule together, put me on last. I can’t think why.
So, after a few beers and some excellent charcuterie, things kicked off with a Mr George Wood, who was known rather personally to our Mr Tom Wood (Dad), who gave us an insight into the wonderful world of Minecraft, with a live demo included. Nobody wanted to follow that, but one by one, the other speakers gamely stepped up to talk about Google author profiles, the History of Advertising Trust, using the Gmaps API to create fabulous visualisations, 10 hateful things about user interfaces, and a great showcase of TV production that comes out of Norwich. And me.
Not wanting to disappoint, with me being in the ‘put him on last’ slot, I delivered what has subsequently been described to me as ‘some kind of performance theatre’, on the subject of why technology is great but is also rubbish. If I tell you it involved me talking to myself on a failing video conference for 7 minutes, then you can fill the blanks yourself. Hugely enjoyable. Questionably engaging.
In the end, the point of Hot Source is to provide a forum for like-minded people to meet, talk and discuss things that matter to us. It’s mostly digital, but that doesn’t mean we have some heavy-handed governance the precludes related topics. If it’s interesting, if it’s relevant, we want to hear about it. More importantly, gives people the chance to talk about it. If you’d like to get involved, head over to the Hot Source site for more.
I like UK UPA events. There’s something very reassuring about carrots in a bowl and speakers worth listening to. Last Thursday’s ‘Profiling the Perfect UX Practitioner’ was a particularly good event, pulling together a great list of UX practitioners to talk about UX practitioners to a room full of UX practitioners. While that sounds like it could be the point where we actually end up eating each other, it was actually the point at which we start questioning each other, which is always healthy.
There was no danger of it being a dull affair. Most of us have seen Andy Budd or Jason Mesut speak before and know that even though painful honesty borders on willful disruption it’s a dramatic tension that makes it not a little bit exciting. Put these menaces together with ‘not intentionally provided as a counterpoint but actually it works quite well that way’ Stavros Garzonis and Aline Baeck and you have a pretty good spread of disciplines, experiences and specialities that might, arguably, add up to the perfect UX practitioner, thereby rendering the whole evening redundant.
But that’s the thing. There’s not really any such thing as the perfect UX practitioner and we weren’t really there to try and determine what that is, any more than we were there to determine who has the brightest trousers, even though, as it happens, that was a really easy one to call. To summarise: it depends. With knobs on.
If there was a recurrent theme regarding the problem with defining pathways to becoming a better, more well-rounded UX practitioner, is was dichotomies. That is to say, perhaps it is the current open migration paths into UX from, say, engineering, development, psychology, for example, that are essentially dichotometrically opposed to the establishment of practitioner pathways since you have to already be pre-disposed within those disparate paradigms to an affinity with the values of user-centrednessness. Or something. I may have lost track there for a moment when I realised dichotmetrically opposed reminded me of thumbs. Anyway, there were dichotomies.
Also worthy of circular arguments was the notion of certification for UX professionals so that we all know who’s good at it. Notwithstanding the fact that none of can agree on what it is. Admirably, the German UPA chapter are looking seriously at certification, which, I’m sure, will be looked at closely to see how it might affect perception of value, ability or perfection in the long term. I asked Oliver what he thought of it. He kind of shrugged.
And it wouldn’t be a discussion about our ability to demonstrate capability without touching on, and then deep diving into, and ultimately wrestling naked in front of the fire about UX practitioner portfolios. Porfolios are good. If you think they’re good. Even though your good might not be my good. But let’s all agree they have value. In the way I value straight lines, but someone else values sketchy ones. You see. It depends. But let’s also agree that if you want an opinion on the basic thresholds of portfolio benchmarking and what, from sheer volume, might be considered the relative merits of showing deliverables vs. telling stories and demonstrating thinking, reacting, shifting, agiling, then Jason is the man to tell you to leave the wireframes at home.
Ultimately, the sum of the parts of a strong team are often what makes the whole of a perfect practioner and it’s being part of those teams that will most likely incubate the hard and soft skills required to effectively practice in the UX profession. There might be, and probably are, practitioners out there that come close to having it all, but you won’t be that person with 2 years in the industry and an impressive job title. That’s not to say that the perfect practitioner necessarily comes from the small pool of 10+ year UX veterans who like to remind you that they actually did the original user research on punched cards for jacquard looms or something, but, to be honest, longevity in the field simply affords you the benefit of experience. It’s hard to argue against it.
I enjoyed all the panellists. I enjoyed all the attendees. I even enjoyed sitting on the floor for most of the evening so I could take photos of Andy’s boots. My favourite moment? Grinning inanely while Andy ranted animatedly about how terrible the state of somethingorother was and how you should just forget about doing it when patently plenty of people in the audience were already doing it. My least favourite moment? Having to run off and leave everybody having a nice chat over fava beans and a nice chianti, because I had to rush to get a train to Norwich because we don’t all live in London you know.
I mean, he had really important stuff to do, like meeting with people from banks and a summit or two to present at, but, you know, it would be nice to just kind of hang out.
This pretty much describes Dave. Insightful, artistic, clever and thoughtful, but more than anything, just a great guy to hang out with. So when Dave announced he was coming over to London, I thought there was probably a way we could facilitate some kind of meetup, whereby we could invite a few folks over for a bit of a chat.
After assuring Dave that yes, more than three people would turn up, I quickly set about the logistics of getting the thing set up and in a few hours, everything was in place.
The first thing you notice about Dave is that not only is he larger than life, he’s larger in life. I’m pretty tall. Dave is taller. The second thing you notice is that he’s just so enthusiastic about everything.
We chatted about his time in London, we chatted about the venue, we took a few photos, we chatted about lenses, we looked out the window, we chatted about architecture and it’s place in modelling communities and behaviours. We chatted about lots of things. In fact, we just chatted until attendees started arriving, and then they joined the chat. And then more joined. And we had beer. And chatted some more.
And that really set the tone for the evening. I’d set myself up as some kind of compere, but really, it just turned into something of a fireside chat, with 30 friends. Dave and I sat at the front of the room and I occasionally acted the debate host and fielded questions, but for the next hour or so, it was really just about Dave meeting new faces and just, you know, hanging out.
Of course, we did cover a wide range of topics, including gamification, connected companies, UX strategy, best and worst experiences, most trusted methods, and some great tales of corporate workshops. I’ll go into more detail on those in later posts, so look out for messages about those.
We finished pretty much as we started – just chatting together in the loft as the cleaners tried to clean around us. As people said their goodbyes, it was extremely gratifying to hear how much they had enjoyed the evening, particularly the informal, open format. I had similar conversations at the UK UXPA careers event the week before. It’s so nice to come to event like this and just, you know, hang out.
Who wants to hang out?
A huge thank you to Dave for being so engaging and entertaining, and to Raj at Sense Worldwide for helping us out with the excellent Sense Loft. If I had to sum the evening up, I don’t think I could do it any better than the photo of Dave within this post. A great time was had by all.
Notwithstanding the fact that any address that ends in ‘Canary Wharf’ seems to disappear into the Bemuser Triangle the closer I get to it and that on this occasion I wasn’t alone in trying to locate an enormous shiny building that was right in front of me, I made it along to the UK UXPA careers event yesterday at the Thomson Reuters building somewhere in, well, Canary Wharf, along with a number of extraordinary colleagues from Foolproofwho I can only describe as infinitely more approachable than myself. And Matt.
I had initially registered as an attendee, just because I was interested in the event anyway, but somehow become part of the official delegation, which mostly meant I had to carry Karen’s popup banner from Goswell Road to Canary Wharf. Either way, I’d really come to attend the panel discussion with Leslie Fountain, Andy Budd, and the most charming man in the world™, Giles Colborne, who were going to have a stab at discussing the vagaries of UX in the boardroom and what that means to business, businesses, management, aspiring management, new hires, prospective new hires, clients, projects, practice, vision, values, mission, goals, and how things smell.
At the same time as the panel, there was to be several rounds of speed-dating for prospective employers/recruiters and candidates/people of interest, which, as it turns out, would consist of some rather loud whistling, CVs, portfolios, elevator pitches, business cards, raised eyebrows, knowing glances, ticks in boxes and, by the end of the evening, more or less passing out on the corporate carpet. Taking part in one of these events requires a strong constitution and boundless enthusiasm. I wasn’t part of it.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was also some splendid UX booth kinda action in the main foyer, where I noticed Jason Mesut was delivering the kind of folio advice that can leave unsuspecting hopefuls in that curious state of super encouraged and mostly terrified about their future. That man knows what he’s talking about, children.
And if that that wasn’t enough wasn’t enough, there was more pork product than I think I’ve ever seen in one place and buckets of cold Prosecco, which would later be the cause of my Downfall-like self-castigation wandering rather too close to very deep water whilst frantically searching for the underground station that would take me to the train back to Norwich via Stratford, the official travel centre of the London 2012 Olympic park in association with A SHOP or something. For UX events at Canary Wharf are not your UX events in Shoreditch. I mean, I like hot lofts and crisps and everything, but corporations do hospitality as a core practice and they mostly do it very well. Thompson Reuters didn’t buck that trend.
But back to the panel. Leslie opened proceedings with some discussion points about what it means to provide leadership in UX businesses and, specifically, used the example of how this is manifest at Foolproof. Core to her proposition is that vision and values are critical in describing what your business is all about and enables internal stakeholders and staff to deliver toward that and understand why they do what they do in context of what that means to the company. Crucially, it also describes to the outside world – clients, customers, partners, candidates, friends – what the culture of the company is, what their aims are, and how they intend to pursue their goals, so that it becomes a shared imperative at the point where relationships are formed and ongoing engagements are managed. In other words, it enables you to say “this is who we are and this is where we’re going. If you like the look of that, lets have a conversation”.
I like Leslie. I like hearing her talk. I like her style. We’re going to do a double act.
What followed Leslie’s opener was a nicely animated discussion, which, in a nice touch, had Andy, Leslie and the most charming man in the world™;, Giles, perched on stools, like some awesome UX Westlife. There was even a spare stool next to Andy and I was sorely tempted to join them for an impromptu cover of a Jared Spool ballad or something, but resigned myself to kicking things off with the first question, which went something like “yeah, you say vision and values but really, people just ignore that stuff, innit?” Needless to say, it was pointed out that yes, that might often be true, but what we try and do is…
I only trailed off there because I can’t remember the answer correctly. But over the next 40 minutes or so, an awful lot of sense was spoken. I was particularly drawn to the passion and sincerity in Andy’s descriptions of how he makes his business decisions, runs his company and decides what to do and why. He was very honest about the learnings made from his mistakes and how he used those to make better decisions and, in particular, learn how to say no, which was a bit of recurrent theme. As ever, Giles was thoroughly entertaining, but because of the most charming man in the world™ thing, every time he spoke, I just kind a gawped at him like a headlit rabbit as the words came out and consequently missed a lot of what he actually said. He does tell a good story though.
And then I was done. I did get to speak to a number of people during the course of the evening who commented, as I felt, that this wasn’t like a normal UX event, because you get to speak to each other throughout, rather than at the end, which was all very convivial. I hope those bright-faced young prospectives got as much out of it as the gurn-faced old miseries (that’s me, by the way, just to be clear) did. Curiously, I also had a couple of people make the comment at the beginning of this post. That was about Andy. I’ve no idea how they might have thought otherwise.
Thanks to the UK UXPA for organising. Canary Wharf is sometimes a bit wrong, but last night there was a little place in the middle where everything was right.