Lou Rosenfeld tackles the differences between producing books and conferences, and how to make conferences a little deeper—like books! Read on in Medium.
Those who know me well will laugh, but I actually started out as a project manager. It was the late 80’s. I was in grad school when group projects first became the rage. But professors didn’t bother to teach us how to manage the projects they assigned us. So my teammates and I would scramble around like ants without a trail to follow. We’d duplicate each other’s work, fall behind schedule, point fingers at each other. Eventually I’d volunteer for the dreaded responsibility of tracking our projects. Except I wasn’t equipped for the role so things turned from bad to worse. I could’ve used some guidance back then. Like Brett Harned’s project management book, Project Management for Humans–that just came out today!
Maybe like me, you fell by accident into project management. Or you work with project managers and yet, things feel close to coming unglued. Project Management for Humans teaches you how to recoup your time, resources and sanity. It’s a short, practical and enjoyable playbook you’ll want to read and keep handy to help you resolve problems before they mushroom into crises.
Even if you’re a professional project manager, Brett’s project management book can help you too. It goes beyond teaching traditional systems. You’ll learn how to tackle the interpersonal challenges that can often derail a project in unexpected ways.
The timing for our newest book Designing Agentive Technology couldn’t be better. AI has moved from being the “next big thing” to being the thing for designers to grapple with. I’ve even done some research that demonstrates how important AI and machine learning are to UX people.Technology has been getting smarter for years, and many of us have already been integrating AI into designed experiences. Think Siri, Alexa, wearables, automatic pet feeders, self-driving cars.
If you’re venturing into the world of AI this year (or just thinking about it), there are two reasons you should consider picking up a copy:
You can read a free excerpt from Designing Agentive Technology from Designing Agentive Technology in today’s A List Apart. The book—like all of our titles—is available in just about every format you might need: a lovely color paperback, and PDF, MOBI, EPUB, and DAISY digital formats. You can purchase your copy from us directly, or make Jeff Bezos even richer. Let us know what you think of Designing Agentive Technology.
- It’s practical. When it comes to AI, there simply aren’t a lot of books—yet—that provide such practical guidance to designers. Kudos to Chris for making designing agents clear and concrete.
- It’s necessary. Technology always races ahead, forcing us slow-moving humans to catch up with its impacts. Those impacts can be troubling and even destructive. We need to work harder to humanize the technologies we create, and no single group will be more important to those efforts than designers. See this book as preparation for rehumanizing AI.
We’ve cued up our next virtual conference for Tuesday, April 25 and it’s called To Be Designed. If you’ve been wondering how to keep pace with new trends in design, don’t miss this one.
To Be Designed will give you a taste of the “near future” of design—the stuff that’s far out enough to be fascinating, but not so far out that you can’t imagine ever working on it in your career.
What kinds of topics will we cover? Well, like always, we asked YOU. 331 of you responded, and here’s what you suggested:
By popular demand, the presenters will cover aspects of how AI intersects with design, wearables, conversational UI, smart objects, and—perhaps most importantly—the ethics required to navigate the near future.
And you’ll hear from six speakers we know you’re going to love—because you suggested them! We’ll announce them soon! In the meantime, you can register today at the early bird rate and take it on faith that like our previous conferences, we’ll deliver a well curated program for you.
Or wait until March 24, when the speaker lineup goes public––and when the regular ticket rate will apply).
Looking forward to having you join us on April 25!
The other day I hopped the subway to the Soho Apple Store’s Genius Bar to get my dead iPhone fixed. Being suddenly phoneless is quite disorienting. Rather than folding myself over my little master as I normally would, I looked up and suddenly noticed… people! The sea of diversity you’d expect to see on a New York City subway. And as an old UXer, I was drawn to observe them, exercising dormant field research muscles.
That’s when I realized that I had a book with me: an advance copy of Steve Portigal’s new book, Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories.
I couldn’t have had a better companion for the rest of that ride. I dipped into about a dozen of the 60+ field research war stories that make up the bulk of the book. The stories do what stories are supposed to do: engage. And the contributors have been through some experiences that will make you laugh, sweat with fear and discomfort, and—let’s face it—enjoy a bit of schadenfreude.
But it’s wrong to see Steve’s new book simply as a compilation of user research war stories. Let me explain why with a bit of my own publishing war story.
When Steve came to me with the idea for his new book a year or so ago, he was concerned that I wouldn’t want to publish it. After he explained the idea, I wasn’t sure either. I generally hate compilations, as they tend to drown out the main author or editor’s voice. And how useful could a book of user research war stories really be?
Then I thought some more. And I realized that some people have a knack for combing through ideas to arrive at a greater truth. Steve is one of those master synthesizers. I began to believe that if he dedicated the time to really digging into these stories, his sum would be greater than the parts.
In Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries, Steve comes through: he delivers a broader framework that’s useful for making sense of user research—or, actually, situations with people. Eleven chapters deliver eleven principles that you must know if you’re doing any kind of research:
- Chapter 1: The Best Laid Plans
Expect your plan to never to go according to plan.
- Chapter 2: Those Exasperating Participants
Be prepared for people to surprise (and sometimes frustrate) you.
- Chapter 3: Control is an Illusion
Be prepared for research contexts to surprise (and sometimes frustrate) you.
- Chapter 4: Cracking The Code
Be prepared to be challenged by differences in language and culture.
- Chapter 5: Gross, Yet Strangely Compelling
If you feel disgust when observing people, counter it with empathy.
- Chapter 6: Not Safe For Work
Be prepared for research contexts that are unpleasant and occasionally morally challenging.
- Chapter 7: To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest
Know your ethics and your obligations before you begin.
- Chapter 8: The Perils of Fieldwork
Be prepared for the discomfort and even danger you may face in the field.
- Chapter 9: People Taking Care of People
Be prepared for people’s lives and situations to pull you from observation to participation.
- Chapter 10: Can’t Stop The Feeling
Like it or not, your emotions will impact your research.
- Chapter 11: The Myth of Objectivity
And, like it or not, observing and learning from people will inevitably change you.
So I’m glad to have my assumptions questioned about what books merit publication. Thanks for that, Steve—and, more importantly, for writing Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries and opening up a greater truth about field research.
It’s been quite a year here at Rosenfeld Media HQ. Four successful events, two new book imprints, and today, we bring your our seventh title of 2016: Blind Spot: Illuminating the Hidden Value of Business (by Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Sean Sauber).
It’s fair to say that if you’re in any type of business, you and I continually struggle to gain and strengthen customer loyalty. It’s one of our biggest challenges. But despite decades of books and discussion, we haven’t seen a clear way forward. As with other intractable problems, the best approach is often to pause, step back, and reframe.
And this is where Blind Spot nails it: the authors move us from a mindset of mining our customers for loyalty (and money) to creating sustainable relationships that benefit us both.
Relationships with our customers go beyond traditional values of function and finance. In Blind Spot, you’ll learn to understand and develop premium types of value—emotional, identify, and meaningful—which offer far greater opportunities for creating better relationships.
You’ll also learn a new method for modeling these relationships called the waveline, that Bruce Nussbaum calls “the 21st century replacement for the consumer journey”. Finally, Blind Spot offers a 7-step approach to innovation built upon a foundation of strong and healthy relationships.
As always, I hope you’ll pick up a copy—either from the Two Waves site or Amazon. Blind Spot is, like all of our books, available in a lovely paperback edition, as well as four DRM-free digital formats (PDF, ePUB, MOBI, and DAISY). To your success!
Happy book launch day!
It took months of cajoling but I talked Laura Klein into writing Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products. And guess what–she delivered.
Build Better Products is a comprehensive handbook for anyone designing or managing products. It provides easy-to-follow exercises and methods to improve products in six critical areas:
- Goal: Defining the key business need
- Empathy: Understanding user behaviors and needs
- Creation: Designing a new user behavior to meet both business and user needs
- Validation: Identifying and testing assumptions
- Measurement: Measuring changes in user behavior
- Iteration: Doing it again and again–improving each time
This framework—and the advice it delivers—is hugely practical and applicable for just about any product. The more complex your product, the more you need this book. Laura addresses another key need: bringing together the best of product management and user experience design in one place.
And there are two other reasons to pick up a copy of Build Better Products:
- Tricks of the trade from a stellar lineup: Cindy Alvarez, Janice Fraser, Learie Hercules, Avinash Kaushik, Amy Jo Kim, Steve Krug, Dan Olsen, Steve Portigal, Chris Risdon, Kate Rutter, Teresa Torres, and Christina Wodtke.
- It’s funny. Really funny. That’s why I spent all those months cajoling her. You’re very welcome.
I’ve got two kids, 8 and 12 years old. With issues like race relations, income inequality, wars without end, and presidential politicking here in the US, it’s harder and harder to make sense of the world for them.
It’s hard to even explain it to myself. While I’m doubtful that the good old days were all that good (thank you, Steven Pinker), I do know that there are many, many factors—from where we choose to live, to (ahem) Facebook—that make me feel like we’re all busily locking, loading, and reinforcing our concrete bunkers. And doing everything we can to build walls between ourselves and the Other. Whoever Other is for us. Opportunities to interact with and understand people with different perspectives are disappearing as fast as the ice caps. It’s not a happy, much less tenable, situation.
That’s why launching Dave Gray’s new book, Liminal Thinking, is so meaningful for me.
Sure, it’s always exciting to publish something new. I like to think our UX books have, in some small way, made the world a better place for users.
But Liminal Thinking—the first in our Two Waves series—has the opportunity to make the world a better place for people. Not just for the ones who make and use products and services. But for anyone who understands the need to break down their walls of belief and connect with others.
Liminal Thinking is, if anything, a self-help book, and it’s quite practical. Six principles, nine practices, 184 pages, and lots of Dave’s deceptively simple illustrations. That’s it. You’ll read it in a couple hours, and it might just change your life. Seriously. See what others have shared in Amazon reviews so far.
A decade ago, there was no publishing house focused solely on user experience design, so I founded Rosenfeld Media. If the world needed better experiences, then UX practitioners needed more and better books to help them design those experiences.
We started out publishing books on highly practical UX methods, like card sorting, prototyping and mental models. Many twists and turns later, our recent and upcoming titles cover as much strategic topics—like product management—as UX. UX has evolved into its own field—and it’s not close to being “done”.
To make sure that the books we publish stay relevant to UX people, we need to make them relevant for other people too. Let me explain.
Many of the people who’ve been in UX the longest now lead teams, business units—even companies. As a design leader, you’re likely to be more focused on infrastructure, like design systems, than on design itself. You’ve had to learn how to lead organizational change, recruit and hire talent, influence and negotiate and master other “soft” skills. More and more, design leaders and changemakers have their fingers on the levers of strategy.
The senior UX people I’ve spoken with find themselves collaborating with people who are outside the UX tribe: founders, product managers, C-level and middle managers, IT and marketing people. These “others” share a common realization: UX delivers business value. It gives products and organizations a clear competitive advantage. “Traditional” business people are looking to UX to solve larger scale problems and tap business opportunities.
I love that these two waves are converging. But what do we call this bigger umbrella? Design thinking? Design strategy? Meh. I just want Rosenfeld Media to be there and, as a publisher, help guide this movement in a productive, positive way. That’s why we’re launching Two Waves Books.
Two Waves Books will cover a spectrum of creative leadership. We’re working with authors who’ve got experience surfing and navigating both waves. We’re leading off with Dave Gray’s Liminal Thinking (which is now available for pre-order), and Blind Spot, by Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Sean Sauber.
I’ll report more signings over the coming months; can’t wait to share these with you.And we’ve just signed Catherine Courage and Richard Dalton to write Design to Drive.
With Two Waves, our other new line Digital Reality Checks, and our continuing line of UX books for practitioners, I’m excited that Rosenfeld Media can help define another emerging field, and build bigger and better umbrellas.
I’m thrilled to let you know that our next virtual conference—User Research for Everyone—takes place October 11. If you have a team or colleagues (e.g., developers and product managers) that need to get familiar with the basics of user research, this is spot on. Or if you’re a new user researcher or just need to brush up your skills, you’ll definitely benefit from attending and learning from a fantastic lineup of speakers.
User Research for Everyone is a one-day affair that works well for a team ensconced in a conference room (don’t forget to order in). Or join in from home in the comfort of your slippers and PJs. If you have to get up and walk the dog, no worries—the entire day’s recordings are included with your registration.
Laura Klein and I are curating the event, and we did extensive user research to develop the program and speaker lineup (and if you helped: THANKS!). So we’re pretty confident that you’ll enjoy what we’ve come up with:
- Just Enough Research with Erika Hall
- The Right Research Method For Any Problem (And Budget) with Leah Buley
- How to Find and Recruit Amazing Participants for User Research with Nate Bolt
- Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing Discussion/Q&A Session with Steve Krug and Laura Klein
- Creating a Virtuous Cycle: The Research and Design Feedback Loop with Julie Stanford
- Making Sense of Research Findings with Abby Covert
- Infectious Research with Cindy Alvarez
One last note: the early bird registration deadline is September 13. Hope you’ll join us in October!