Join us on Slack for an “Ask Me Anything” with Steve Portigal, author of Interviewing Users and Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries.
He’ll be answering your questions live on Thursday, August 13 from 1-1:45pm EDT in our #rm-chat channel. Join our Slack here. Haven’t read his books yet? You can access a discount code once you join.
During our “Ask Me Anything” with Amy Bucher, author of Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change, we touched on subjects ranging from career advice to climate change, social justice, and the intersection of science and UX. Read on for a recap of the session, and please join our Slack here to stay informed about when our next #rm-chat author AMA will be!
Q: How have you applied your own behavior change design principles in your personal life? Give us an example! -DJ H.
A: Good question! Probably my most successful personal behavior change is becoming a runner. I didn’t run at all until I was almost 30, then one day I went on a jog on a whim and got really pissed by how bad I was at it. So I put together a training plan and somehow stuck with it, and now running is a major part of my life and identity. I would say writing Engaged is also an example. I used a lot of milestones, goal setting, and accountability tactics to get it written.
Q: Molly Stevens recently gave the closing keynote at the UXR conference and pointed to a series of next steps for the research community. One of them is “First, be seen as the scientists that we are. The work we do is grounded in years of study and scientific principles. We should emphasize and celebrate this, instead of diminishing or ignoring our foundation.” Molly is speaking about research specifically, but my question for you is more general, around the dynamic that you’ve found between science and UX—what have you seen? How have you navigated? What would you like to see? -Steve P.
A: This is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking question. I have found there is some tension between science and UX, but it’s inconsistent. I personally experienced the tension entering the design workforce with a PhD—when I first applied for roles I got quite a bit of pushback and remember being told in one interview that they knew I wasn’t seriously interested in the job (well, not after that response I wasn’t!). I’ve discovered I thrive working for companies that explicitly embrace science and value that part of my background. Where most of my work is in health, I think we still struggle to create products that are based on strong science and also have beautiful, elegant design. Health IT is typically a UX wasteland, and a lot of consumer health tech is not based on strong science. I try to think of this as an exciting opportunity and not a horrifying miss. I would like to see more collaboration and less ego. One person who I think is doing this effectively is Sherry Pagoto at UConn—she’s really into putting academic testing frameworks around consumer health tech so that it can gain the type of evidence base it needs to be accepted in healthcare settings.
Q: How is behavior change design (BHD) different from user experience design (UXD)? Are they both different labels for the same thing? -Nitya R.
A: I do think they are different. The main differences in my view are the use of established scientific frameworks in BCD, and the focus on behavior as the target of design. I see BCD as a subset of UXD.
Q: Let’s say someone falls in this BCD subset. A psych background and a significant amount of HCI knowledge and research experience, but not formally trained in the design-specific elements of UI/UX. How many companies make the distinction between these two roles in their organizations? (It seems nearly all jobs in behavior change tech require UI/UX design skills. But in doing this, companies are missing an opportunity: what the psych-heavy side has to offer.) -Mary M.
A: Great point, and I do not know the answer, but that reminds me of a fabulous resource! Ingrid Paulin of Rally Health made this great spreadsheet of companies around the world that hire people with behavior science expertise.
Q: Aside from your home turf of healthcare, what are the areas you’re seeing as having the most potential for designing for behavior change? Maybe better to ask: where are designers working now, and where might the be working in five years? -Lou R.
A: Climate change! There is SO MUCH opportunity there for behavior change work. So far the main obstacles I’ve seen to doing the work is that the money isn’t there, but the projects definitely are.
Q: Any other areas that stand out?
A: I attended an event at the World Wildlife Foundation about 2 years ago with the theme of behavior change and was blown away by some of the incredible work being done around the world on things like sustainable fishing practices and clean cooking fuels. Right now that’s all NGO-driven. As the economics around climate change shift I hope we’ll see more companies wanting to fund this type of work.
I also think politics is ripe for shaking up. There were a couple of behavior change type interventions around the 2016 election that I thought were interesting (Jane McGonigal worked on an app for example that encouraged people to get their friends to vote). The Environmental Voter Project is an organization using behavior change principles to get people to vote. There’s so much reform needed that I hope we see more focus there.
Q: Like you said above, with climate change, the projects are there but the funding isn’t. Is there a space where design for behavior change can move money toward these projects? -Katya H.
A: Easier said than done. I think the economics will shift around climate change as more organizations either realize the existing way of doing things is not sustainable, or they see that their consumers are interested in better alternatives. As I think about it, maybe the focus should be on helping to create buzz and desirability around more sustainable products or ways of doing things.
Q: There’s a revolutionary (and counter-revolutionary) spirit in the U.S. today, similar but different to what I saw in the 1960s. What role can government institutions and businesses play in encouraging behavior change when it comes to diversity and inclusion? And by this, I mean more than simply sending us daily emails about how much they care about BLM. -Bob T.
A: You hit on a great point here, which is that words without actions are (almost) meaningless, and people perceive words without actions as inauthentic at some point. One big role they can play is demonstrating through action what the change looks like. Organizations that actually have diverse leadership, for example, have a lot of credibility in talking about what it takes to hire a diverse work force and leverage the talents and perspectives of their people. What sucks right now is realizing how few companies are in a position to model anything. One thing I was very inspired by in writing my book was talking to Sheryl Cababa and hearing about the Tarot Cards of Tech she co-developed at Artefact. I think those kinds of design methods are a process-based way that orgs can start bringing more diverse perspectives into their work. I thought it was great this year seeing so many organizations acknowledge Juneteenth. We had to delay finishing a project because our client org made Juneteenth a paid day off on short notice—best reason ever to be late.
Q: When choosing a solution type, do you have a preference for a particular method/framework for prioritization of interventions to solve ability blockers? -Jeff G.
A: Yes! I tend to reach for motivation-based tools first because I truly believe that behavior change happens when the actions align with people’s motivation. That said, I work in a consultancy so my projects are for clients, and often I need to adjust my toolkit to fit the client’s parameters.
One example: I did a construction worker safety project, and we uncovered a lot of environmental adjustments that could be made at worksites to limit people taking unnecessary risks. But the client wanted to develop a training—so our output was a training. We presented on the environmental adjustments but I have no idea if anything became of that.
Q: Do you have any advice for those just jumping in the BCD pool? -Jode K.
A: I have been recommending recently that people start with a few more accessible activities that are part of the BCD toolkit. The three I’ve pulled out are doing a lit review of peer reviewed papers related to your project, creating an outcomes logic map that articulates the behaviors you’re trying to influence, and using a BC framework for a lensed brainstorm. The lensed brainstorm in particular is extremely accessible. I do versions of it with clients often.
Join us on Slack for an “Ask Me Anything” with Amy Bucher, the author of Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change
She’ll be answering your questions live on July 16 from 2-3pm EDT in our #rm-chat channel. Join our Slack here. Haven’t read the book yet? You can access a discount code once you join.
This is a running post I’ll update when I spot something in Liftoff! that may not be totally clear, or could be at risk of being misinterpreted, or if something is wrong and I need to set the record straight.
Throughout the course of editing the first chapter, I removed language that clearly stated the timeline of events discussed in Helen Keighron’s contribution. As a result, a reader could mistakenly conclude that Ms. Keighron was sharing experiences referring to her present employer. In fact, she was discussing a previous job and how she is applying those lessons learned there in her current position now. I regret the error and am sorry for causing Ms. Keighron to appear to be referring to her current employer and workplace.Fill out my online form.
When I wrote the blog post Liftoff! Opening Credits: Contributors, Guests, and Reviewers, my goal was to highlight the many folks who shared their stories or reviewed our work throughout the course of writing the book.
This book was intentionally different from some leadership and management books in that we didn’t want to overly rely on anonymous case studies that were more parable than playbook. That means that almost all of the stories here are written by the contributors themselves.
One result is that we were able to find and amplify voices who may be less familiar to many of our readers. We could also share the stories of more women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color than if we only asked for people to opt-in to nominate themselves to share their perspective.
That decision led to a few others I want to share.
We made the choice to research and write the diversity and inclusion chapter ourselves rather than ask someone who has lived the experience of being a BIPOC in a corporate environment to write it for us. We didn’t want to outsource the hardest chapter to write in the book, only to have Russ and I go back to writing the rest of the text. That didn’t feel right then, and I don’t regret it today. Instead, we asked people—both design peers and diversity and inclusion professionals–to review our point of view in the text and help us shape the chapter in a way that can help other teams where their leaders can learn from our mistakes, the research we’ve cited, and our approaches to improving toward a more just and equitable workplace.
But at the end of the day, while those new voices get published, the royalties still come to me. Not to the folks who volunteered their time to be a part of this book, either in the role of contributor or one-time-editor.
As such, I want to pay forward the financial success of the book that our volunteers made possible. This post is a pledge to donate 50% of the after-tax profits of my proceeds to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, with a minimum donation of $1,000 by the end of 2020.
If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, “the Know Your Rights Camp’s mission is to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders”. I believe Kap was colluded against by a sports league that has benefited from systemic white supremacy since its founding, and has spent his prime athletic years organizing against and challenging those anti-Black institutions. I want to use my own privilege and good fortune to invest in his mission, because Black lives matter.
We titled our leadership book Liftoff! because we want design leaders to help elevate their teams to success, and with your support we can also help elevate the young people in Kap’s camps–including Chicago, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Oakland, and others–to new heights too.
Please note that this is a personal decision and mine alone, and my decisions should not be expected to also apply to others who may choose to protest, assemble, donate, or be a champion for change differently than my approach here.
The word innovation gets thrown around a lot, but rare is a company who sets an audacious goal, such as recovering a rocket by landing it back on earth, and then works through years of expensive failures to reach success. Innovation is not an exaggeration here, and so SpaceX is completely comfortable editing together all their failed attempts for us to see. What other “innovative” company would do this?
This list isn’t exhaustive and does not include everything we cited or reference throughout Liftoff! (and there’s a lot!). Instead, we wanted to share a number of the links that that may be helpful to folks on their leadership journey that were important to our book.
Design Leadership Communities and Events
- InVision Design Leadership Forum
- Leadership by Design conference
- Leading Design Slack community,conferences, meet-ups, and retreats
- Design Leadership Summit conference and Slack community
- DesignOps Summit
- Design Dept. Slack community, workshops and coaching
- Within.co retreats, community, and magazine
Recent Design and Product Development Leadership books
- Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou
- Resilient Management by Lara Hogan
- The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier
Hiring: More Places to Diversify Your Candidate Pool
But there are still some more interesting places to either post design openings or browse through directories of diverse designers who may be interested in discussing your firm’s open positions. Let’s look at a few sites and how they describe themselves:
College and university career sites
If you’re looking for entry level to early career design positions and a degree is required, you can have a lot of success identifying undiscovered candidates here. Often, the posting is free, and you can also conduct individual candidate searches by major and year of graduation.
“Latinxs Who Design” is a living directory of thriving Latinxs in the design industry. Their mission is to provide a space to find outstanding people to follow, look for a mentor, make new friends, or discover talented individuals to join your team.
“Blacks Who Design” highlights all of the inspiring Black designers in the industry. The goal is to inspire new designers, encourage people to diversify their feeds, and discover amazing individuals to join your team.
“Women Who Design” is a Twitter directory of accomplished women in the design industry. It aims to help people find notable and relevant voices to follow on Twitter by parsing Twitter bios for popular keywords.
“Queer Design Club’s” mission is to promote and celebrate all the amazing work that happens at the intersection of queer identity and design worldwide—from LGBTQ+ designers’ contributions to the industry to design’s role in queer activism throughout history.
These directories provide an effective method of introducing you to people you may otherwise have never crossed paths with. But just blasting directories of people—whether from LinkedIn or one of the above community-focused services—won’t work if you’re not communicating the right message and tone to get people interested in learning more.
When Russ and I started writing Liftoff!, we knew right away that we wanted to amplify experiences & perspectives from a broad representation of design leaders. We also made sure we didn’t solely include all the usual suspects who frequently contribute to the greater user experience and design community.
We’re grateful that these folks wanted to help by sharing their voices, either directly as contributors, as a reviewer who read our chapters from start to finish (and sometimes multiple times over), or by telling us a story that we quoted in the book. It’s also worth mentioning that some folks shared amazing stories that unfortunately weren’t able to be included in the text after much hand-wringing with our editors. In addition to the complete list of resources we footnote in the book, we want to highlight a few of the secondary sources whose work has already been published elsewhere but is especially relevant to our message.
Surprise! You’re a Design Manager Now!
Designing Diversity and Inclusion in Your Design Team
Designing Your Hiring Process
Performance Profiles and Interview Guides
Interviewing Potential Team Members
The Home Stretch – From Offers to Onboarding
Unifying the Team Culture with Charters
Designing the One on Ones
Presenting Work and Everything Else
Developing People, Teams, and Careers
A comprehensive list of references and works cited will be provided in the text. In the meantime, a sampling of our secondary sources include:
- Chelsey Glasson
- Hannah McKelvey
- Jacqueline L. Frank
- Danielle Mastrangel Brown
- Camille Fournier
- Yesenia Perez-Cruz
- Nathan Curtis
- Jeneanne Rae
- Maria Guidice
- Lara Hogan
- Julie Zhou
Zoom has been my go-to online meeting tool for years because it’s easier to use than competitors. So I was surprised recently when they screwed up so many privacy and security issues. It reminded me of some of the case studies I wrote about in my book, Why We Fail. My theory: our standards for privacy and security increased significantly in the past several years, particularly due to companies such as Apple who made it a strategic issue, and Zoom missed this shift. It looks like they’re moving swiftly to remedy the situation, but hopefully they don’t throw out the baby (usability) with the bathwater (dirty privacy practices). My video explains more.