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I’ve been doing some research into different Personality typing methods. There are some  really fun tests and scoring tools that range from massively scientific to proving out a theory as an extension to a book. I love taking tests – especially when it’s all about me!

So, why should the User Experience community care? Well, we say we are not the target audience for most of our work.

  1. We do research and create personas to represent users so we have the right general mindset for representing our users.
  2. We sometimes assist Marketing by creating copy and campaign strategies with the right tone and content for the target audience while balancing it with brand guidelines.
  3. A good (and profitable!) user experience affects behaviors and habits.
  4. Overall, understanding the different classifications of user interests can help us to create interfaces and services that communicate like a real human with some personality!

So, I’ve decide to share some tests that I like and look forward to you volunteering more for me to try out.

  • Myers-Briggs test –  You can find many places online to take the test itself, but I think the detailed descriptions at personalitypage.com  for each result are so interesting. Some HR departments even use this type of testing for helping teams learn about each other’s point of view. A bit detailed for a persona, but interestingly enough, I’ve worked with personas who have the four character classification on them. (I’m an ENFP)
  • StrengthsFinder test – This is one of my favorites. You have to buy a book in order to get the code, but its worth it. There are way more classifications for strengths than personalities in Myers Briggs, but they are fun concept, like Maximizer and Woo (technicals). Really good way to select a tone for a project in a creative brief or kick up a conversation with Marketing to clarify brand attributes into communication styles. (My top 5 strengths in order are Futurist, Restoration, Activator, Ideation, and Connectedness which basically means I always look forward with a cause in mind, get it done with an open and creative slant while focusing on benefits from several angles.)
  • Heart,Smarts,Guts,and Luck (HSGL) test – This test is an extension to the book published by Harvard Business Review Press subtitled with ” What it takes to be an entrepreneur and build a great business”. It claims to be the first ever Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test (EAT). Heart dominant entrepreneurs are like Starbucks’ Howard Schulz. Smarts dominant is like Jeff Bezos from Amazon. Guts dominant is like Sir Richard Branson from Virgin ( my personal hero). The Luck trait – yes they call it a trait with an interesting explanation- is demonstrated by Tony Hsieh of Zappos. The book is a great read, and can help you talk with business about how your organization communicates its business value to its clients and investors. (I’m a Heart-Smart type, so the Guts and Luck people really fascinate me.) Their Wisdom Manifesto is worth a look too!
  • Fascinate Triggers – This is truly my favorite one. Sally Hogshead wrote a few books. One book is called Fascinate – Your 7 triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. No need to tell you why that is important for UX, but she helps many Marketers with these concepts for their businesses as well. Now she has a personality test which helps people match these triggers to their personal brands as well as map out teams. Check out the 7×7 matrix that shows an overview of each type. (I’m a trendsetter personality, leading with rebellion)
  • Virtues Test – It’s called the Values in Action (VIA) test from Institute on Character. They offer several levels of reporting. I love this example of the personalized report.  What’s interesting is the strengths roll up into basic virtues of wisdom, courage, humility, justice, temperance and transcendence. I’d love to see these strengths pulled together into super heroes. My top strengths are in the Wisdom category with creativity, curiosity, judgment (not the same meaning as Myers Briggs), and love of learning. Kinda sounds like a 14 year old girl, but I’ll take it!

Let me know if you find any of this interesting in your line of work.

I’m a Snake

I used to be put off by my Chinese horoscope when I looked at the placemat and saw my birth year is the Snake. At best, I was relieved to know that my now husband and I were compatible, because he is the OX. You do that kinda thing when you are a hungry teenager with silly thoughts about “LUUUUVE”.

Snakes have a bad rep

It doesn’t seem good or positive to call yourself a snake. From stories about the temptation of Eve to the slithering slimy belly-crawling connotation usually given to devious characters, it seems like referring to yourself as a snake is like saying “Hey! Look! I’m a real jerk!”. 

Yesterday, an answer that I had been seeking out for years in my subconscious suddenly occurred to me. I’ve always silently berated myself for having such difficulty keeping up with people and maintaining connections over time — even very meaningful ones. I also have seen a personal trend where I admire someone’s strengths, start to pattern myself after that good example, and then seem to ‘grow out of my respect them’. That sounds horrible, right? I used to think so too.

Others have called me out on this behavior as well and accused me of being disingenuous.  I can definitely see their point of view, because I would compliment someone, become an adoring fan, then later after a time start to exhibit opposing views in some way that seemed to contradict my fan status. I never felt I was being fake. I honestly felt and meant what I said when I said it. I have even been sincerely empathetic to people’s feelings when it definitely seemed like I was being “fickle”, at best. I could never explain why this was so or what was really going on. 

To be fair with full disclosure, there are also other people in my life which are like friendly soul mates and soul acquaintances. There are a fair few people I deeply respect and –even though I still don’t keep in touch regularly– we have a pretty deep connection. So much so, that I can go for months and years without talking to them and when we catch up over an hour or so, we are completely up-to-date or in-sync with what we are focusing on so its like we were never apart. In those cases, the person fills up my emotional and creative “fuel tank”. Those moments are pretty awe-inspiring when they happen, and its how I feel a bit more redeemable when I get the “you are fake” accusations.

Snakes as philosophical and skin shedding

So, here is my big “aha!”: I am a continuously evolving life wanderer – just like a snake, and I am actually cool with that.

I’m non-linear. My roaming and nomadic mind shifts from topic to interest to curiosity much like a sidewinder across the desert. I grab on to various things along my irregular path and stop to appreciate people and aspects as if they were an oasis in the dull and repetitive sand dunes of the everyday.

I’m sincere. When I notice an interesting quality of someone or something, I pause , soak in the nuances, take note of the good parts and go on my merry way. Since I am a glass is half full person always on the lookout to improve, I tend to ignore or overlook the bad things. It doesn’t mean that a highly appreciative compliment I mention isn’t a sincere. It means I admire something meaningful to me about that person, place, or thing.

I shed old thoughts and habits regularly. Whatever that ‘something’ is that I notice, it has given me pause to re-evaluate what that new information means to me and my life. It’s the start of a cycle of self reflection. I constantly re-evaluate things based on my own principles and values. “I” am a transient being willing to move past old ideas and ways of doing things. Snakes do that. They leave skins behind and go on to the next thing. I see that as the grief associated with some friends in my past. They liked that “skin” I had. They didn’t want me to change. They liked me the way I was. I was familiar in my habits and they were comfortable with that view of me. I can definitely respect that and empathize, but it’s my nature to change. Perhaps this is the source for the snake’s bad rep.

I am dependable, but adaptable, which are different things. Many people confuse dependability with consistency. I am SO NOT one of those people. To me, being dependable means “whatever it takes, I will fulfill my promises with integrity (within human fallible reason)”. So, if that means an old stupid, repeatable process-oriented  reason gets in the way of achieving the nature of my promise, I will ignore it, side-step it, climb over, tunnel under, defy sleep, etc to accomplish what I said I would. Some people don’t get that, which makes me realize why we have conflict.

I am an influencer — NOT a controller!  “Consistent and repeatable for the sake of routine and cause I said so” people are pretty much my mortal enemy. — with ONE EXCEPTION: The context of their routine is correct, reasonable, and justified, like keeping a server up and running, QA tasks, customer care/service people, daycare workers, teachers, construction and trade workers, and even some people with mundane yet necessary administrative tasks in management, finance, support staff, etc. There are less than glamorous jobs that definitely require routine and little creativity to keep things running smoothly and orderly. Truly those people are actually my heroes!  I have a tortuous Achilles heel when it comes to that area. I can maintain it for a while, when it is truly needed and someone is depending on it for a specific reason, but when the cause fades and it is “just for the sake of routine”, I am no longer “dependable” in that way.

So my main point about influencing is I am usually not a ‘black and white’ thinker unless the situation calls for it. I get the impression that people look to me for “the answer” because I am so passionate, which for many translates into “tell me what to do next”. THAT AIN’T ME! I want people to care and contribute to the effort. I also respect that people have their own brains, passions, and skills. Why would I want to overshadow that with my ideas? That doesn’t seem logical to me.

More About Dependability & Roles

Again, I will usually step in if the initiave is failing and people’s time is wasted due to a lack of a ‘driver’, but I find it exquisitely stupefying how most people are trained not to think for themselves. It’s like acute brainwashing. It’s amazing to watch people’s faces, that are asking something from me or complaining, when I say, “Hmmm, I dunno. What do you suggest?”. It’s a look of almost terror. Try it for yourself on someone who complains a lot. You will see what I mean. It’s truly stress! The burden of thinking and deciding is a right of someone else. That’s again what people see as “Dependable” — assuming the role of either the Thinker or Doer. How sad is that?

For people that believe in the “thinker” OR “doer” badge/title, it takes a few interactions with me  to get where I am coming from. Then, at that point, they either love me or hate me — no real in-between. I may get along with them for a time, and that time is usually because either (1) the process they follow is teaching me something that I see as necessary at the time or for specific situations; or (2) I am still assessing the values in a situation and really haven’t vocalized my opinions and suggestions yet.

For so many years, people have lived and died by their branding of “thinker” or “doer” and never shedding that skin–personally, professionally, or both. Whole departments stage turf wars and political agendas over such things. All that wasted energy and money is personally sickening to think about. What if that motivation went in a positive direction? Talk about lost opportunity cost! It’s definitely bigger than our national debt.

So, I’m a snake for life

To the people in my past and future that wonder “what is her deal!?”, perhaps I will forward on this posting. Maybe you will learn something interesting about me, maybe contribute new thoughts, or maybe point out that you don’t care and still see me with a negative connotation. Any of those reactions are alright with me. To me, the only thing that is constant is change, and in that way, I am dependable! 🙂

I suppose my sudden realization is a bonus for the middle-age thing. That’s cool. At least I’ve gotten *some* kinda wisdom for the gray hair! 😦

Embrace Constraints!

Developing from ‘Blue Sky’ Requirements can be exciting, scary, and confusing for some teams without a healthy vision and a certain amount of boundaries to work from. This has been my experience in the past.

With constraints come interesting boundaries that force designers and marketers to think creatively. If something were easy, everyone would do it, right? Constraints stretch us out of our comfort zone of what’s ‘known’ and predictable. It’s where true differentiation comes from. Sometimes, constraints even force us to simplify.

Look out for Inspiration!
A carefully drafted vision statement can give people a purpose and a hero’s call to action. Some people generally need to believe there is a cause in their work. I know I do!

I think there are generally three ways to react to work:

The Pessimist reaction: “Aw, man! We have to do this again? It’s [stupid / hard / tiring / etc.]” translation: “I don’t wanna do it!”

The Optimist reaction: “Well, this may suck, but let’s try to make it [fun / less of a beating / over quickly / etc].”

The Opportunist reaction: “Hmmm…. considering the root problem, and the fact that practically all people want to be lazy, there can be money made in fixing this problem. We just need to find a way to reuse whatever we put into it…”

The Cycle of Emotion in Development
Sometimes, I react to a situation in all these ways in the same project (!), but it’s exciting to be the opportunist– even though, ultimately, you know the idea may be brushed aside. It takes a lot of work, people, convincing, salesmanship, numbers, and dedication to sell good ideas … regardless of company size!

Inevitably, I always end up thinking, ‘Oh well, perhaps someone else with more energy has already thought of whatever it is’ 🙂

… Well, hurry up and build it! I wanna use it.

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… Or do they just try to get stuff done?

This is something I realized after leaving a job after 5.5 years. You leave thinking there is so much more out there and you are dying to try new things. Then, you experience some familiar patterns as in other jobs, but I think it’s more like switching schools and being ‘the kid from out of town’. You have the new chance to be the popular kid and have to deal with ‘perception’ and egos all over again.

I also find that I make the biggest impact by developing something ‘under the radar’. This is mostly because what I really want isn’t an ‘out of the box’ solution.

It’s amazing how immature web development still is. Lots of opportunity for people that just want to get stuff done – especially, if they turn around and white label their work so it makes other’s work easier. There are so many steps to set up just to develop a realistic data concept.

How do you cope with change? This is an important question to ask yourself.  Are you passive? Are you accepting? Are you participating? Are you a fighter?

I’m just a problem-solver

When something surprising comes my way, I think to myself “What’s the worst that could happen?”. I think what I’d do in that case, and then become comfortable with my action plan.  By comfortable, I don’t mean I make myself like it. It just means I accept that its a possibility. From there, anything less severe than worst-case-scenario is… well BONUS! Plus, since I always really hate worst-case-scenario, I work hard to counteract everything I can that I want to avoid.

Forecaster or Backcaster?

Recently, a friend told me that my thought process is ‘backcasting’, and introduced me to the topic from a former IA Summit talk. Check out the backcasting presentation online on slideshare.

Basically, this means I work from an outcome — whether desired or avoidable — and work backwards towards mapping goals and actions from that possibility to now.

Being a Change Agent is hard!

Us human beings are weird. We want choice and freedom, but the lack of structure and stability can cause some major stress and odd reactions. Some people become unbalanced and fight just to be proven ‘right’ and to keep their ‘I’m important’ status, when all that matters is NEW understanding and growth. Solving problems is not for the faint of heart. You have to have an open mind, patience, and the fortitude to stick to your guns while still considering additional perspectives as well.

Pain brings people together

Change can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. It takes perseverence and realistic expectations to keep from getting discouraged along the way. Once people readjust to a new understanding, it becomes worth it. People get closer after being forced to go through an experience together. That’s why self help groups exist. It’s better when you know you are not in it alone.

The challenge for everyone now is that it’s not a matter of accepting change. Change is here with more to come whether we like it or not. It’s a matter of adapting. Roll with it!

So, an old kindergarten story, The Little Red Hen comes up in my head from time to time, and it always happens when someone says they can’t help out on a new project. I’ll explain by rewording the plot…

The Little UX Architect finds an idea seed; She goes to a Marketer and says, “Will you help me flesh out this idea ?”

“Not I”, said the Marketer, “I have my plans set for the year, and no one has told me to do that.” and the same for the UI team, and Developer [enter alternate excuse here]

The Little UX Architect says, Fine. I will do it myself!”. And she did.

Next, the idea gets fully grown and is ready to sell. She goes to a Marketer and says, “Will you help me sell this idea?”

“Not I”, said the Marketer, “The organization is not built to handle a concept like that right now .” and the same for the UI team, and Developer [enter alternate excuse here]

The Little UX Architect says, Fine. I will do it myself!”. And she did.

Then, the idea gets some buy-in, but it really needs a prototype to get off the ground. She goes to a Developer and says, “Will you help me build this concept?”

“Not I”, said the Developer, “I don’t have the time and bandwidth, because I’d rather work on assigned projects .”

The Little UX Architect says, Fine. I will do it myself!”. And she did.

Finally, the UX prototype is built and it is demonstrated to the company. The Little UX Architect says, “Who will take the credit for this awesome concept?”

“I will!” said the Marketer, “I can really sell this internally to some key folks!”;

“I will!” said the UI Designer, “I will help you make it gorgeous and super intuitive!”;

“I will!”, said the Developer, “I can really tweak the back end for kickass semantic markup and sweet database mojo to accomplish earthshatteringly good reporting.”

And unlike the selfish Red Hen who hogs it all herself, I say, “YES! Let’s make this friggin ROCK!”

 I think the combination of this book and “I think I can” from the Little Engine that Could really did a lot more for me than I realize. Something else to blame my stubbornness on, I suppose! 🙂

I believe that the difference between Innovators and the rest of the pack is their headstrong perseverence after someone says no. Actually, I usually believe it is something really good and novel when people are dead set against it from the onset, because that means change from what is being done today — or at least what has been planned for today. Most people get discouraged, but I just hear, “Fine. I will do it myself!” in my head!

 

So, it’s not likely that the people you know will admit this, but… you may very well be WAY more kickass than you realize! .. hey now, don’t let that get to your head, because if I’m right, it can be pretty damn frustrating!

The first step is admitting there is a disconnect. Then, you realize there are some options. You can be patient and strategically influence others or maybe realize your passionate and extraordinary talents are aimed at the wrong people… and could even be more lucrative with the right focus and opportunities!

Admitting you are a revolutionary
Okay, how do you know for sure that you are revolutionary? Let’s throw some scenarios out there and if you find yourself nodding your head while reading most of these… you could be the person I am talking about. Here it goes:

  • You plead a case that makes perfect and clear sense to you, but somehow people need to hear it from someone else before they can really “take it in” and buy into it — Almost like you need a “translator”
  • Sometimes in meetings or projects you look around and wonder “I am speaking English, right?”
  • You propose ideas that take years for an organization or group to “get” and most times they still don’t quite implement it “right”.
  • You jump to the problem, solution, or innovation before anyone else. (Sometimes, this means people disagree with you right away, think through it, and end up agreeing with you– even if they don’t realize it themselves!)
  • You find it hard to completely relate to other sharp people around you 100% of the time — not because you don’t get them, but because sometimes, you get the feeling that they are smiling, nodding and just trusting your perspective.
  • You find yourself often getting introduced to new products, services, or ideas, and saying.. “Hey, I [thought of/tried to sell/tried to build/tried to convince others about] that a while back! I should have stuck with it.”

Well, if those descriptions strike home for you, congratulations! Odds are, you are a KICKASS Revolutionary!! 🙂 People, bosses, organizations, cultures, and civilization as a whole need you! You are a bold problem solver with strong mental skills. You ROCK, and most people don’t give you enough credit or let you know how important you are. (You may even shy away from the limelight and fanfare, because you just want to get stuff done.) You also seriously share the ranks with successful CEOs… Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Steve jobs, and those guys from Google and Youtube. Yes, you have a shitload of potential. REALLY.

Now, the real downside… who wants to work in an environment of being mostly misunderstood!? Are you happy in that situation? That’s where choices come into play. Maybe you have already subliminally found your way to happy and productive growth, and that’s really cool. Share your secrets! Maybe this will be validation for you. I would venture to guess that for most revolutionaries, they are oblivious to their mental kungfu and it’s been a series of compromises and acceptance that the world doesn’t work the way it should.

Back to the choices, I see primarily 2 options for Revolutionaries. Neither is better than the other per se and, in fact, they may be switched around when it comes time to assess whether you are happy with the success in your situation at the moment.

Plan A: Strategically herd the cats
This is a perfectly acceptable option, and just takes a personal focus shift to master and navigate political BS. It’s completely doable with a little preparation and awareness around where your skills compare and make the most sense for the organization in your view and those at the top.

Speak your mind to the top and get an amicable dialogue going
Look to a political mentor to champion your cause or buy into your ideas. Look for small opportunities to prove your point. The approach of doing so is up to you. Note, that it may be easier phrasing your position through questions that are based as a clarification around something recently announced publicly or your company-wide goals. This technique can be useful in what I call “boiling the frog”. It’s more commonly known as the Socratic Method. look it up.

Try to finagle a “Labs” project or just start out rogue
Sell the idea of looking into a small project with just getting paid to dedicate a few hours per week to developing an idea or prototype. Also identify some other key people (I call this the garage band) that will help you get it going and keep you motivated.

Look for opportunities to point out successful examples of similar or slightly larger organizations have had. The companies don’t have to be in the exact same field. Many times themes from general aspects like merging ecommerce with social networking can get futuristic ideals across. Basically, you have to be willing to plant seeds in the right people’s minds… even when they don’t know they are ready for it.

If selling the idea first is more effort than you are willing to do, don’t ask permission. Just do it! Work on a prototype. The tradeoff you make here is that you may not be getting paid for the hours you put in, and no one is expecting the elevator demo pitch, but maybe you can finesse a middle ground. Also, I have found that even garage bands need a little fire under them. Working towards a committed deadline can give more immediacy and make the decision for committing off time harder to procrastinate. (I definitely don’t have this skill honed)

Key things to know about Plan A
It will be rewarding, frustrating, and most of all a learning experience about people, pressures, and business BUT knowing your worth and your skills, you can jump to option 2. but be aware that when selecting option 2, you always have SOMEONE to convince… investors, board of directors, clients, etc. Jumping ship or being your own boss can be harder than your current situation. Grass is always greener.

If you can’t get buy in from coworkers to be apart of the voluntary garage band, look outside. Check out local events like barcamp.org. There are tons of passionate people that are looking for a hobby and want your vision to create something great! Trust me.


Plan B: Look at other ways to Focus your skills

Are you focused on the right job? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you best focus your sweet skills? What team set up works best for you? What schedule is your “I kickass mostly at this time of day/week/month”?

You could look at other job postings
This could be internal and external. Perhaps your role doesn’t currently have the more strategic influence that it should. Roles like that are out there. Notably, most organizations that post job descriptions don’t always mean what they say .. or mean it the way you read it, so getting to know the company and contacting ex-employees in that group, can help set you up for appropriate questions to ask the interviewer or recruiter. Oddly enough, you are interviewing the company and position — not the other way around. (Yes, you are that needed!)

Think: Will that job give you the appropriate leeway and respect to do what you do best.?That is the list of REAL benefits. (read my earlier post on why your title is meaningless and your department may be a joke) HR perks are the bonus. They won’t keep you bought into a dead end that forces you to execute on misinformed organization — unless you really decide on sticking to Plan A.  The good news is… it’s still your choice. 🙂

You could go out on your own
This is a tricky endeavor and usually includes careful planning, great contacts, pretty good reputation, and realistic fall back plans… or some risky dumb luck and a sugardaddy. I am definitely not the expert on how to do it, but I can say that with the right strategic navigation of your skills, there is a booming market where your futuristic ideas as silly and obvious as you may seem to think now.. are the next big thing in a few years!

Going out on your own can be much like the exercise of putting a garage band together. It takes discipline and self awareness about the skills you do and do not have and frankly your thresholds and boundaries. Many CEOs needed the partnership of a different personality to balance out a successful business. The financial and business sense of it is just as crucial if not more so when you go out on your own. I’ve heard it’s a real learning experience. For more experienced detail on stuff like this, lookup Garret Dimon, Brian Fling, Jeff Corkan, Brian Oberkirch and Jake McKee for insight.

Another touchy soft skill and Intellectual Property aspect to be aware of is in the transition from worker to possibly competitor can be a big political awakening. I don’t know about you, but I am not a big fan of being sued. Don’t let it scare you off by any means, but cover your bases.

Key things to know about Plan B
Know when to ask for help, and be very careful about burning bridges. I can speak from experience that bottling up frustrations and letting them out at a key interval may feel really good at the time, but its a small industry. It can be overcome, because revolutionaries can be notoriously hard to work with, yet respected for their work and contributions. Just be aware that when you think that person that violently gets on your nerves because they “doesn’t get it” or “is just a worthless ladder climber”, you may directly or indirectly be impacted by that person’s perception of YOU. That means lost jobs, clients, projects and MONEY! I’ve seen it happen AND I’ve burned bridges and even repaired one or two.

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About Success as a revolutionary

Most of all, realize what the hell you want and what makes you happy and productive. Winning as a revolutionary is about using your assets and skills while continually learning about what works and doesn’t work. Keeping a zest for playing with the “experimentation” of non-revolutionary thinking is what makes you a revolutionary in the first place! The risk has the potential for great success or great failure for whomever the “owner” of your endeavor is. Food for thought, maybe you have more tangible suggestions for plan C “don’t quite your day job, but innovate on the side” but, most of all… Don’t lose hope in your ideas, and keep KICKING ASS!!

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