I was standing at the front of a training room at about 2 pm a week ago in Chicago. The room was on the 5th floor of a building in downtown Chicago. It wasn’t a very inspiring room. The windows looked out at another tall office building, so there was no natural light in the room at all. It looked like it was nighttime all the time. The ventilation system was loud and actually made the ceiling projector vibrate which made the slides at the front of the room vibrate. The fluorescent lights were harsh. The workshop participants were sharing the results of the case study exercise I had just asked them to do. And that’s when the magic happened.
There were 5 teams, and each team had come up with plans and designs that were unlike any I’d seen in any class I’ve taught. We’re talking about DECADES of teaching, and hundreds, if not thousands of designs I’ve seen come out of classes and workshops. But these were on another level. These design solutions, these ideas, were the stuff of documentary films about the design process and how incredible ideas get started. These ideas were special. To be honest I was stunned. In fact the whole room got very quiet. I think we all realized that we had just experienced a transformative moment together.
Now I’m not particularly shy or humble. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m a great teacher and that my workshops are special. But this wasn’t just great or special. This was life- changing. I knew it wasn’t just me. And yes, it was a great group of people in the room, but it wasn’t just them. It was the process.
The workshop was “The Lean UX Workshop”. We’d spent the day learning and trying out Lean UX concepts like hypothesis testing, experiments, minimal viable products, pivots, collaboration, Get Out Of The Building, Build, Test, Learn, and all the other Lean ideas. And this exercise that was blowing me away was the last exercise of the day… the culmination of everything we’d learned. A chance to put it all into action.
Here’s my theory on why the Lean concepts caused break-through designs and solutions in the workshop:
- Approaching design and user experience solutions from the lens of testing hypotheses meant that people were asking the right questions. It’s not the answer that is important, it’s the question that’s important. Asking the right questions led to totally different, insightful and innovative solutions.
- Doing design as part of an experiment — Build, Test, Learn — and then deciding whether or not to pivot, was freeing and empowering. These were not just people in a workshop following instructions. These people felt bold, they felt powerful. They took their ideas and ran with them. They were confident.
- Designing and solving problems in the experimental mode of Lean UX makes people fearless because it breaks the connection between design and ego. You are experimenting with a design idea in order to see if the hypothesis is true. You aren’t married to the hypothesis and so you aren’t married to the design. It’s not YOUR design, it’s the design that tests the hypothesis. The hypothesis might be wrong or right. It may be neither and may lead to another hypothesis. But you don’t have to worry about your design being accepted or not accepted, because that’s not the outcome anymore.
- Lean UX elevates the UX practitioner to a UX Strategist — the level they should be working at. When you do Lean UX you aren’t creating the user interface for a screen or page. You aren’t designing a form. Well, you might be doing those things as part of your hypothesis testing, but what you are REALLY doing is solving design problems. You are crafting a user experience based on data.
I was a fan of Lean UX before the Workshop. After my experience last week I’m more than a fan. I’m an evangelist.
Lean UX, carried out with true and basic Lean concepts, is pretty powerful stuff! It’s the best thing since sliced bread!
What do you think? Have you experienced any of this with Lean UX?
P.S. If you want to see if we can repeat the experience, come join me for the next one. I have 30 open spots for the next Lean UX Workshop in Cleveland. And I’m looking for organizations to host the workshop in other cities. Let me know if you want in on this next round and/or if you can host a workshop.
P.P.S.S. Thanks for letting me rave!