By looking at what raises our spirits or crushes our souls, I think we can increase our awareness and take back a little control of our work destiny. Join me as we delve into what makes designers, developers and managers optimistic, and what fills us with dread.
I recently heard a line that stuck in my head: “Designers are inherently optimistic.” This was casually mentioned by Simon King, a designer presenting on why we should step up and design apps for ourselves, to “scratch our own itch.” He added an observation that all designers do these two things: seeing and making.
“Is that true?” I wondered to myself. Simon feels this is true because designers can often envision a better way (be that a better future, a better product, or a better interaction) – and more often than not, designers can visualize the steps necessary to reach that better place.
My own background is certainly grounded in design, but I’ve made some fairly broad jumps to other disciplines in past years which have given me a somewhat different perspective on many things. Immediately after coming to the conclusion that there was some truth in Simon’s assertion about designers’ optimism, my developer voice jumped into the discussion.
“Hey. Developers are optimistic too! We also envision a better product and often feel that achieving the goal is within our reach – we can code a solution!!! Also, we SEE and MAKE too! Of course, we often see differently than designers do.” Silently, I agreed (yes, with myself if you’re following along) there was some merit to the claim. Developers ache to be given a substantial challenge – one with clear expectations, well-documented requirements and a reasonable timeline. We want to build things that will be used en masse, that will gain a following and be appreciated. Not to be outdone, my manager voice chimed in next.
“Well, managers are CERTAINLY optimistic. Whether one is managing a team, a project or a product – there’s certainly a lot of optimistic thinking going on when one takes on a new management role.” True, I thought. And if management is defined as “adding value through optimizing the contributions of others,” or by “facilitating a high level of productivity at a minimum cost,” etc., then it could be argued that the whole SEEING and MAKING paradigm holds true with managers as well. Managers should see the whole, the composite made of many smaller pieces. We MAKE by facilitating a more efficient trip from A to Z, or one that’s more fun and rewarding, or cheaper, or that benefits more users. While jumping into a new management situation can be terrifying, it’s also exhilarating. Think about the amazing things your team can accomplish, the growth you can foster in your team members and in your organization, the real impact you can have on someone’s career and life.
So if designers, developers and managers all are capable of seeing the world with a positive outlook, and of jumping into projects with an innate sense of hope, determination and joy… if we’re all immersed every day in SEEING and in MAKING… what’s the deal? When does the milk turn sour? At some point, we all lose that fire – that very sense of optimism that makes it a treat to head to work each day because you know you’ll build something worthwhile, tweak a process, refactor that block of code or simply have a stimulating conversation about work with a coworker. (imagine that!)
Next time, we’ll take a closer look at some of the factors in the modern workplace that might influence how optimism of our designers, developers and managers can ebb and flow as we navigate this evolving world together.
You might be surprised by how little it takes to change someone’s outlook – perhaps a friend’s, or perhaps your own.
Editor’s note: Also published on GIANT UX