An Event Apart: How To Champion Ideas Back At Work

by Luke Wroblewski August 26, 2014

At An Event Apart in Chicago IL 2014, Scott Berkun discussed the modern icon design process and shared useful design and development tips for icons. Here's my notes from his talk How To Champion Ideas Back At Work:

  • The real designer is the person with the power to make decisions. It doesn't matter what title they have or their background.
  • In most situations, the final decision maker is not trained in creative disciplines.
  • If you really want to make an impact, you may need to remove the word design or engineering from your title.
  • Today designers can be founders and bring their ideas to life.

Meeting Others

  • You take in information at an event, internalize it, then make use of that information afterward.
  • This requires you to pay attention to the information you're hearing. At first you can take in lots of info but over time, you can retain less information.
  • Staying connected helps you champion ideas. Design requires working with other people.
  • Networking: ask everyone for a business card, saying thank you starts a conversation, post your notes during an event people will find you, if you use LinkedIn, write a personal message.
  • Start introductions with a simple authentic point: I met you at ___."
  • Casual professional events allow you to re-connect. Find your local UX happy hour and invite others.

What to Champion

  • Events are abstractions -they need to apply to a variety of people and their needs.
  • Our lives are specific -we need to deal with specific contexts on a regular basis.
  • To remember what you've learned, try min/max note taking. Take 5 bullets per talk, note some links & reflections, post a summary on your blog and tweet it out, post it at work, share it with your boss.
  • Make a chart of lessons learned and map them to a specific problem at work where you'd like to apply the ideas you heard. Include the people that need to be involved.
  • We like to imagine successes were perfect. We romanticize the role of the creator. But in reality there's always lots of frustration, dead ends, and adjustments.
  • When you start working on a project, you don't know what the outcome will be. That's the role of the creator.

How to Champion

  • The real process is not get idea, build, and ship. Instead there's a lot of convincing in between.
  • Being outspoken makes you a target.
  • Language is manipulation. Every bit of writing, design, or code has intent.
  • Charm and persuasion is emotional. It's not logical, it's designed. There is no abstraction, being charming depends on who you are trying to charm.
  • Instead of "here's what you should be doing", focus on "here's what will solve your problem".
  • The people with power are often the ones most resistant to change. They benefit from the status quo.
  • How to convince your boss: be awesome at your job. The best people on the team are more likely to get heard.
  • Get support from an influential coworker. Plan a trial, including how to evaluate it.
  • Pitch, repeat, your reputation will grow over time.