On Leadership, Design Leadership

Institute for Human Centered Design
Institute for Human Centered Design

I attended a two day leadership training retreat, one that the organization sends everyone to regardless of your role, under the premise that no matter what your function is you can display the qualities of a good leader. From past participants, I saw photos of people holstered in ropes, blindfolded etc. Prepared for the worst, I donned my t-shirt, gym pants and a pair of run-down sneakers. I was ready for whatever would be dished out, except bugs..especially not spiders.

As usual, I was surprised. No swinging from trees. It was a beautiful and reflective few days where I gained a view of leadership (for the professional world) that I haven’t see communicated in this way. The main points are that true leaders*:
1. Lead by personal example
2. Develop cooperative relationships with people they work with
3. Follow through on commitments
4. Treat everyone with dignity and respect
5. Empower people by giving them the freedom to choose
6. Show gratitude and humility
7. Encourage and never discourage either by word or by deed

Good examples of leadership in the design and technical professions can be hard to come by if measured by the above criteria. Hubris and heroics can seem to reign over humility and cooperation. Yet looking around, I can point to wonderful examples of true leadership I have been exposed to. I’m thankful to the many positive examples of leadership I have had in my professional life (and beyond) and I will let them know this.

Many lessons learned, ideas to apply. And yes there were bugs, even spiders.

Training was based on the book: The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Presenting and Visualizing Information, Tufte


I had the opportunity to attend one of Edward Tufte’s seminars on Presenting and Visualizing Information. I wasn’t quite sure what I could get out of a 1-day session on such a broad topic..and i’ll end right there because my fears were totally unfounded. It was probably one of the most insightful classes (professionally) that I have ever had, certainly one that is likely to have a big impact on my work onward. Some personal take-aways:
(1) Get out of your own voice and into the voice of the experts, (2) Every bit of data should lead to credibility. In UI design, scrutinize every element. Why is it there? If it’s not adding to the goal, take it out. (3) Hack examples, (in a good way), learn from the best.  (4)”The difference between a good idea and a great idea is the implementation of it”..enough said. Underscores in a large way my move from pure user research to design. Make something. (5) Information is the interface, (6) In presenting ideas, think the best you possibly can about your audience. Think positively about them even when there is criticism or you are challenged. I didn’t expect this interpersonal-dynamics aspect but really appreciated it. (7) As a member of the audience, “Loot the presentation”. Mine it for gold. Even if the presenter isn’t great, search hard for those golden nuggets you can extract. Finally, I appreciated that he showed us how to mine his books, which initially looked daunting. Treasure trove of information. Go if it comes to your city! Don’t miss Tufte.