So I decided to combine a little bit of both. I read a story, extrapolated on some challenges I had identified in the story, and showed how we can use design to solve them. This seemed like a good idea, but it was also fraught with potential pitfalls. In my 30-minute time allotment, would I be able to herd these cats and keep them focused? Would they understand what I was trying to do? Or would the teachers never again allow my disgraced self to cast a shadow upon their classroom?
In the end, I swallowed my fears and decided to go through with my plan. I chose to read What a Naughty Bird, by Sean Taylor. The basic premise of the book is that the Naughty Bird flies all over the place, wreaking havoc on society, going to the bathroom everywhere and on everyone before finally getting his comeuppance when a larger animal goes to the bathroom on him. It was a wholly appropriate book for the audience and wonderfully illustrated.
Here is what I learned from this experience.
The Value of Storytelling and Humor
Weave in storytelling and humor as much as possible when interacting with others. This is so important in the enterprise space, as well as in consulting. We are all human. Our main job as UX design professionals is not to launch a successful product; nor is it to design the slickest thing the world has ever seen. Rather, our main job is to build empathy and make life better for both ourselves and our fellow human beings. Focus more on these goals, and the successful product and slick designs spring forth with less effort.
To appreciate this, we need only observe children to see how they communicate through storytelling and tons of humor. We can learn from that. Humor and stories build empathy and trust. They create bonds between colleagues and other folks, ensuring that when you need help from teammates you will get it. They also reveal opportunities that often get hidden as we get older.
When I give a presentation or conduct any type of design workshop, I always make sure storytelling is a part of it. As humanity has moved from an oral storytelling tradition to a written tradition, then from a written tradition to our barely written way of life these days, we have lost the understanding that, through oral storytelling, we gain the power of focus and attention. Children have not lost that. They still find strength in it. This became strikingly clear as I read this story to my daughter’s class. Every single child was focused on the story—the words and the visuals. They laughed quite a bit at the Naughty Bird’s shenanigans, but quickly refocused on the story, even stronger than before. They looked at their friends, sharing their delight. This created an unspoken bond among them.
Imagine if we could do that with the adult audiences with whom we interact at work? What if we could bring Business, IT, and Customer Experience factions together and make them laugh with one another, ensuring that everyone relates to the story we’re telling them. What would that accomplish? I posit that doing so would result in much better designs and outcomes. We could focus on business outcomes instead of functionality. On experiences that ultimately build loyalty and customer success instead of trying to figure out what went wrong.