In order to make use of my daily commute to Mountain View, I’ve started listening to audio books. I started with Quiet: The power of Introverts, by Susan Cain. Her TED talk is below.

For more on Cain’s work, check out her TED talk.

I had a few key takeaways from the book.

  1. I see a lot of parallels between design thinking extroversion
  2. I’m also seeing lots of parallels between the craft of design and introverted personality types.
  3. Prototyping requires both mindsets

1. Extroversion and Design Thinking

Extroversion is about getting energy from groups of people and lots of stimulus. This creates the ability to make quick decisions with limited information, which allows you to move quickly and tackle new situations. On the design thinking side, you can see how this mindset would work well with rapid protoyping, space saturation, brainstorming, and exploring the unknown all call on similar types of skills or proclivities. Spend any time at the d.school during a class and you’ll feel the energy buzzing off the place. There’s no shortage of stimulation.

2. Introversion and Design

In contrast, introverts are drained by environments with a lot of stimulus. They are more energized by serene environments. And although they may not have the same decisiveness as their extroverted brethren, they tend to stay with problems longer and have better patience for complexity and ambiguity. As a designer and introvert, Cain’s description felt spot on. I’m drained by too many people, I prefer one-on-one interactions or, at times, putting on my headphones and working through the problems of a particular design challenge. Dialoging with the challenge at hand. To me, this is the craft of design.

3. Prototyping – The Bridge

So here’s the tension for me. I’m a design thinker. I’m also a designer, and an introvert. And all of this comes to a head with prototyping. To be an effective prototyper you need to have a bias to action (a strength of extroverts). But you also need an ability to shift from group conversation (more extroverted) to the typically solitary act of making. To do that, you need to focus and solve the complex problems that come when moving from any idea to reality (strength of introverts). Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule idea touches upon this as well. So we’ve got to move fast, and we’ve got to go deep. What’s a girl to do?

My solution. You’ve got to be able to slide between the two axes. (Cartesian, not Bunyan). Cain talks about the need for introverts to “perform extroversion” in order to be successful in business environments. I think of it as popping out of my hole, peeking around, sharing, then dropping back down. The trick is to do it enough that you get the benefits of sharing, of feedback and dialogue with your team, customers, etc, but not stay out so long that you start to get drained by the experience. Make sure you know where you get your juice and structure your work, your teams and projects in a way that allows you to be there as much as possible.

Handmade shoes and shoemaking classes. I saw these guys at Renegade Craft Fair when I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. Looks fun!

http://www.sarasshoes.com/school/

And, if you want some custom shoes, check out Moxie shoes made locally in Oakland! Woohoo! If you are in the Bay Area, check her stuff out. I saw her a few months ago at First Friday in Uptown. The shoes look great. Support a local business!

http://www.moxieshoes.com/

Design Thinking at the LA County Department of Public Social Services from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

It’s so exciting for me to see the real world impact of design thinking. I worked with Phil in the summer of 2011 at the d.school’s executive education program. It’s impressive to see the impact he was able to make and the scope of change. Well done Phil!

The financial year for Intuit just ended. It has plenty of implications for product strategies, 3 year road maps, budgets, and headcount. As that trickles down, it also means that things like yearly goals are due. I typically dismiss this stuff as corporate bullshit and then go through the motions. But this year, I’m using the corporate structure as an excuse to think about my own journey and professional exploration. In the process, I pulled out a job description I wrote for myself about a year ago, before I started my current role. I thought I’d share it.

We are looking for the following:

An experienced designer who:

  • Wants to develop both the brand and the product direction.
  • Is passionate about translating user needs into compelling experiences (both off and online)
  • Has proven leadership skills
  • Is a jack of most trades
  • Has a passion for the craft of his or her core skillset
  • Creates experiences that go well beyond the disciplinary touch points (interaction design goes beyond the screen, etc)
  • Knows when to sweat the details and when to let them slide
  • Executes with speed
  • Understands that user-centeredness should extend to his or her team
  • Is itching to make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions
  • Has experienced the rollercoaster of a startup
  • Has a good sense of humor
  • Has enough confidence to surround him/herself with smarter team members (preferably ones with a diverse skill set).
  • Fights for ideas, but is humble enough to let them go
  • Doesn’t have to be the lead singer, but can do a kick ass solo every so often
  • Desires to continually stretch his or her skills
  • Has an intuitive sense of the importance of team dynamics
  • Facilitation experience
  • Thorough understanding of design thinking

Pluses:

  • Can write good
  • Has teaching experience
  • Understands what it takes to build interactive experiences
  • Communicates visually
  • Can create compelling motion graphics
  • Loves making beautiful things/experiences/objects
  • Knows that a live-work balance makes for more productive workers
  • Located in the East Bay

About Us:

  • We are a mature and driven group (regardless of age).
  • We have a solid business/financial structure.
  • We understand the value of creative thinking. (We want it to inform our products)
  • We have kids, or a partner, a dog, or any other passion that’s primal enough to contextualize where work fits into our lives.
  • We honor multiple perspectives. We think it makes better products.
  • We know that different situations require different types of leadership.
  • We expect to find fulfillment in our work.
  • We try to help develop our coworkers personally and professionally.
  • We have a variety of interests, we think it makes us smarter.
  • We get our work done, then we go home.
  • We value diversity of all sorts (ethnic/queer/mindset)
  • We are present.
  • We’ll tell you if you’ve got spinach on your teeth.

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