Purveyors Of Complexity: Design A Better Experience

“You are the steward of your user’s experience.  Proceed accordingly.”  -Scott Belsky ‘Make Your Mark’

If educators struggle with one thing, it’s simplicity. We can easily turn a one page strategy for next steps into a binder of change in the blink of an eye. We do much better with addition, than we do with subtraction. And that can be frustrating for our people and our organizations.

Especially in a world that has become more chaotic, more turbulent and less stable under the rate, force and speed of change.  

Too often we get more, when what we actually need is less. Too often in education, we are purveyors of complexity, rather than designers of simplicity. We need to learn to take a nod from many of the creative and innovative thinkers of our time that have learned to strip their work down to simplistic genius. Think of Steve Jobs, Jony Ives, the Kelley Brothers, and Tim Brown, just to name a few.

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”  -John Maeda

“Simplicity relies on an understanding of the complex.”  -Tim Brown

“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”  -Steve Jobs

“You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”  -Jony Ive

“In the end, creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.”  -Austin Kleon

Just understand that this is not about oversimplifying the complex, which can often happen. This is about engaging the empathy necessary to not incorporate unneeded and unnecessary complexity, even though it is often in our nature to do that. Complexity has a tendency to come much easier than simplicity.

And it is that word (empathy) that plays such a vital role in moving our work in this direction.  Unfortunately, we can be a bit limited in our understanding and incorporation of this term. Too often we see it as a ‘soft’ term and lump it in with sympathy. We see it only as a way of feeling.

However, empathy is much much more. It is a perspective. A way of seeing. A lens that we put on to improve not only the value of what we create and provide, but to determine if our work provides value to the user and improves and enhances their work and experience.

Too often, the work we create is based solely on the perspective of the producer, and fails to incorporate the perspective and experience of the user. Which is often a main point of contention, where breakdowns in clarity and commitment occur. Leading to frustration on the part of the creator and the user.

When empathy is lacking in the creative and innovative process, we try to do and add too much. We don’t know when to stop. Often working in silos to create what we believe is the ‘perfected’ product, only to be met with concerns, complaints and criticisms.

Instead of shipping early with small, incremental experiments with feedback loops that allow us to improve our work and enhance the user experience and needs on an ongoing basis. We try to push out a ‘perfected’ product that leads to two-way frustration.

Empathy moves us out of that mindset, out of the meeting room, out of the office, and out to those who our work affects the most. It moves us into physical space where empathy can be engaged to determine the value, usefulness and effect of our work.

Empathy removes the pride of holding too tightly to our ideas and envisioned outcomes and moves us towards deeper understandings and recognizing that value is not determined by the producer, but by the user. To realizing that value is created by meeting user needs and effectively generating a useful experience that enhances their ability to do their work better…and easier.

And shouldn’t that be the goal of our work, anyways?

“An empathetic approach fuels our process by ensuring we never forget we’re designing for real people. And as a result, we uncover insights and opportunities for truly creative solutions.”  -Tom and David Kelley


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