The Takeaway: To level up in User Experience (UX), two key components are curiosity and mindset change. Both mental skills are crucial for UX professionals. How? Let’s talk about it.
Many will tell you that you need to increase your skill level and breadth of experience, as well as soft skills.
All this is 100% true. But these are not the only things needed to level up in the special field of User Experience (UX).
Two Key Components in User Experience
What would I consider to be two key components to levelling up in UX?
- Mindset Change
What will greatly aid your advancement in the field of User Experience is a curious mind. Are you someone who always asks questions? Being present so that you can be curious. Being present enables curiosity.
For example, anyone can learn the skills to be a qualified and licensed driver on the road. But good drivers set themselves apart by being more engaged mentally, glancing at several cars ahead, surveying the road, checking and being actively aware of their braking distance to the car in front, environmental surroundings and so on.
A good driver will act accordingly with this information and adjust their driving style to be safe on the road.
What’s the point?
Being present enables curiosity
That illustration is the equivalent of being present and curious, having a curious (ask questions first, shoot much later) mindset.
Sticking with our example, to resist the urge to emotionally respond by potentially acting out in road rage because a car brakes in front of them but instead realise that a person or serious obstacle may be in the road.
This person may even pay it forward seeing another human in need of help – an ideal in society today perhaps you may think, but a possibility all the same.
In an office meeting or design workshop setting, a curious mind will internally pause before responding so their mind (logic/reason) can catch up to their heart (emotions), enabling the best response in that present moment.
A curious mind opens a person up to the possibility of learning something new every time they engage or interact with a person or experience of some kind.
Curiosity also can provide a platform on which to develop one’s skills.
So, skills are important, they can be taught easily with pressure and time, and skills in turn will teach you how to hone your curiosity, how to ask the right questions and when, and how to challenge proposals and ideas in radical candour.
You could say that curiosity and skills development within the context of UX are somewhat interdependent upon each other.
Skills will also help you to identify areas where personal growth is required to a degree, which greatly compliments the kind of curiosity we are talking about in this article.
In combination with being curious is having the right mindset. The second of the two key components.
A UX professional with the right and a positive mindset, actively and honestly self-evaluates, realising that they do not know everything and will never know everything – even if they are one of the smartest people in the room. This goes a very long way in learning how to approach what they do with a degree of humility.
What do I mean?
Let’s create a concise scenario…
As a UX professional, your primary job is to learn what a particular target segment or group of people do, and why they do it in a multi-faceted way so you can create frictionless and improved solutions to whatever the problem is you are trying to solve.
In the above concise scenario, accept that your thinking toward the problem to solve will evitably need adjustment as you acquire layers of information of user data.
Even seasoned UX design leaders end up with a perspective of preference.
This is why this mental skill is a challenge to get to grips with because one has to constantly set aside their perspective of preference and listen to the data, the users, and accept that perhaps the users they are solving the problem for, prefer “a better or different solution” and then design the with this solution firmly in mind with as little bias as possible.
The right mindset enables a UX professional to not look at other teams or colleagues as “me against the world” or “no one likes UX”
Having a degree of humility toward what you do will help you to maintain the desire to continue to improve all aspects of your skills, from technical to soft.
It helps you to maintain a “can do” approach to solving simple and complex problems, realising that once broken down, one problem is not necessarily more complex than the next one, it is implementing the best solution is where the complexity arises and what takes time.
The right mindset enables a professional to not look at other teams as “me against the world” or “no one likes UX”.
The right mindset will actively seek to find ways to understand what makes other colleagues “tick” so they can get the best out of a working relationship and achieve the best outcome possible, with the bigger picture in mind.
The right mindset will understand that it takes several exposures to a solid UX approach (that is continually improved for the environment it is used in), which will win stakeholders over toward being more data-centric.
The right mindset will understand that UX maturity doesn’t happen by itself nor does it happen overnight. They can play an important role in the maturity and growth of UX wherever they are.
The right mindset will understand that they will need to be more steady, more calmer than most, aspiring to be unflappable, knowing that more critical questions and challenges to their work will hurtle in their direction than the other way around.
The right mindset will understand that good UX research doesn’t always win, but learning lessons from each experience, seeing that this is a stepping stone to the bigger picture.
It can unlock a world of growth and learning that you may have thought was not possible.
On the other hand, the wrong mindset has an overly negative outlook therefore complains much more than most, looks for reasons to point the finger, is divisive, and can be a sideline pessimist as opposed to a working, active pessimist.
The wrong mindset will join a company, and expect UX to be a perfectly set-up arm of the organisation, well respected, that may even have a seat at the table. They will complain and radiate negativity when this isn’t the case and move on to the next company.
The right mindset will in contrast embrace being in such an environment, honestly evaluating the possibilities to make a real difference to the company or its customers. Effectively, to be a “change agent“, realising that a tonne of personal growth and reward is on the other side of that journey.
The right mindset will be realistic, understanding that most companies are still maturing in UX and, therefore may see an opportunity to guide that growth process to eventually play a pivotal role in maybe even growing a design team in said company.
No one likes smarty pants
The right mindset will see the value genuine humility brings to self. This endearing quality wins over and influences people.
No one likes smarty pants. The wrong mindset likes to remind everyone that they know it all, which is the quickest way to lose respect and influence.
When combined and utilised in a balanced way, these two key components are like a secret sauce. It can unlock a world of growth and learning that you may have thought was not possible.
So, do you think you have what it takes to level up? I hope you do. I want you to. The better quality and higher level of UX professional you are, the better UX is as a whole – we all win.
Time to be about it.