“ Gentleman, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!”
In one of the greatest satire comedies of all time, thirty men sit around a table trying to figure out how to recall renegade bombers that will bring about a doomsday apocalypse upon all of mankind. Aided by such luminaries as former Nazi scientists Dr Strangelove, who suggests a 10:1 female/male ratio for the future of mankind, they seem to always be focusing on the wrong things and never quite grasp that the system they built is what will destroy them despite their best efforts. It’s pure Stanley Kubrick genius, with a once in a lifetime multi-performance from Peter Sellers.
Companies, like countries, have systems they’re tied to for better or worse that define them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in a number of meetings over the years the day before a website launch where a bunch of people discuss how nervous they are and wonder what people will think. The energy is high, and so are the stakes.
Yet, despite my best efforts, I already knew these people lost.
If they don’t know how their customers are going to feel about their website, and they probably rarely asked them, then they never understood why the website existed in the first place.
Websites, and tools, exist to solve problems. For your customers, your customers customers, or some ultimate end user, not yours (though internal audiences can play a small part). And what workers surrounding the table don’t get, is that there’s a good chance their customers don’t live in the office. Their entire efforts for the last 18 months, were based on assumptions about their clients needs without once actually sitting down with a client outside the office and truly listening to their pain.
It’s human nature for us. Potential rejection of our ideas is rarely tops on people’s “things I want to do today” list. So, instead, people may think they know what others believe, we’ll sit around tables discussing answers and potential reactions of how we would behave, what we would want, etc. The fact of the matter though is that as human beings we are absolutely terrible at predictions due to our cognitive biases.
Even worse, there may be an even bigger problem you’re missing. (That’s when people pivot.)
The simple fact is that answers are rarely found in an office. It’s out at the local cafe. At the pitch meetings. At the offices of your potential clients. Everywhere your people have a pain point, you want to be there to record it. That’s where you figure out how to add value, and what you can ride to profitability if done right.
Companies that have a need to understand their customers put into their DNA a system of constant discovery AT THE CLIENT LEVEL (continued at higher levels with A/B testing, interviews, sales followup, analytics). This system will then generate results later on when building personas, on-boarding, knowing where to put SEO and marketing resources, UI, and more, and it will work despite anyone’s best efforts to stop it.
If a company is not willing to make this kind of commitment, there’s a good chance they’re simply not going to get the best results. Sure, they could get lucky, but the system usually wins. Plus, they are losing ground to their competitors, in what I guess some would call a “UX” gap.
And I say to my fellow UX’ers, that just can’t stand! Close the gap!