As I return to my day job and start the new year, I will take inventory of my work-related resolutions. Topping the list will be "don't fight change."
You see, as a designer, I often find myself getting too attached to the concepts I produce and while I understand the importance of compromising, I find myself grinding my teeth when making changes. Yet, in any change lies the opportunity for innovation
. I can't possibly know how to revolutionize and revitalize all by myself. Working closely with others brings together different, fresh perspectives that will not only help me design a product that meets the client's needs, but also improves the chances that our solution will be found thinking outside the box.
On any given day, I meet with colleagues who don't know what Web Design entails. And to be fair, most of the time, I am unfamiliar with their department's responsibilities as well. When I look at a Web site, I see the page much differently than someone whose job is different than mine. Having an area of expertise limits me as I try to breathe new life into my creations.
Some call it the "curse of knowledge" and a recent article
in the New York Times
studied its cause and effects. The curse, which says "once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do" impedes innovation.
Many books have been written about the curse, including Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
and Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine — and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It
Both books were highlighted in the NYT article. Collectively, the authors maintain that there are "proven ways to exorcise the curse."
* Work together with people with different skills
: Not only will this help to work on communication skills (laymen terms are key) but it helps to find the commonalities between people with many differences.
* Consult with outsiders
: From your product's intended user demographic to your next door neighbor, new eyes and people who nothing about the issues going on behind the scenes will help keep creativity flowing.
* Ask basic questions
: What does the product need to do? What makes the product stand out? Who is using it? Getting back to basics will help you stay focused and unclutter the drawing board. Most times the product is made to do so many things that its most basic function is lost altogether. These are such simple steps and yet we often forget to take them
. I admit that I get stuck in "the way it's always been done" mode and I need to free myself by thinking "but that's not how we need to do it now..."
As we master a specific skill or develop an area of expertise, the most important thing to remember is that there is always more to learn. Learning allows us the freedom to think about things in different ways and we need not be afraid of the changes that lie ahead.
About the Author
Marisa Peacock is a online media specialist and regular CMSWire.com contributor based in the Washington D.C. area. As a manager of digital media, a writer and a researcher, she has broad experience with the development of strategic content and graphical design for both print and online media. Marisa holds a Masters in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University.