Episode 36: Experience Design with Jared Spool

Deep dive into experience design strategies with Jared Spool and Cathi Bosco

Episode 36: Experience Design with Jared Spool

In this episode, I am joined by special guest, Jared Spool! We are talking about transformational UX research and design strategies. We cover a lot of actionable insights and share a few laughs too. You will learn about how to evaluate the readiness and urgency required to make a maximum strategic UX impact within organizations, what actual leadership means, and how to improve future experiences with research-led, human-centric practices and more.

If you and your design/product teams need weekly motivation and resources, join the Leaders of Awesomeness community or sign the team up for a deeper intensive. Lift up your career and your organization with an amazing knowledge base and uniquely thoughtful teacher, Jared Spool.

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Full Transcript of this Podcast Episode


Jared ...But if something's wrong with the design, we'll fix it in a future release. Let's just get it out there. And we'll fix it later. Maybe we will get feedback from the customers, right? That's my favorite thing. Oh, let's put it out and see what the customers say. Okay, so what mechanisms where we actually use to see what the customer say? Well, we haven't thought about that yet. So, so you're not really serious about doing that. So that's before the tipping point. After the tipping point, they're still focused on the business. They're still making sure that that any given product meets the business needs. They're still making sure that any given product meets the the technology needs. But now if it is not meeting the design needs. They don't ship the product does not get shipped because it does not meet the definition of of a good design, whatever that is. And to get to that point, you have to clear we talk about what a good design is and what your minimum for good designers. When that's not a criteria. Anything can be the minimum for good design, which is why Microsoft still exists. But the when you you don't have Microsoft listeners do you? I'm sure I go. The when you have this notion of minimum quality, you have something that minimum design quality, right you have to you have to talk about it you have to be able to express it. You have to be able to to instrument it, and and say okay, on Thursday we got it from not good enough to good enough. And we're ready to ship now. And and so you have to have all that in place and that changes the culture that changes the way you think.

Cathi Hey, everybody, it's Cathi Bosco from rethink the forward thinking podcast about experience design. Join me and special guests to discuss effective design technology and the intersection of helping people in entrepreneurship. From user experience research to product roadmaps. We've got you covered. We've all got questions. So let's get started. I'm very excited about our special guest Jared Spool joining us today. You may know him from his transformational work over time, helping us all to improve our collective UX expertise across our industry, in our organizations, that our teams and individually lifting us up in our careers. Today we're going to roll up our sleeves and talk about the work the work that teams do to transform experiences for people. If you care about eliminating all bad design in the world. You'll want to join the community over at leaders of awesomeness. You can find it at leader Scott center center.com. It's a lively community of UX leaders, designers, researchers, and writers. From all over the world. Let's get started.

Cathi Thank you for joining me today. Jared. It is a real treat to get one on one time with you. How are you feeling today ready to talk shop?

Jared Sure. I'm excited to be here. Thank you. I'm honored that you wanted to talk to me.

Cathi Oh, you're too kind. Let's just dive right into this work. It's really important work. It's really meaningful work and something that we both share a passion for. Just full disclosure, I've, I've participated in a lot of your courses over the course of my career, and they've been absolute game changer game changers for me, and for my teams. And so I am a little bit biased, but I'm really anxious to share some of your resources and insights. So let's just kick it off with a tough question. When you go into organizations and you immerse yourself within that organization to help improve their UX playbook. Where do you even start? What's your path for entry there?

Jared Well, I usually start in the lobby. They don't let me in through any other doors. The the way that we start is by trying to understand why we were there. One of the things I've come to learn is there's meaning and why they've decided to focus on this now, right so one of the first questions I ask is why are we doing this now? Why? Why didn't we do this six months ago, and why did why are we doing this six months from now why is now the important time to have this conversation? And almost always an illuminating question, because it signals that something has changed and reached a level of urgency and when you can sort of get your handle on what is making this the most important thing to do at this moment. It changes it changes the way that people approach it if they don't have an answer if they're like, I don't know, I guess we could wait, you know, then that, to me is a signal that if it gets difficult, they're going to they're going to drop out or they're going to you know, ghost you or something.I mean, it's just going to be a red flag. For a change to happen, there has to be urgency. You know, change is always hard. And the minute you get any resistance, you have to have motivation to get past the resistance. And so that's the thing that I I am I am sort of keenly looking for is, is how much motivation do they have to get past the resistance, but it's a waste of everybody's time if you start something and never finish it.

Cathi That's right. That's right. Do you find that, I mean, I'll say I find that often people recognize the competitive advantage. High quality user experience can be a an advantage especially in a lot of markets that are getting really saturated with competition. That's a real winning business goal as well. I'm not sure that's the best motivation, but it can help bring a team up a level if you can get in the door that way, if no other ways were available.

Jared I think it's a key motivation. I think a team that gets why experience is important to them, is going to be way easier to work with than a team that that is like why are we doing this again? So I think you're absolutely right. You know, there are two ways to compete. One is that you just have the lowest cost product on the market. Right and not the lowest price product but the the one that cost you the least to deliver. And if you if you are costs to deliver your product, the cost to make it the cost to put it out there the cost to support it, if those costs are lower than everybody else's costs. Then you can keep lowering your price to the point where your price is lower than your competitors cost and that means to match your price they have to sell at a loss but you're still making a profit. So that's an ideal place to be but only one organization can be there at a time. It's true. So the other way to compete is on having some quality that is better than anybody else's quality. Not quality can be reliability that quality can be aesthetics that quality can be maintainability it can be efficiency, speed. Performance, or it can be the overall experience. And if you deliver a better experience than everybody else, you can charge more for those people who are willing to pay for a better experience. And yeah, this is why Apple makes more money and like 10 times as much money as Samsung and phones and sells 1/10 The number one 100 The number of phones every year and because Apple is selling on quality, and they can charge $1,000 for a phone and Samsung can't get away with that.

Cathi Yeah, I love how you define quality. I know it's a well researched, s trifecta of things that I believe it's pleasure, flow and meaning.

Jared That's the sort of core elements of delight

Cathi Right delight right..

Jared Dana Chisnell came up with those three levers of delight. And the interesting thing about that is that it's a way to think about why people are excited to engage with your product or service over somebody else's. And, you know, if there's no real difference, if I can use this service, I can use that service that doesn't make a difference to me. Then all there is, is our price.

Cathi You're just gonna go for the cheapest.

Jared Exactly. I mean, why would I pay more money to get something that's the same as something I would get anywhere else?

Cathi That's right. Well, my husband's a painting contractor. I mean, he's a brilliant sculpture scholar fella too, but by trade, he's a painting contractor. And he does really high quality work. He's very experienced, he's a little more expensive, but you're gonna get that higher quality experience or higher quality outcome by working with him. He's going to keep paint off an awful lot of stuff as well. You know?

Jared I mean, the quality that the experiential quality has a lot of pieces to it, right. It's a thoughtfulness and consideration and the the fact that that somebody sat down and thought about that makes it a more delightful experience and it you know, you don't think about the paint splatter. But until you're dealing with it, and then you know, there's little white dots over everything in the room because someone didn't do the work they should have done to take care of that so that there wasn't a splatter and that that's just, you know, experience and thoughtfulness and and a real understanding as to what makes a difference.

Cathi Yeah, and I think also going into organizations when I have myself gone into organizations to help on aspects or projects or teams. I've found that it's really true that there are leaders that are not in the leadership role that are leading from bottom up. And I think it goes back to what you're saying about just caring. Caring about the work you do, the people you work with, and having that sort of thoughtful caring in your work, no matter what your job title is, is a real way to lead from the bottom up. So I appreciate the discussion points that come up often in your courses around leadership. And I can tell you, it's really made someone who was a little insecure as a younger designer, embrace leadership and be able to do it thinking of it that way - that it's not just a job title. It's a way of working and caring.

Jared Right! There's a lot of confusion around the idea of who a leader is and who are managers and people use those terms interchangeably. Again, it's like well, the leader of my group and they're referring to a manager or they refer to the executive team as the corporate leadership, or, you know, we have to go to the leadership on this. I've seen people use the the acronym ELT, to refer to the executive leadership team. And and I wonder how many people on the executive team are actually leaders versus managers. There's a distinction between the two, you know, a manager is appointed by the organization manager has directs and a manager's job is to make sure that the directs the direct reports are, have everything they need to do their best work. They understand what's expected of them. They understand how their work fits into the mission. They have all the resources, materials equipment, to do the job they're supposed to do. So that that's not getting in the way. They understand how their opinion matters. They understand how the work they do fits into their long term career goals, so that they stay motivated to do a good job because they see the reward from that. So they see all these things that that make a difference in their life. And and this is what a Manager brings. Is is all of this goodness, is making sure all that happened. A leader doesn't do any of that. A leader doesn't need to be appointed by the organization. The only thing you need to be a leader is a follower. And the way you get a follower is you have some sort of compelling vision that makes your left makes people want to join in. And the job of a leader is to push the vision forward. It's not to make sure everybody has what they need. Of course, it's a good thing to help make sure everybody has what they need. But that to me if you can do it all. That's what a manager does. That's not what a leader does. And sometimes there are managers who are also leaders and there are leaders who are also managers. But many times they're not. And in fact, we see this frequently at the tops of organizations, where you often have a CEO which is the person who has the vision, and they go around making sure everybody understand what what the vision is and make sure everybody's on the same page of the vision and then you have a COO chief operating officer whose job it is to actually make sure everybody has what they need to execute the vision. And you know, when Steve Jobs was at Apple, Tim Cook was the COO. And he was very good at that. He was a very good manager, but Steve had the vision. By all reports Steve was a horrible manager. People didn't like working for him. He they were scared completely out of him. But they loved his vision. And that's what kept him there.

Cathi Right, right. Yeah, it's very, very inspiring to work with a leader that has the ability to articulate the vision and strategy well to because if you can't really articulate it well, you might as well not have one.

Jared I mean, all a vision is, is a narrative story. It's it's, you know, this is going to happen and we're going to do this and then this and then this and then this right. It's just a series of narrative steps. And, and there are different types of vision, right? There's just sort of an overall vision of, you know, where we see ourselves a few years from now. And then there's, there's, we have what we call an experience, vision was an experience which is a vision of what the experience will be like, you know, here's what the experience is today for our customers. But here's what we want it to be five years from now. And, and the more detail you can put into that story, the more people can connect with it. And that's a vision.

Cathi And having an as a narrative makes it very much more memorable for people, right? I mean, otherwise it is just word soup. It's, it's a narrative. It's visual, perhaps it's a story. It's a storyboard. It's a video recording. It's proprietary. So these are things you don't really get to see very often unless you're a member of that organization. I would love to see like an archive of all the Envisionment stories from all kinds of organizations. I think it would be so fascinating to get to look through a you know, a couple dozen of those or something that would be very interesting experiment.

Jared You can see some of them in some of the older companies. For instance, the Disney companies have have released a lot of Walt's original vision stuff. And it's really fascinating.

Cathi Oh, I'll look for links and put them in the show notes for us. Yeah, great. Great. I think another thing that I really enjoy about being a UX designer UX researcher, is that perspective that we get as the designer or the design team, of the end to end experience of a customer lifecycle through product for example, we're involved with every aspect of the customer or prospective customers experience through their entire lifecycle with a product and that is a powerful but highly a lot of responsibility in that role. So lots of communication. Lots of journey, mapping and facilitating a shared understanding and a shared language about what that experience is like. I don't think other teams in an org have that same purview as much.

Jared No, that's right. In many organizations. One of the phenomena that you see is that when the organization is very, very small, like three people, big type organization, right, that's small. They are very in tune with who their customers and their users are, because that's how they survive on a day to day basis. Right? You know, they don't have that many customers and if one of them, decides that this product sucks, then they have to fix it or they go out of business, right? So so they're very in tune with that but as as a customer as an organization grows and more people come in understanding what the customer's needs, gets delegated. You know, customer support people, salespeople, there's a whole bunch of people who are on the frontlines who in this gets delegated to. But the people who make the biggest decisions in the organization, what products we're going to build, what deadlines are we going to build them on? What staffing are we going to do? What organizations are we going to partner with or merge with or acquire? Those are the biggest decisions in organization makes and what users need fall off of that decision making process. Because those people are no longer connected to the users. They're no longer connected that closely with customers, except for the biggest customers. And the biggest voices. Right? Exactly, exactly. So So most customers get gets sort of pushed to the side and they're there. They're not in consideration for these big things. And when you do that, when you no longer are connected to the customers, you're no longer connected to the users you can't possibly make decisions based on on how it'll deliver a better experience. And how many products or services have you used after, the company that offers them and merged with another company? And you know, they have these two things that are that are both their products, but it feels like they were never designed to work together. It feels like they're two separate companies. Because the merger never did take the user experience into account and so they still feel separate. And added to like you, these two parts of the company offer the same product and they're sort of competing against each other and why would I buy one over another one? And, and, and it's very confusing and that actually hurts the business.

Cathi It also hurts the organization's sense of having an understanding of the meaningful nature of their work. I work with a lot of engineers who care very much about staying closely connected to an understanding that their work makes a difference to another human being. And that quality of work life experience and the meaningful nature of their work and solving problems for people is what makes them passionate about what they do. And as, as companies grow, like you said that you get pulled further and further from the meaningful nature of the work too. And, I mean, I learned that from you and I I've carried that with me to every team I've ever worked on and it's helped me be persuasive and bring experience human centered experiences to organizations because the engineering teams on board they like exposing their work to customers and improves the quality. They don't have to redo things as much like they love it. But it's it's it's not always it's sometimes gets overlooked in the hustle and the riffs and all of the churn and effort it takes to run a big ship like a large organization.

Jared Right and that happens quite a bit right this this this phenomena that there is a if you don't know what, who your users are, what your users need, what their current experience is like and what their future experience could be like. How can you possibly deliver something that's going to make their life better? And if you're, if you're delivering things, and you don't know how it makes anybody's life better, why are you doing it? How do you know that you've succeeded? And what's the purpose of it? Well, you know, the purpose is to sell more, but why are people going to buy more if it doesn't make their lives better? Yeah, you can get away with that if you're a monopoly of some sort. But most of us are don't work for monopolies of some sort. So we're and you know, how many times the view downloaded a new version or something and you're like, What the hell were they thinking this is worse than when I just had a week ago.

Cathi Well, that's always the first experience as you learn the UI and stuff too. But no, it doesn't always get better. I'm also consistently amazed at how dysfunctional organizations are miraculously successful. Sometimes I'm like, Oh, is that possible? But sometimes they are despite everything right. I'm dying to tell you a little story on how I evangelize research with some of my teams. I think you'll get a kick out of it. Maybe not. Maybe you'll tell me Kathy that's very risky. You shouldn't be doing that. They won't take you seriously. Be honest with me, Jared. So one of the things we do is every quarter we have sort of thing poetry slam research, read out event where everybody who's done some quantitative qualitative or data research or secondary research with analysts or whatever it all the research I can get from all those input channels. Everyone gets a minute and a half and they get a slide and we go through and each one presents the customer value and the business value of that research. And we go boom, boom, boom, like a poetry slam one right after the other. And it's been really great to sort of pull back the curtain and let the rest of the organization, you know, see that we're working on these things. And we're getting these important insights. We're doing the research, but also it's sort of like, good for morale, right in that way. So our research read out poetry slams have been sort of a little creative way of you know, getting people looking for that research every quarter and and not letting it sit in a cupboard with mock balls on it. That's been pretty successful. Have you ever heard of something like that?

Jared Oh, yeah, yeah. If you really want to do this, do it every every week. I have one team that I work with that every Monday at two o'clock. They have a session that shares something new they've recently found out about customers, and the whole company is invited. And and people show up all the time. Yeah. One. There's, there's one person who showed up for a whole bunch of them and nobody knew who this person was. They just kept coming. And so somebody woke them up and the person worked in accounting. And they're like, Why? Why are you You come into it is I want to find them fascinating. I just look at numbers all day. And I'm looking at you know, how many sales we have and how many customers we have and I see the company names go by, but I know nothing about them. I don't really know about our products and I come to this and I'm actually learning what people find valuable what people find frustrating. I see what I accompany might want to buy us, you buy our product, why they don't that and it got me thinking about who my customers are and my customers are various executives in this business. And so I started thinking about how I could make like my because apparently he worked on on budget stuff. And so it's like, every quarter we have to do these budget reports. And so I started thinking about it and I was listening to the techniques that the research people were using. So I started practicing those techniques on my budget reports and found out that people couldn't read my report and I was making the bed and now now we have accountants thinking about the experience of using internal accounting tools. And suddenly the company is getting more effective at what it does and this concept that we have to always be thinking about the experience of the people who use our things, whether they're internal or external. It changes everything.

Cathi That's awesome. I love that.

Jared Yeah. And they've been doing this now for years and the numbers of attending the weekly meetings, it varies, but it never drops off. It's always about the same and and but it's different people and people want to watch the recordings and people. Every so often they do summaries of like here are all the things that we saw that have this type of problem or other things that we saw that have these opportunities and people love showing up for the shows and and it's short a way to connect the what's happening with the users and their customers at all levels of the organization.

Cathi I love that we we often and I know other organizations, do a weekly customer call and invite everyone in the company to listen or ask questions. You know, see questions and piggyback research. That's another good way to do it. I love that. Thank you Jared. Let's see. Shall we talk a little bit about UX strategy and what the UX tipping point is?

Jared Sure. So the tipping point is this this change that we see in an organization? Yeah, any sort of inflection point, as a sort of before time and and after time and what makes it an inflection point is that things are suddenly different when you get from before the inflection point to pass the inflection point and the the what we call the UX tipping point is what we named a particular pattern that we saw in a bunch of organizations that are really good at delivering great experiences to their customers, and the tipping point is before the tipping point everybody's focused on making sure that the product does what the business needs it to do. That you know, it meets business objectives, it brings in revenue and customers sign up at a certain rate, or retentions at a certain rate, whatever. Your business things are, and that the technology does what the technology is supposed to do that, you know you have a certain amount of time that you know that the failure rates are low that the bugs are low, you know, they're those things. They're focusing on those things and if and if a product isn't meeting those two things, they'll hold the product back. Right? They'll say wait a second, this isn't ready. We're not going to ship it yet. It's got too many bugs, or it's not fast enough or it doesn't. You know, customers can't buy this upgrade. So we're not going to ship it yet until they can buy the upgrade, right? So there's, there's it meets their goals. But if something's wrong with the design, we'll fix it in a future release. Let's just get it out there. And we'll fix it later. Maybe we'll get feedback from the customers, right? That's my favorite thing. Oh, let's put it out and see what the customers say. Okay, so what mechanisms will we actually use to see what the customer said? Well, we haven't thought about that yet. So, so you're not really serious about doing that. So the so that's before the tipping point, after the tipping point, they're still focused on the business. They're still making sure that that any given product meets the business needs. They're still making sure that any given product meets the the technology needs. Exactly right. Yeah. But now if it is not meeting the design needs. They don't ship the product does not get shipped because it does not meet the definition of of a good design, whatever that is. And to get to that point, you have to clearly talk about what a good design is and what your minimum for good design is. Where that's not that's not a criteria. Anything can be the minimum for good design, which is why Microsoft still exists, but the way you don't have Microsoft listeners. Do you?

Cathi I'm sure I don't

Jared When you have this notion of minimum quality, you have something that minimum design quality, right you have to you have to talk about it. You have to be able to express it. You have to be able to instrument it and and say okay, on Thursday, we got it from not good enough to good enough. And we're ready to ship now. And and so you have to have all that in place and that changes the culture that changes the way you think.

Cathi I think one of the challenges with moving organizations there is also a shared understanding about what the design is. And it's that constant uphill battle of like, is that the interface design is that what the design teams responsible? You know, is it visual design, is it are we measuring it based on, you know, engagement or drop off rates like how are we measuring it like? I think using the word experience with design is something that I really try to do all the time now just so people don't get into that old habit of thinking that the design decision making is only done by designers and it's only visual design.

Jared Right? I don't talk about design very much. I talk about experience.

Cathi Yeah, that's making a huge difference in the industry, Jared.

Jared Yeah. Because experience is is what we're referring to right. So we're thinking in terms of what is an acceptable experience and what is an unacceptable experience and how we get there. Some things are very clear. Right? If you get on an airplane and the airplane drops out of the sky suddenly and you know, that's an unacceptable experience. We know that. But if you get on an airplane, and a flight attendant calls a couple of security people who dragged you kicking and screaming off the plane for whatever reason, is that a good experience?

Cathi Yeah, do you have insider information on this? Do you know if this is a good experience or not?

Jared Companies apparently it's acceptable if if I'm not gonna mention United, but there are companies where it's acceptable. They if if you get on an airplane and it sits on the runway for six hours, and they don't let you off and they don't want you out of your seat to pee and they don't give you food and drink is that a good experience? Right? So we can talk about what a bad experiences and a bad experience is? missed expectations and unmet needs. And, and so, you know, I buy an airplane ticket. I have this expectation that the plane is going to take off and it's going to be comfortable to some level of comfort. And then it is going to land and I'm going to be able to get off get my bags and go do my thing. And when those things stop happening, and finding is that's a very low bar for a company that is in the transportation business. And and yet, some companies really struggle at at that level of of service delivery. And you know, it doesn't take off on time if at all, and it's not a comfortable ride and I you know, I get to my destination but they don't let me off the plane because they don't have a gate or something is happening and then and then I go and I waited for my bag for an hour. And I don't get it to move on when I stopped. I mean, that's sort of minimum entry stakes for a company that claims to be in the travel hospitality. Business. And so now the question is, what where do we draw the line? Right? Where Why do we say wait a second, this is not acceptable anymore. I recently saw an article where I think it was like the Wall Street Journal or Forbes or somebody. They made a big deal about how they had CEOs sit in middle seats and coach to know what the experience was like CEOs of airlines great. And then I read the article. And the best they could do was get the CEO to sit in coach while the plane was empty at the gate. They fly in coach they didn't sit there on a on a six hour flight with a bunch of other passengers eat the food that is served and coach they didn't they didn't do any of the things that a real passenger does. And even then the pie the CEO is like yeah, this is a bit tighter than I expected. Yeah, they were. They they were surprised by the experience but they didn't even get close to it. A real passenger gets close to it. That's right. I mean about how can that person enforce a minimum standard quality experience if they're not even connected to that experience at all?

Cathi Impossible. Impossible. Yes. Well, Jared, this has been such a treat to get to talk with you. I know my listeners and my audience will love to learn more about how they can continue to learn from you and join the community. What do you have going on with over at Center Center right now?

Jared Well, we have our Leaders of Awesomeness community.

Cathi It's amazing, so much great content and useful strategies to find it. I'll share the link in the in the speaker notes as well.

Jared Appreciate that. And every week we have an online session that that's free to attend. We have all of them recorded. There's an archive of current at the time of the recording.

Cathi I've joined a lot of them and I'm always amazed. I'll have to learn this back when we did courses with the UX Playbook intensive on site in the before days in Chattanooga. I'll recognize some content in these courses on Mondays and I still get gold nuggets when I join up and listen every week.

Jared Yeah, well. Good. I hope you you know they're not uncomfortable for you,

Cathi I bring my team. I've also grown my network a little bit so some of the other participants in the courses begin to network with each other. And that's been really nice.

Jared Yeah, we've grown the community. We've got 47,000 people in the community, which is amazing. Who knew there were 47,000 UX leaders, but they're all over the world. From all over the world. We got people from India and Australia and South Africa and and Pakistan and it's just lovely to talk to these people from all over the world.

Cathi It is it really is. I enjoy the courses too. But you also have bigger intensives where you cover a do a deeper dive. You can join as an individual or as a team for these intensives some of the titles of those.

Jared We do them publicly. We have one on outcome driven metrics. We have one that we do on strategic UX research. We have one that we do on

Cathi Big, audacious UX goals,

Jared Yes, big goals, and we have one that we do on integrating agile and UX and and we run those, we run each of those about once a year. Then we have other programs on UX leadership and other programs on UX strategy for organizations that are ready to make a bigger commitment. And then we do coaching and mentoring and we worked on Train the Trainer programs for bigger organizations and a variety of things.

Cathi It's it seems like common sense when you participate in the work. And then if you're fortunate enough to be able to go out and apply the learnings right away. It's absolutely a game changer for individual careers and teams. So I will put lots of links in our show notes. I thank you so much. We went a little over time here, Jared. Anything else you want to share? Any questions?

Jared No, this was absolutely delightful. Thank you very much for you know, encouraging my behavior here.

Cathi My pleasure, Jared. Thank you.

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