Being comfortable with chaos is a blessing in UX and design research.
This comfort can save you drowning in the depths of customer insights.
And if you’d rather drown in a pie, then make it a humble one, because if you like knowing the answer most of the time, open wide – you’ll need a big bite.
Not very appetising?
For days you’ll need to be content with NOT knowing answers, to the very questions you’ve been asked.
This was put beautifully into words in an interview with Ewan Clayton, a design professor, calligrapher, monk, and former researcher from Xerox Parc labs. (Those smarties who invented the PC, Graphical UI and the concept of ‘windows’)
In the interview he talks about innovations in communication, from handwriting to Steve Jobs and the development of computer user interfaces.
My ears pricked up when he said:
“You have to learn to live with doubt, and strangely enough, that’s exactly what a research lab is like. You’re absolutely acutely aware of what you don’t know”
…but it was what he had to say about his time as a researcher at Xerox as an ‘artist among scientists’ which really resonated with me:
“If you run, to try and find security, in “I know this”, or “I’ve established that” you actually don’t progress, and so my training as a monk was strangely appropriate for this new environment of the research lab, where I was able to sit in the dark, and have confidence that things would start making sense to me if I just allowed things to be, and watched and observed.”
I’m no monk, or scientist so neither the chaos nor the pie came naturally to me, (switching from the classic ‘steak and cheese’ to ‘humble’ was quite a transition) but these built over time as I learned to trust my instincts as well as the process in research and design.
Here’s the podcast on Simon Morton’s ‘This Way Up’ show on Radio New Zealand. About 25 mins long.
…and if you’re the reading type, here’s an article on FT.com about Ewan’s journey from Calligraphy through Monkhood to Innovation Research at Xerox.