June 2021 marks 21 years of my exemplary design career. What a ride❣️
For almost 18 years of those 21 years, I was a practitioner. I solved problems (creatively) for a living. The world used many labels to describe my job. User Experience Designer, Innovator, Design Thinker, Senior Consultant, User Researcher, Inventor (that is so Apple and I loved it), Subject Matter Expert (SME), Head of Design, Design Competency Manager, Agency owner and more.
One single word that simply describes all those 18 years of my career is DOER. I did things with my head and hands. I solved problems day-in and day out. I lived and loved pixels. That is all.
In 2018, I decided to take up a big hairy problem of our industry and solve it. This time, no one commissioned me a design brief to solve the problem but I was keen to solve it. May be it was my mid-life and I felt this was my way of leaving the earth a better place than I found it.
My vision was to raise the bar of creative problem solving. My mission was to produce industry ready designers who will solve problems better than before. I was determined to do everything it takes to solve the problem. A small problem was I don't know exactly how to solve it. So started with some qualitative studies. The research gave me aha-moments to build my base.
A few insights that pushed me to move out of my comfort zone are listed below. To make a maker
- It is not enough to know the doing but it is important to teach how to do.
- It is not enough to know how to teach the doing but it is mandatory to mentor designers when needed.
- Mentoring doesn't cut it at all times, it is important to coach designers for the context.
- Sometimes it is not important to teach or coach or mentor but it is super important to facilitate product teams to solve problems better.
That was so powerful. I didn't even know that I landed in this space of teaching, coaching , mentoring and facilitating. By connecting dots backwards I realised it. I had no formal training around how to teach or coach or mentor of facilitate but I self-taught myself the designer way (by doing). If you wondering what is the difference between the four, here is my perspective.
- A coach makes you discover and realise the knowldege within you that helps you harness a specific context.
- A mentor gives you knowledge that helps you deal with a variety of contexts.
- A teacher gives you overarching knowledge that is applicable to any generic context.
- A facilitator makes the group discover knowledge within the group that is essential for the context.
Those are four distinct skills that are needed to make a maker. In the process of solving a problem, I didn't realise my whole being changed. From just a maker to a maker maker (like a king maker), I had to embody four different roles within me and all of them without knowing anything about them. This is when my respect for self taught designers sky-rockted. The ability to become and be a role all by yourself is the best gift I have given myself in this tenure.
🥂 to problem solving!