Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Considering aesthetics again
Virginia Postrel's tour to promote her new book The Substance of Style made a first away-from-home stop in the 12th floor conference room of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) yesterday evening. Amy and I stopped in to soak in some thought-provoking book ho-ing from this widely celebrated author.
Originally titled Look and Feel, the book, which is on its way to me from Amazon, is said to present Postrel's richly exampled case that we are experiencing an "age of look and feel" where consumer-driven need for aesthetic virtues in products has diffused far and wide into the marketplace to become a source for economic value. To find evidence of this point, one would have to look no further than my own household, which enshrines some pricey and worship-worthy design artifacts including an iPod, Titanium PowerBook, and a PT Cruiser.
After a couple years of intense professional focus as an information architect tasked with devising structured user experiences, Postrel's brief PowerPoint presentation served to jumpstart my brain to think about aesthetics again. Until I start into the book, I have her excellent blog and a bibliography to browse.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Patterns help introduce patterns (or any new idea)
Through the 1990s, a new movement in software development called patterns gained momentum. Inspired by the thinking of the building architect Christopher Alexander, a group of smart guys authored 23 patterns for software design as "a way to analyze solutions to recurring problems, make them reusable and communicate them." Patterns collected together form a working language that help systems architects and programmers cope with the complexity of software systems.
Over the weekend, while revisiting some citations on patterns, I landed on Mary Lynn Manns' and Linda Rising's Introducing New Ideas into Organizations, which is a web page of papers and resources on the patterns of practice they and many others used over several years to introduce the concept of patterns for software design in organizations. As you might imagine, any radically new way of thinking is a tough sell, and their collection of patterns (123 page PDF) for introducing patterns is really a comprehensive cookbook of tactics that can be used to sell any new technology-related ideas in an organization.
Reading through some of the patterns, I recognized many of the tricks I've stumbled upon over the last few years to sell information architecture, usability, accessibility, and user-centered design to my employers and their clients. Some example patterns for introducing new ideas:
- Adopt a Skeptic - Pair those who have accepted your new idea with those who have not.
- Big Jolt - To provide more visibility for the change effort, invite a well-known person to do a presentation about the new idea.
- Corridor Politics - Informally work on decision makers and key influencers before an important vote, to make sure they fully understand the consequences of the decision.
- Group Identity - Give the change effort an identity to help people recognize that it exists.
- Hometown Story - To help people see the usefulness of your new idea, encourage those who have had success with it to share their stories.
- In Your Space - Keep the new idea visible by placing reminders throughout your organization.
- Just Say Thanks - To make people feel appreciated, say "thanks" in the most sincere way you can to everyone who helps you.
- Personal Touch - To convince people of the value of your new idea, show how it can be personally useful and valuable to them.
- Shoulder to Cry On - To avoid becoming too discouraged when the going gets tough, find opportunities to talk with others who are also struggling.
- Whisper in the General's Ear - Managers are sometimes hard to convince in a group setting, so set up a short one-on-one meeting to address their concerns and to offer them the opportunity to announce your new idea as their own.
Each pattern is explained in detail, related to key roles and illustrated with a real world scenario. The patterns collection has also been expanded to book form and is scheduled to be published next year by Addison Wesley. I'm saving a space on my nightstand.