Guest Post: Creating Excellent User Experiences Is Hip
I walked into the shiny new headquarters of an advertising agency the other day.
Employees cruised around with standard-issue MacBook Airs, collaboration happened in open-plan workspaces, individuals lounged on strange-looking furniture, and teams zoomed through corridors that, I was told, were designed to facilitate "accidental" bumps-ins.
But the experience was not the same as that of, for example, walking into an Apple store.
I don't know about you, but when I deal with Apple, I never get a whiff that the funky people, their newest gadgets, and their can-do attitude all might be window dressing created to project a carefully manicured yet hollow image, instead of being an organic extension of who they are as a company.
But in this agency I did. I didn't get the feeling that the employees really wanted to be there, nor that they cared much about their fancy office.
And This Got Me Thinking.
Many businesses are trying to be hip right now. There's a clear trend towards trying to make company offices, shops, and employees look and feel like they came from a funky tech start-up in Palo Alto. Offices are becoming warehouse-style "campuses,” cubicles are being replaced with open spaces, desks are being replaced with furniture which looks like it could compete for sculpture prizes. Employees might not necessarily have to wear regulated attire. Words like "eco-friendly,” "carbon-neutral," and "gluten-free" are more likely to pop up in descriptions of company processes.
Sure It All Looks Good.
But does any of it make any real difference to the businesses and their employees?
I think a lot of companies miss the point that the buildings and the objects inside them are not the main drivers of business culture, but rather people and their real reasons for being at work. Unless the move to reshape the culture begins at the level of company's DNA, the results will be nothing more than window dressing. And a royal waste of money and time.
So how do you begin the process and manage it in a way that creates a real, organic change and adds value to your business? I think you can simplify it down to these 3 steps:
1. Your Purpose
Why does your business exist? In other words, what is the problem that your business solves? Do you, as a leader in the business, really care about that problem? Or you think it's a good opportunity to make some money?
Apple saw the problem of computers being clunky to use. They really cared about it. HootSuite saw the problem of too much social media information. They care about it. Moz saw the problem of SEO becoming antiquated. When you go to their website, you know they live and breathe Google.
Here's a good litmus test for a purpose that will be a solid foundation for amazing company culture. Ask yourself this: If there was no money to gain by solving that problem, would you still care? If the answer is a yes, you'll find the next step a lot easier.
2. Your People
You can't achieve your mission on your own; you need a team. If your business is organised around a clear solution to a problem, then you need people who love solving problems.
Now, does your team know the company's purpose as well as you do? Do they care?
They might, but just because they're on board with your vision doesn't mean they don't have other priorities. Do you know what they are? And, crucially, do they know that you know? Do they know you care?
In other words, do they know how they can use the business as their platform for creativity, growth, contribution, and financial security?
3. Your Stuff
This, finally, is the stage of looking at the buildings and the objects inside them. Now that you have a clear purpose and people to help you get there, you need tools.
When buying your tools, evaluate them in the context of one thing—your company's purpose. Ask yourself, does this building/device/chair/gluten-free biscuit help us move closer to the solution of our problem? Or not?
An Apple employee stands at the door to the store holding an iPad. Someone gave it to him, and it wasn't because someone decided that the iPad might make this brand look more hip.
No, I think the decision began when someone at Apple noticed a problem in retail. In most shops, a greeting and a "Can I help you?" is nothing more than code for "What can I sell you?". It's polite, it's fake, and everyone knows it.
I think the iPad ended up in this guy's hands because someone at Apple asked, what if employees who said "Can I help you?" actually meant it?
That became the problem they set out to solve. Purpose—check.
Next they needed positive, up-beat problem-solvers with can-do attitudes and a passion for tech. People—check.
And finally, they needed Internet-enabled iPads so these employees could answer your questions and organise your trip around the store in a way that made your life easy. Stuff—check.
The best thing is, when you follow this process you not only create a business which solves cool problems, you end up looking hip in the process, largely because you don't think about whether you look hip or not.
You have bigger games to play.
About the Author
Irene Kotov helps executives get jobs in exciting companies. Through her resume writing services, personal branding campaigns and interview coaching she helps people stand head and shoulders above their competition.
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/89studio