September 20, 2017
This blog series introduces mindsets that you can adopt to help you more intuitively evolve your design process to create more impactful work. In this post I’ll share a mindset I used to infuse more self-awareness into my design process. To learn how to bring more research to your design or how to bring more empathy to your design by applying a new mindset, read the previous and next posts in this series.
Mindset: Self-awareness is a practice.
Self-awareness is not a trait that some people just naturally have. It’s a practice that everyone can do and that has the most benefit when done regularly and with intention — like yoga or mindfulness. We all have conscious AND unconscious biases and assumptions that can affect a project. Self-awareness is the practice of actively seeking out our biases and assumptions and then working to balance and challenge them throughout a project. It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time but it does require a committed effort. Here are some steps to guide you through your practice.
- Ask the tough questions. Here are just a few examples of questions you can ask yourself to discover your assumptions and biases: In what ways am I different from our users? Do I have any assumptions about what our users will or won’t do? Do I have any assumptions about what our users like and dislike? Do I have any assumptions about our users’ motivations and goals? Are there any stereotypes that are often applied to our users?
- Do some group therapy. As a group, list out all your collective biases and assumptions. This may be scary, but it will also build trust, respect, and communication within your team. And remember that we all have biases and assumptions and they are not inherently bad, because we all have our own lenses through which we experience the world. Your collective biases list should remain up in your war room so you can actively take biases into consideration throughout the project and balance them as needed. Your assumptions list is a great place to start for user research, so plan how you are going to test those assumptions.
- Practice regularly. Just like research, identifying biases and assumptions shouldn’t just happen in your discovery phase. You should continually be on the lookout for new ones. Take a few minutes to check your thinking regularly throughout the project to identify if you need to challenge your thinking or seek an outside perspective at any point.
Need some additional self-awareness thought starters? I highly recommend taking a look at Airbnb and News Deeply’s Another Lens tool. It is a set of questions they have created to help identify, balance, and challenge biases.