DesignRightListenWrong

Stuck in my head: Design like you’re right. Listen like you’re wrong

Rian told me this John Lilly quote to me a while ago, and at the time it sounded rather cute and I think I chortled at it’s clever brevity. But over the years I seem to keep coming back to it. It’s suck in my head and even though it seems too simple, it means so much.

Firstly, design like you are right: I have met many designers far better than I am who find it hard to stand up for what their opinion. I fear that we as designers often try and be humble with what we do, but in the wrong places. When thinking about an idea, we should not be too critical just yet, we need to run with it as see where it can lead. When we finally have something that is a little interesting, we need to believe in it. I fear to say it, but we need to be a little arrogant with the explanation of the idea. If we can’t present it with zest it’s already lost effect and impact. One of the techniques that I learnt when I was a magician was that for a trick to amazing, I had to believe with all my heart that it was magic. Obviously I knew where the coin was, but I made myself believe it had truly vanished. This is the same when presenting an idea. You need to believe it’s possible… more than possible, it’s the best idea yet! This will allow the group to acknowledge it and think about it, even if it’s bat-shit crazy.

Secondly, listen like you are wrong. Once you have presented your idea, you need to shift into a state of mind where your idea could be better. This is where you listen. All the rules from good workshop thinking are in play here. Allow each group member the time to explain, perceive the value in the critique even if it’s difficult, and add on to what they have to say a by using “yes and…” (and not “no but…”).

Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between these two. You don’t want to come off arrogant on one site, or with no confidence in you work on the other.

The thing that has helped me a lot with this, is being ok with being wrong. As soon as I’m ok with presenting an idea that I know is not perfect, and I know that the room is ok with it not perfect, I am able to present it without worry or fear. I am able to play the role of Steve Jobs presenting the best product yet. Yes, it takes a lot of self confidence to be ok with being wrong, but knowing that it’s ok to be wrong will also boost your confidence in turn.

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Thoughts?