Thomas Lockwood is selected to be a design judge for the Red Dot Product Design Award competition in Essen, Germany. Lockwood will be one of 41 international experts tasked with evaluating over 5,000 products in person this month. An interesting assignment indeed.
Lockwood Resource is retained to fill the positions of Senior Director of Product Management for the industry leader in interior window covering, as well as the Director of Product Management for the connected home experience.
Happy Holidays, and wishing an abundance of peace, love and joy to all.
Lockwood Resource is retained to fill a Director of UX Design position in the Northeast, and to fill an Industrial Design Manager position in the Midwest.
Here is a challenging thought – I’d argue that the greatest obstacle to great design is corporate culture. Therefore, if one understands corporate culture, one could in theory and practice create and deliver much better design.
This is a very powerful concept. Several years ago I began collaborating with Edgar Papke, who is a well respected organization leadership psychologist and expert in OD and corporate culture. Much of this post is referenced from my work with Edgar, and his book True Alignment.
It’s very difficult to change corporate culture, but you can change design and design processes to best align with corporate culture.
What is corporate culture?
In lay person terms, culture is how decisions are made. Culture guides how we behave, how we work with one another, and how we get things done. Culture guides and influences how each member acts and expresses his or her motivations and desires, and defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Therefore, culture drives how we work. In total, these behaviors become cultural norms.
Every company, team and group has a unique culture. So the trick for design and innovation leaders is to recognize this, and align your design team culture to the prevailing corporate culture. Here’s how:
First, recognize that there are three kinds of corporate culture, and their sub-cultures.
1. Expertise-oriented cultures
These companies are about “me”, and rely on individual expertise and competency to get things done. They typically rely on top-down decision making, because the leaders are about “me” too. Also referred to as Achievement-oriented cultures, these stem from our human needs for attention, competency and acceptance. The characteristics of Expertise-oriented cultures include:
- Conceptualize new directions & new concepts
- Leverage expertise and ranking
- Set high standards
- Challenge others & push the limits
- Emphasize what’s possible
- Seek innovation
- Utilize individual incentives
- Push for the optimal solution
- Motivated by competency & control
Some examples of companies with Expertise-oriented cultures include McKinsey, Microsoft, Nike, BMW, GE, P&G, Samsung, Wal-Mart, Ikea and Apple. Imagine, Apply gets away with calling their in-store repair centers a “Genius Bar”; that’s as blatant as it gets at being expertise-oriented. In these companies, individual contributors often have great influence.
If you are presenting design in an Expertise-oriented culture, here’s what you do:
– Leverage individual competency
– Stress how the design is expertise based
– Support outsourced design to experts, and ad-hoc teaming
– Support analytical processes
– Challenge for better and best
– Spur competition amongst design team, or between internal and external
– Reward conceptual thinking
– Leverage status and high achievement
2. Participation-oriented cultures
The Participation-culture orientation is about “we”; it thrives on teams, cross-function work, collaborative problem solving, group decision making, and group involvement in hiring because interpersonal fit is most important. Conflict is often managed collaboratively, and when a leader needs to make a decision or take action, they will typically ask for the teams input. It’s more about the family of the business, and is also referred to as an Inclusion-oriented cultures. The motivation is our human needs for inclusion, importance & significance. The characteristics of these cultures includes:
- Collaborative focus
- Close partnerships
- May have positions of Integrators, Conflict Managers, and Facilitators
- Consensus builders
- Use power of relationships
- Group oriented
- Value working together
Think of companies like Harley-Davidson, Lands’ End and The Walt Disney Company. At Disney, all VP’s are required to work in a customer facing role one day a month. Once I was on a Disney resort and my daughter got sick, so the hotel offered to take us to a doctor. The driver seemed quite knowledgeable, as I asked more questions it turned out the driver was a VP who just chose to be a driver that day; that’s a commitment to participation with customers!
Here’s how to align design in Inclusion-oriented cultures:
– Leverage participation & involvement
– Cross-functional teaming
– Support group processes
– Focus on shared rewards
– Customer focus and partnering
– Reward team accountability & contribution
– Leverage involvement
3. Authenticity-oriented cultures
The Authenticity-oriented culture is all about purpose. These companies are values-driven, caring, purpose-centered and optimistic. It’s about “we care”. What really matters is what the company stands for, and that’s the draw for employment. This orientation links to our human needs to feel accepted, to be caring, our physical wellbeing and our personal actualization. Some of the characteristics include:
- Development of self and others
- Catalyst for possibilities
- Stewards of purpose and values
- Commitment builders
- Helping others succeed and grow
- Appeal to higher-Ideal and vision
- Motivated by admiration and affection
Think of companies like Starbucks, The Body Shop, Celestial Seasonings, Blue Diamond Almonds and Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods, a natural grocery chain, doesn’t have any wayfinding signage regarding the isles. The reason being, when a customer asks for guidance, employees stop what they are doing and personally escort you to the proper isle and location, and even discuss the options with you. It’s not so efficient, but what matters is that the customer is being cared for, and the employees are providing care.
How to align design in Authenticity-oriented cultures:
– Leverage personal and group empowerment & self-actualization
– Reinforce the higher ideal
– Explore the intuitive
– Trust in the organic process
– Emotion and meaning matter
– Focus on openness and trust
– Let people play and be creative
I know designers love being different, me too, but if you can understand corporate culture, you can be more strategic in creating and presenting your design, UX and innovation projects, and be more likely to get them thru the system intact. What better way to realize your creative vision?
What kind of corporate culture do you work in? How are you aligned to culture?Change management, Corporate culture, Design leadership, Design organization, Design-led innovation, Innovation culture, UX culture
Let’s face it, every business must innovate for the future, and innovation requires creativity. Not just creativity, but appropriately focused and managed creativity. But this kind of creativity doesn’t just pop up on demand, and you can’t just click on it; it takes savvy Design, UX and Innovation leaders that know how to nurture and harvest the creativity of individuals, teams and entire organizations.
Which raises an interesting challenge – how does one attract and recruit these savvy creative leaders? The reality is that top creative people are waiting for your email or phone call. But if you approach recruitment like a design challenge, you may improve your results.
We’ve developed and refined a unique recruitment process which yields exceptional results. We’ve combined the principles of user-centered design, service design, and performance-based interviewing to create this approach, and we’ve used it successfully with major companies in the US and Europe to recruit top creative leadership talent. Here’s how it works:
1. Deep knowledge of the design functions
All too many times candidates are approached by generalist recruiters who know very little about design leadership, and nothing is a bigger turn off. To know your target candidate is to know the job function, and to know the job function is to either have been in that role yourself, or to have deep contextual knowledge and empathy of the function. The problem is that unique roles like Design, UX and Innovation leadership are nuanced and difficult to learn; it actually takes one to know one. That’s why we think hiring manages need to lean into recruitment more actively, rather than hoping their HR team will eventually get it. Hiring managers already have the category and tacit knowledge, and should leverage this in sourcing and recruiting, not just in interviewing.
2. Process based on service design methods
The most effective recruitment process is one that accommodates the client journey and the candidate journey. To many times recruiters and hiring managers fail the recognize the importance of the candidate journey, and to many times this leaves a bad experience about the brand. Great recruitment requires a collaboration that builds the employment brand, engages all stakeholders, and creates great experiences.
We recommend rolling out search projects in two general stages; a Research phase and an Insight phase.
3. The Research Phase
The first step of the research phase is to Orient with the hiring manager(s). We’ve developed a Contextual Position Brief to guide our kick off meetings, which helps us frame the position, context and culture – the tangibles and intangibles. Like a good design brief, this tool helps to clarify and set clear expectations, in order to target candidates and present the position most accurately. Review the contextual position brief with the hiring team, and then develop a profile and persona of the ideal candidate. All these tools stem from design management principles, and help get everyone involved in the hiring process on the same page at the outset.
Next, develop a research plan to generate names of sources and prospective candidates. Begin by determining where this ideal candidate may be currently working, and also identify competitors and any off-limits companies. Identify potential candidates and sources by tapping into your database, and consult with your network. Use research methods to generate comprehensive lists of targets; we use tools like Hoovers, Spoke, Zoom, Namz, LinkedIn Recruiter, SourcePoint and advanced Boolean, among others. Review and prioritize the prospect lists with the hiring team.
4. The Insight Phase
Next begin reaching out to potential candidates – goals being to screen as well as pique interest and spread the word. Remember every prospect may not be a candidate, but they may be a source of information. We recommend collaborating with your sources to seek passive candidates, and proactively reach out via phone and online. Emails and LinkedIn InMails have the lowest response rates, so this must be augmented with personal phone calls, which is where the credibility of the recruiter can pay great dividends. Finding, contacting and piquing interest of passive candidates is an art onto itself, and having deep industry experience and an expert reputation is truly a door opener.
In the Discover phase, move from piquing interest and screening and to first-round interviewing. We have developed a variety of unique tools for this phase, including a Litmus Test, Performance-Based interview techniques and even oddball questions, coupled with our direct experience in design, UX and inno leadership work. You’re looking for top performance that matches the position, so ask candidates to explain their two most significant accomplishments in their current job, and the one before that, and before that, and keep asking questions like “Tell me more”. The objective is to learn insights based on actual context, and learn enough to either cut prospects, or move them to another conversation.
Continue the interview process repeatedly through the Synthesize phase, in order to present a shortlist of the most qualified and interested candidates that meet the profile, persona, functional requirements, performance objectives and cultural fit, and are a good career move for the candidate. Selecting from a shortlist of a vetted, qualified and interested candidates reduces risk and helps ensure more efficient and successful hiring.
5. Start slow, then finish fast
Just like creating a great design brief, it always pays to start slow so that you can finish fast. And as with every thoughtful research project, this process takes time and resources. We target 45 days from the start of a search to delivering the first set of vetted, qualified and interested finalist candidates, and 15 more days to deliver a second shortlist of finalist candidates. Project completion depends on the clients speed in interviewing, decision making and closing the candidate.
And remember, top candidates are fluid, things are always changing, and they may or may not be as interested in your position in the future. So be prepared to act fast when you know you have the right person. We’ve seen some great candidates slip away because clients did not make timely decisions. But as they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.
Recruiting the best creative talent is challenging indeed. It requires a unique blend of insight, functional knowledge, empathy, smart tools, savvy assessments and hard work. Design, UX and Innovation is hot, no doubt, and there are a lot of posers out there – this approach may help you recruit the very best.Creative assessment, Creative interviews, Design leadership, Design recruiting, Innovation recruiting, Sourcing, UX recruiting
Thomas Lockwood will run his workshop “Building Great Design Organizations” for DMI, the non-profit Design Management Institute, on November 1-2 in New York City. Registration and more info here via DMI.org
Fast Company recently asked me – What makes a great UX design leader? Here is my response –
Seven key traits the best UX design leaders share.
The job market for user experience designers is booming, and academic programs at companies like Google have sprung up to meet demand. Missing from most discussions about the UX design education gap is the need for great UX design leaders. These are senior-level managers who not only understand the nuts and bolts of UX work—making things usable—but do everything in their power to help organizations, and the talent they nurture, embody a UX ethos. Here are seven key qualities the best UX design leaders share:
1. They are masters of process
UX is about making new experiences, services, and products. This requires process discipline (coupled with creativity). UX leaders can adapt to any kind of process—Agile, Sprint, Waterfall, Stage-Gate, Scrum, ISO, company-based, you name it. The best UX leaders make things happen regardless of what process they’re using.
2. They are great leaders of people
User experience involves many people, and UX leaders know how to assemble cross-functional teams, guide and inspire them, and create synergy. Great UX leaders are great people leaders—they ask more then they tell, laugh more than they criticize, have tons of empathy, and yet are straightforward in their critique and remain focused on the task at hand.
3. Front stage and backstage
Great UX leaders coordinate both front- and back-end platforms—the user-facing experience and the tech beneath it. If you don’t understand the tech, you can’t help create the best user experience.
4. They draw connections others may not see
UX leaders are connectors. They connect technology to new services and products; different functions within a company; and the company to its customers and followers. A great UX leader helps connect the company to all its stakeholders, internal and external. After all, every company touch point is an experience, and the best UX design leaders help orchestrate the best experiences.
5. They create relevance
UX leaders bring meaning to experiences and, in doing so, to the brand itself. They ask: How do the apps work? How does the customer journey progress? How does the mobile experience integrate? How well do the services perform? How does the user respond? UX is about creating relevance.
6. They are cheerleaders of usability
Great UX design leaders advocate tirelessly for usability. It might sound obvious, but it goes beyond simply making the case for a streamlined app. It’s about embedding good user experiences into every aspect of the business, from consumer-facing products to the hiring process itself.
7. They’re relentlessly focused on tomorrow
UX leaders create the future. They help take a company, and its customers, to new places, whether through apps, services, or something else entirely. Great UX design leaders help lead a company to its preferred future state.
For tips on recruiting great UX leaders, go here.
Design leadership, Design recruiting, Design-led innovation, Innovation culture, User experience, UX, UX leadership, UX recruiting
Lockwood Resource is retained to fill several Senior Industrial Designer positions for a leading consumer hard goods manufacturer in the US.
Thomas Lockwood writes about “The Anatomy of a Great UX Design Leader” for Fast Company Design.
Lockwood Resource provides design organization strategy consulting for an innovative technology start up.