Bob Ricca

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Surround Yourself With Happy People

Some insights I've gained from the UX community during IA Summit 2014.

After trying my best to soak up as much information as possible from IA Summit 2014, I'm both excited and motivated to come home and share all of the insights and wisdom I've gained from the UX community.

If you've never been to a UX conference, I highly recommend paying this group of people a visit. The fact that I've accidentally eaten meals with a variety of speakers from a variety of backgrounds speaks volumes to the plethora of informative presentations, workshops, and hallway conversations one can have by weeks end. It's incredibly humbling.

As I straddle the thin line between being part of the product team and the UX team within AWeber it makes me realize that I'm not alone. We all have similar problems, none of us are rockstars, and we all share a passion for making things better.

One of the many things that really hit home with me was the Advanced Presentation Skills workshop from Dan Willis (@uxcrank) and Jared Spool(@jmspool).

I could listen to these guys talk for hours. About anything.

More specifically, I really enjoyed hearing about their experiences facilitating different groups. The way they dissected different situations and dove into the analysis behind why something did or didn't work was just so... damn... interesting. If ever in my lifetime I can process information that clearly... that succinctly... I think I'd be the happiest guy on the planet.

I've always known the power behind group exercises, but now I know how to articulate their advantages.

Group exercises are...

  • rarely about the outcome
  • powerful equalizers of information
  • help convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge
  • bring real problems and pain points to light
  • a lesson in self discovery for all involved (including the most seasoned facilitator)

Around 5 years ago I sought out to buy my first house. Time and time again we would visit property after property. Some houses met my criteria, they had a nice sized yard and an open floor plan, but ultimately were too expensive. Others looked rough, had a smaller yard and were in the lower end of my price range.

It took many visits to a great variety of properties until I realized what was happening. It was never about the properties, it was about my journey. Within my budget, I was unconsciously balancing my expectations and discovering what truly fits me. It could have very well been that the first house I came across was exactly what I needed... but I wasn't ready. I was unable to comprehend that information that that specific point in time.

I find the psychological traits behind buying a house to be something similar to what UX people encounter on a day to day basis. And furthermore, our clients are right along side us.

I once read a brilliant article about the phases of learning.

It goes something along the line of:

  • I come to the realization I need to learn about X
  • I start learning about X
  • I become an expert in X
  • I realize that X is really part of a greater thing called Y
  • Insecurity sets in... "Oh my god, these people will know I'm a fraud"...
  • Repeat the process

New information literally changes the equation and such is life. During the numerous hallway discussions during the conference the overarching theme seemed to be adapting to change. How can I reassure myself I'm on the right path? We all share the same fears and frustrations... and we're all just trying to get it right. For this very reason, that hunger, life is challenging. It's both refreshing and fun.

The Happiness Project

In the spirit of self learning, I wanted to put myself in a position that very few people are confident.

I wanted to make myself vulnerable, share some of the skills I've developed over the years, and try my hardest to positively impact others' lives.

So, I took a blue sharpie, a piece of paper, and I made a sign.

The Happiness Project - San Diego by Bob Ricca

I had a single set of criteria when walking the strip of San Diego that afternoon:

If you were smiling, laughing, or enjoying the beautiful afternoon... you were happy.

It's amazing how much you can brighten someones day when you walk up to a couple and say "Excuse me, you guys look incredibly happy. Would you mind if I took your picture holding my sign?"

So if I can contribute anything to the people of this conference, my fellow colleagues, or anyone with an open mind... surround yourself with happy people.

All the rest is trivial.

A big thank you to IA Summit and San Diego for having me, and an even bigger thank you to AWeber for sending me!

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