Get Out of Your Lane to Improve the Experience
A few weeks ago the Think Better team headed to Denver to attend the Digital Summit. As Andrea mentioned in her previous post, it’s refreshing to get out of the normal routine and bounce ideas around with other marketers. I believe we humans are shaped by our experiences… so we MUST get out there and do things outside of our routines!
Learning from others catapults creativity and inspires innovation. Sure, you can learn by reading a book or googling answers, but there’s so much more to be gained by interacting with others. Major companies have started pouring resources into diversifying their workplaces, hiring people of all races, genders, and walks of life. They find that diversification adds a spark that can’t be created artificially. But it’s not always about diversifying by culture and race, it’s inspiring to collaborate with people who have different specializations and interests.
Since you never know where inspiration will come from, I like to vary the topics of the sessions that I attend at the conference like the Digital Summit. I went to sessions that sparked a few new ideas for creative email campaigns, I got tips on how we can expand our reach with LinkedIn campaigns, and was inspired by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.
For one of my last sessions of the conference, I attended “UX Meets MBA: A Designer Goes to Business School.” Coming from the creative field of television production and then going back to get an MBA myself, this subject intrigued me. Plus, at Think Better we’re always analyzing the online user experience for our clients so it’s refreshing to hear about what other brands are doing.
The session was lead by McLean Donnelly, founder of The Makery Group, a design agency in Minneapolis. Donnelly was previously the Vice President of User Experience for Shutterstock and prior to that, he worked as a lead designer for Expedia. No doubt, he’s worked for some highly visible brands with extraordinary traffic.
Donnelly worked his way up to the VP level and started attending board meetings and other C-suite level meetings. As the creative in the room, he noticed a huge disconnect. Others were using business jargon and discussing topics that he didn’t always understand. He couldn’t even make up a meaning for words like EBITDA. The weighted average cost of capital? No idea. Free cash flow? It’s not as fun as it sounds.
The lack of fundamental business operation knowledge possessed by those in creative positions was evident to Donnelly. The language of business is based in finance, and designers don’t typically speak that language. And with a lack of mutual understanding, businesses can start to think of designers as a cost instead of an asset. Donnelly decided he wanted to change this and turn designers into a creative and strategic asset for organizations. To do that, he went back to school.
After three years of working full time, going to school, and eating his fair share of pizza, Donnelly earned his MBA. The dynamics started to shift. Finance started to take notice that the design guy could talk the talk and walk the walk. Donnelly made an effort to dive deeper into business problems and solve them with design.
Bribing accountants with burritos to walk him through their cost sheets, Donnelly noticed that Expedia was losing money when support calls lasted longer than six minutes. He then talked to the support team; what type of calls were they getting? By poking around in different departments, and putting the pieces together, Donnelly discovered that Expedia customers didn't have the information that they needed which caused more support calls and a loss in profit. Using his savvy design skills and new-found business know-how, Donnelly whipped up a jaw-dropping prototype and backed it with an ROI calculator. With a design-led solution, he could save the company $2.5M. How could they say no?
The main message I took from this presentation is to work outside your lane. Connect with people that you don’t normally work with and learn about their experience with the company. This is how you build great dynamic experiences for both you and your customers. Plus, it’s more fun and leads to a more interesting cross-functional culture that has the potential to propel your business to heights you didn’t think were possible.