The Laziness of Hubris

It’s pretty arrogant to use the word hubris in the first place, no? Has a sort of smug feeling about it. Which is what I want to talk about. Last week I fell in love with the idea of developing features to support a fail forward mentality – normalizing failure while also embracing failure as a necessary condition for growth. I wanted to lean into the program values of autonomy and one of the key tenets of this school – to make inferences and trust your intuition.

I put together a pretty off the mark presentation that painted a grim portrait of my client, Under Armour, to help me get to my point that a failing company (Shares plummet! Shit happens!) should take up the mantle of present circumstances and embody a fail forward mentality from the inside out. The deck was, rightly, called out for being a brand strategy brief rather than a design strategy brief. Why was it hard to stick to the task and tackle the specific charge – to create viable concepts that help a user visualize progress towards their goals. Where were my missteps?

Day after presentation I’m in the back room at work – washing dishes, doing prep work, and listening to Liv Boeree talk about Analytics and Intuition on JGL’s podcast on creativity. A professional poker player, she talked about intuition being a mostly unconscious process best suited for those components that can’t be broken down into smaller, constituent parts. And for situations where we have tons and tons of experience – decisions we’ve made many times.

Misstep #1: I’m not an experienced designer! I got no skin in the game to say a company is having an identity crisis. I think intuition is useful, in an early stage, to identify what piques my interest within a problem space but it’s not a credible foundation to design from. This for me serves as an example of why it’s imperative to think and work collaboratively, and reminds me why it’s important to talk with the people you’re designing for.

Speaking about the impulse to ‘go with your gut’, Boeree spoke about how “People tend to do that because people don’t want to do the hard work of looking at the data and doing a cost-benefit analysis.” Hmmm… calling my bluff. Misstep #2: I got lazy.

So, I’m fixing the project brief to more accurately tackle the task at hand – narrowing back into the problem itself and asking more questions. Why is it helpful to visualize progress? What are some well-executed examples of this? Why is it difficult to have empathy for our future selves? How can we make data meaningful? What needs to be measured, codified, arranged, displayed to sustain people’s momentum?How do we help people stay engaged, curious, motivated to achieve their health and fitness goals?

Lastly – to counter my impulse to kick back-relax, Boeree advises checking yourself with this question: Am I shrugging my shoulders and going with my gut because genuinely there is no data out there to use or am I actually just being lazy?