- Feb 8, 2011
Step 4: Become an Influencer
The effect of all this manipulation is that you'll soon be in a position to fight the bigger fights, to duke it out with the tough problems. When that happens, stick to the strategy. Do your research, justify everything you recommend, give away credit, and track your results. As you do this, start asking to be included in the concept meetings for projects. You can't ask "Why?" as much as you soon will be doing without eventually tripping over the real beating heart of your work: vision and strategy.
If your company is like most, it has no vision and there is no strategy. Products are merely the sum of a-million-and-one haphazard decisions made on the fly. Success is an accident.
Your job is to work your way into the office with the golden door, so you can influence the decision makers. Influence the direction of a product in the first place, before it becomes a jumbled mess of bad design decisions. Solve the problem before it happens.
When I first started working at that scrappy web company, one developer in particular was a nightmare. Almost weekly, he made product decisions as part of his development work that had a negative impact on that product. Put simply, he was the guy making the user's experience bad.
Over time, doing everything I have recommended doing here, this man, who would bring me colossally bad ideas and spend whole afternoons arguing with me when I questioned them, began to do something amazing. He began bringing me good ideas. By the time I left the company, in fact, we had fallen into a routine. When he faced a user-interface issue, he would first think it through on his own or with his team, and then he would come to my desk and sketch his proposed solution on my whiteboard. I would make a few tweaks and explain why I was making them, and in just a few minutes, we'd be done. Afternoons of treachery became moments of simple design happiness. The worst anti-designer in the building became the easiest developer to deal with, and the one most willing and inspired to do great work.
Call it what you want. Manipulation is essential.