Step 3: Manipulate People
Though "manipulation" is far from being a four-letter word, it certainly has negative connotations. Call it "persuasion" if you want. If it cools your conscience, say that these are "tools of influence." Whatever the terminology, get over it, and get on with it. If you want results, embrace the idea of consciously and deliberately manipulating your coworkers, and learn how to do it well.
Note that the act of doing exerting your influence needn't be negative. Here's a list of ways to do it:
- If you haven't bothered before now, get to know your colleagues. Figure out who's good at what, and why they care about their particular veins of this wacky industry. Seek out the things that make these folks interesting. When your colleagues like you, they're more likely to trust you. And when it comes to winning friends, the best thing you can do is move the spotlight from yourself onto them. People don't care about you; they care about themselves. Don't be interesting, be interested.
- Explain every recommendation you make. What was the problem? Why was it a problem? What's the solution? Why will it help? In doing this, you'll not only earn credibility, you'll educate the other people on your team about design concepts. Over time, they'll start thinking more like designers, and they'll start bringing you better ideas.
- Resist, under all circumstances, the urge to reference yourself as evidence in an argument you're presenting. Your preferences don't matter. Point to data, industry experts, articles and blog posts, best practices, pattern and framework libraries, psychology books. Point to anything that will help your argument. Don't point to yourself. There is no "I" in "argument."
- Share your success stories. Slip them into conversations about other problems. Or during lunch. Or in meetings about new projects. Be proud of what you've achieved. Tell people about it. They'll see that you know what you're doing.
- Give away credit like it's candy. Give credit for your successes to the people who carried out your recommendations. Tell people about the developer who was quick to fix the problem and thorough in testing his code. Talk about the graphic designer who cranked out the stellar artwork for the new solution. Brag about the copywriter who absolutely nailed the interface copy. Tell them how great they are. Tell others how great they are. Sing the praises of the people around you, and they will love you and want to do your bidding.
- Ask "Why?" All the time. About everything. Be curious. When done out of curiosity rather than annoyance, asking why a decision was made, why a feature is being built, why something is being rushed will help other people to think through their own decisions better. Getting these answers will also help you to understand all the thinking that happened before you showed up and decided that an idea was bad. Asking questions and getting answers will make you a better designer and a better teammate.
- Have an informed opinionon why it's a bad idea to initiate a project based on the negative comment of a single person; on the downsides of wireframes and prototypes; on what kind of research is necessary for a given project, and why. Have an opinion. The "expert" is merely the most knowledgeable person in the room. Back up your opinions with knowledge, and you'll quickly gain respect.