Emotional intelligence, a people-first approach and design thinking have become core to innovation and a successful, sustainable business. In fact, today's most successful brands have become so because they've figured out that a deep understanding of their customers is quintessential to problem solving --and we know innovation often resides just on the other side of solving a problem.
The challenge is building an organization in which every player on the team understands how all of the elements --emotional intelligence, customer knowledge, and design thinking -- work congruently to support transformation and innovation. Complete buy-in from the entire organization along with a focus on building design-thinking and people skills is imperative.
Luckily, there are a number of resources to inspire a people-first approach to design and innovation. The following are eight recommended readings, ranging from tactical to thought-provoking-- from key people on our team who head up design, customer experience and development.
On design thinking: Picks by Mike West, Director of Design
One of my all-time favorites is "Hitmakers: The Science of Popularity in a Distracted World" by Derek Thompson. It's about the psychology of what people like and don't like and the why behind it.
It's more of an abstract rather than tactical book about design, however, it touches several key areas all designers and problem solvers should be thinking about. Some include the reality of "going viral," balancing fluency and disfluency, and stories about the iconic designer Raymond Loewy and his MAYA (Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable) principle.
Though it was created decades ago, this principle, which seeks to give users the most advanced design, but not more advanced than they've been conditioned to accepting as the norm, is highly relevant today. After all, we design for people and, at the end of the day, if they consider a solution to be too far of a departure from what they're ready to accept or embrace, then even the most innovative design will fail to get off the ground.
On customer experience: Picks by Terri O'Shaughnessy, Director of Client Success
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a key component when it comes to developing the customer experience. While EQ can be a more challenging skill to adopt, one book I've found to be helpful is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." This is a great classic read in general --we can all stand to become a little more emotionally intelligent across all areas of life.
A more tactical read, and a book I've turned to frequently is, "The User's Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love" by Donna Lichaw. It maps out how to walk through the customer journey and leaves no stone unturned. You learn how to look at every touchpoint the customer experiences through their lens--and realize there's a lot under the hood you may be missing.
For the research side of customer experience, there are three books I recommend:
- "Measuring the User Experience: Presenting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics" by Tom Tullis
- "Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests" by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell
- " Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability " by Steve Krug
Each of these books offers something different, but together cover all aspects of user experience from how to derive meaning from the data you unearth through the use of new technologies, to writing online surveys and which metrics to leverage (behavioral, physiological, emotional, aesthetic, etc.), to testing and designing for product usability. Great reads whether you're just getting into the world of customer experience or need a refresher course.
On software development: Picks by Scott Williams, Director of Software Development
A common recommendation is "The Mythical Man-Month" by Fred Brooks. I see a lot of companies fall into the traps outlined in this classic, which is why it's worth a read.
It was first published in 1975, and has since been republished with updates and new chapters --but the core of it is still relevant to software and product development today. The book primarily focuses on the human elements of software engineering and "Brook's law," which points out that adding more people to a late project only makes it later. (Personally, I recommend giving two copies to executives so they can read it twice as fast.)
Another favorite read is "Production-Ready Microservices" by Susan Fowler who standardized thousands of microservices at Uber. I like this book because it outlines how to design microservices that are stable, reliable, scalable, documented, and prepared to weather any challenge.
While the primary audience is software engineers and site reliability engineers, the principles are relevant to applications, services and teams of all shapes and sizes. As a company grows, the patterns and practices outlined in here begin to matter even more.