Thursday, March 17, 2005

In Your Wildest Dreams...

Imagination is central to UXCentricity. Unfortunately, imaginative thinking is not a top priority in corporate America.

That's why one of the first questions I ask a project team is, "In your wildest dreams, with nothing to hold you back—budget, resources, time, even technology—what would you like this Web site to be?"

There is usually a moment or two of silence. I like to think that it's caused by a switch from left-brain to right-brain thinking, from biz-think to dream-think. Because Web teams consist of highly imaginative people, I know the pause isn't due to a lack of ability. It's due to the lack of on-the-job opportunities to dream big, to dream WOW! as Tom Peters might say.

The first response is usually pretty conservative, carefully couched to sound somewhat realistic. But that's all it takes to start the momentum. In minutes, wild-eyed proposals fly all over the room. People enthusiastically talk at the same time. New ideas spark more discussion. I type or write furiously, trying to get it all down while the fire is hot.

Before the flame flickers, I ask follow-ups that shift attention to the user: "In your users' wildest dreams, what would this site be like?" and "Tell me a story about how people will use this site." Both tap into the human need and ability to create narratives and spin tales—adding more fuel for the team's imagination.

This process begins with the team's dreams and ends with their perceptions of the users' dreams. By freeing the team's imagination, I help them "connect" with their users at the start of the project. More often than not, the conversation has profound impact on the future site. That's UXCentricity.

It takes only a simple question to remove the corporate cork from the imagination genie's bottle.

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