People ‘on the ground’ are your best asset

by ts8richardson

Perhaps not directly related to this project but very interesting from a management perspective is this article from the SMH online:

A few key takeaways that are pertinent to my situation at the moment:

  • Value diversity

Michael McQueen argues:

“The minute you look around at your team and everyone is of similar age, of similar background, you’re in trouble. At Daewoo, up until they collapsed, up to 70 per cent of their management team went to the same high school.

“So you’ve got this culture that forms that attracts people who are like what the culture already is. Anyone who comes in with a different mindset is ejected, like a white blood cell.

“Organisations often can’t see themselves and you look from the outside and say ‘you guys are so stuck in the way you do things, nothing has changed in the last three years, and you all look the same’, which is a big telltale sign.”

I can see this in action in my own working experiences. Management who only value people like themselves lose sight of what’s important and can’t see the forest through the trees. Part of the reason I wanted to do Interactive Multimedia Design instead of ‘e-Learning’ or ‘Instructional Design’ even though these are really the types of industries I want to be in, is because I wanted to offer something a little different and unique- to come at the problem from a different angle. I want to do online learning, and I know “learning” very well with my whole work history in “learning”, what I don’t know is the ‘online’ part. Even taking e-Learning subjects in the faculty of education has been a strange experience, the emphasis is very much on learning theory, the teaching modes, the way education happens online, but there is little interest in the interfaces, the affective user experience, design processes, the technologies and the development process. These elements are crucial to the success of an e-Learning project but, in my opinion, the e-Learning industry seems to be flooded with teachers and pedagogues, and not enough technologists so we only get half of the solution.

  • Listen to people on the ground

McQueen says there is no way to accurately predict how many companies may unknowingly have passed their peak and be heading into a period of decline, although it is often staff rather than management who see the first signs.

“Often the managers only look at the skin-layer indicators, like how are we tracking against the budget, what are our KPIs. But on the floor often it’s those staff who know because they talk to customers, and customers are saying ‘you’re overpriced’ or ‘your systems are outdated’, but it’s not filtering to to the top,” he says.

Ways of filtering up information about what is happening at the grass roots to management seems essential to ongoing success. I suppose that is very much the key to the User Centred design process- hearing from users, hearing from the people who are on the ground about what they need is key to continually producing innovative and relevant products. It seems to me that companies and organisations who use a User Centred design process will avoid being lured by the skin-layer indicators and will be more attuned to the indicators that keep you on the cutting edge of the industry.

Colquhoun, S. Is shiny Apple rotting at its core? Sydney Morning Herald, May 22, 2013 accessed at: