By Diego Vergara
“But I’m not ready yet!” Many of us say this phrase way too many times.
Growing up, I was forced to take risks, and became comfortable putting myself on the spot, especially when it came to selling things. As a little kid, I would break the ice with older women by complimenting their jewelry, so I could sell them Avon products. Sometimes I would get nasty responses, but many more times, I got sales. On the weekends, I would host garage sales, and every now and then, I would have to haggle with a customer. I would turn red in the face and feel my heart race, as I made my argument for a higher price. But I just did it.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I am in Pomona College taking a human-centered design class. The days of selling Avon products and hosting weekend garage sales are over, but for some reason, there is more hesitation to “just doing it.” I am sitting in a building full of cool gadgets to help students be creative, and I’m learning about an approach to solving problems. So far in this class, I have been able to empathize with people I have never interacted with before. From listening to an elderly woman about her experience being the first female pastor in San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic, to empathizing with underclassmen trying to break into their first finance internship. Now I am working on an entirely different project. It reminds me of a garage sale. I only have a moment to read the person interested in buying an old broom, and on the spot, tailor the sales pitch to convince the customer that this old broom will make their life better.
The class has made a 180-degree turn. With a team of five, we are tasked with redesigning Oldenborg, a building dedicated to language learning. The Oldenborg leadership and board of trustees are closely looking at our work because once the building is redesigned, they are willing to spend millions of dollars to make a better Oldenborg. Several weeks go by. We have conducted several interviews. We have a huge board full of post-its with user points of view, insights, and needs written all over them. At this point, our minds are like a messy room. We have all these golden nuggets, but they are spread out in our brains like clutter. Nevertheless, we all have this hesitation to just do it.
Then, one day in class, our professor tells us to take out our phones and some post-its and make a video of our solution. I know that my peers are not going to give me nasty responses like the older women I would sell Avon to, and I doubt my professor is going to haggle with me like a garage sale customer. But still, my gut reaction is:
“But we are not ready!” I don’t know if the reason behind this phrase is fear of putting ourselves out there, but once our choice to delay action was taken away, we just did it. Surprisingly, our video was not half bad. More importantly, it got us going. That was not our final solution, but it was a foundation we iterated on until we finally found something that solved the problem.
Many people think that being creative is solving problems, but if there is one thing I have learned in our human-centered design class, it is that being creative is more about identifying the right problem. Students going into consulting, finance, or entrepreneurship will be tasked with solving a problem that is not really the problem.
We need to be agile by conducting interviews and developing empathy with the user quickly. Then we just need to “do it.” Pick the best idea at the time, prototype it, and test it. Most likely it won’t be the best idea, but it will provide an opportunity to see if even the right problem is being solved. Most likely it will not be, but the feedback received will point closer to the right direction to take. Then we synthesize the prototype feedback into a more thoughtful empathy, interview more people, and again, just do it.
Remember: Having amazing insights into the user isn’t enough, if you don’t act on them soon. Acting on those insights quickly is key, before all those ideas become clutter, impeding progress.
It’s time to “just do it.”