Our Guest Today: Bob Goodman
I met Bob Goodman at Arnold Worldwide, where he served as the SVP, Director of User Experience. I had the pleasure of working with Bob on a few projects which allowed me to witness his stellar facilitation skills and User Experience (UX) approach first-hand. When working with Bob, I always wished I carried a recorder so I could capture his speech and thinking processes, which allowed him to tackle difficult situations completely at ease. I also admire his leadership and management philosophy. Bob always had others’ best interest in mind without insisting on his own ideas and methodologies, and he is never too quick to jump to conclusions.
In This 40-Minute Interview, You Will Find Out:
- What is UX (User Experience)?
- What has contributed to the rapid growth of UX and why UX has been recognized as a critical discipline across multiple industries (advertising, software, etc.)?
- How can one fresh out of school start or consider UX as a career path?
- What are the common challenges associated with UX? How does Bob advise you to tackle them strategically and emotionally?
- How has UX been integrated in advertising agencies and the types of activities and opportunities associated with the domain?
In October 2014, Bob became an Experience Design / Creative Director at Mullen after working as a UX practitioner for over 15 years.
Bob enjoys thinking about users, consumers and how they might interact with a service or a platform. UX focuses on the idea of a brand narrative and how it engages users with the goal of being useful and helpful.
What exactly is UX? Bob defines UX as “an approach to design, technology and people that tries to make things useful, usable and engaging”. UX is a practice that goes back to late 60’s and 70’s known as part of “human computer interaction (HCI)” before becoming a more mainstream profession known today as UX.
UX can be a confusing term – it’s not graphic design, or computer programming. By definition and design, UX is a hybrid discipline. As agencies expand their missions, UX goes beyond traditional storytelling, or television campaigns.
UX is about letting users contribute in a two-way conversation.
Today, users are their own media channels.:
“I” (the brand) have to earn “your” (the user’s) networks: it’s up to you and I have to earn your decision to advocate something for me.
On to the career questions: how can someone fresh out of school get into UX considering both the demand and confusion about this discipline?
Bob thinks of Information Architecture (IA) as the core of UX: how are parts of the experience categorized, visualized, at what level of depth? How do you direct users to navigate the space? How does all the components come together cohesively? There are some of the “UX deliverables” I look for in a portfolio – in our terms they are often referred to as schematics, flow diagrams, etc.
The attributes and qualities desirable in a UX professional go far beyond the hard skills and a list of deliverables. Bob elaborates on his vision as UX/Creative leader and why he hires people from all walks of life that make a good UX team.
“Often times, UX hires are thrown into semi-defined or completely undefined problems and asked quickly solve them, such as a straw-man deliverable that helps frame the conversation. A good UX person needs to be excited about this domain and be constantly learning, courageously“.
Bob’s leadership and management skills are another area I wanted to explore. I witnessed his presence in front of a team of UX designers I worked closely with and I feel inspired to become a manager like him one day. Bob never insists on himself and he cares about his team deeply. Furthermore, Bob does not overly protect or isolate his team. Instead, he welcomes, educates and encourages people from other domains to think about things from a UX perspective.
Empathy and patience are the qualities I remembered the most about Bob. He not only offers them to his team, internal employees, users but also clients. I witnessed Bob conducting UX 101 to clients who had no experience in UX and struggled to understand how it works. As a result, the client felt gratified and was able to instantly relate to Bob. The rest of the conversation and project flowed like magic.
But why would Bob care this much that eventually led to the success of communication with the client? Bob says that:
“Everyone is a user – internal employees, vendors, clients, customers. There’s a meta-level of UX: making it a good experience for everyone involved. This is not an easy thing to do with different point of views, languages in the room but you have to try, fail and learn.”
What are some of the common challenges associated with UX? Bob replied with “Big UX vs. Design Thinking” – an unframed opportunity comes into a framed opportunity, or vice versa. The solution is almost never obvious and the process can change frequently (one size does not fit all!) You have to remain open-minded.
“Divergent thinking” is part of the UX process, practice and it can make people nervous. Some people think of this approach as “messy, cluttered, bottomless, time pressure” with with proper facilitation from a UX person who’s flexible and pragmatic, this type of conflict and uncertainly can be resolved.
Compared to Big UX and Design Thinking, there can also be “Smaller UX” involved where UX is pulled in as expert once a solution has already been framed. UX is introduced to fill in the gap or to polish the output.
A recent project Bob worked on at Mullen is called WunderBar: an initiative that enables agency experts to connect with startups by providing a maker space and help from in-house experts.
Before we closed the interview, I asked Bob about his upbringing and personal stories that shaped him into who he is today. For the first time, I found out that Bob is a musician, a piano player who loves improvisation and jazz. Bob is a strong believe in “exploring through making as well as making through exploring”. Creative writing is another area of interest for Bob, who had experience in public speaking and newspaper reporting.
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Show Notes (Times Are Approximate):
- What is Bob up to these days? [3:00]
- What is UX in the context of an advertising agency? [5:00]
- What triggered UX to becomes its own practice? [8:00]
- How can someone fresh out of school get into UX? [12:00]
- Bob helps articulate his vision as UX/Creative leader and why he hires people from all walks of life? [16:00]
- A share vision and collective ownership of a team [21:00]
- Empathy toward users and clients [24:00]
- What are the common challenges associated with UX? [28:00]
- How does Bob prefer to “kickoff” his projects? [32:30]
- Bob’s upbringing and what shaped him into who he is today? [37:00]
- WorkBar at Mullen – a maker space that connects the agency with the startup world? [41:30]
UX People (Bob’s Recommendation):
UX Resources (Bob’s Recommendation):
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Welcome to the FES world podcast, engaging conversations that crossed the boundaries between business, art, and the digital world.
Fei Wu 0:18
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is Faye Wu, your host for the face world podcast. Welcome to episode number 19. If you’re new to my podcast, welcome, and hope you subscribe and stay in touch today. Face world podcast is a platform where I ignite unsung heroes from every day and every walk of life. I hope they inspire you in a way that’s relatable, so that you could do it to myself included. Yes, it means that you can also start a podcast today. Good news is that I will be starting a new chapter on face world.com where I share my process of starting and sustaining a podcast and some of the products I use as well. I welcome you to listen in. Submit your feedback and let me know the types of questions podcast guests you’d like to hear from next. My guest today is Bob Goodman. We met at Arnold worldwide in Boston, where he served as the SVP director of user experience. I had the pleasure to work with Bob on a few projects, I witnessed his stellar facilitation skills and user experience approach to various business challenges. Inviting Bob to my show was triggered by a constant thought in my mind when working with him, I always wish to carry recorder so I could capture his speech and thinking process for tackling difficult situations completely at ease. I also admire his leadership and management philosophy. Bob always had other’s best interests in mind without insisting on his own ideas and methodologies. And he’s never too quick to jump to conclusions. In this 40 minute interview, you will find out about what is UX where user experience what has contributed to the rapid growth of UX. And why UX has been recognized as a critical discipline across multiple industries, such as advertising, software development, product companies, how can one fresh out of school start or even consider UX as a career path? What are the common challenges associated with UX, and how Bob advises you to tackle them strategically, and emotionally? How is UX being integrated in advertising agencies and the type of activities and opportunities associated with the domain. If you’re listening to this episode on your iPhone or Android phones, make sure to pay a visit to my website that is phase world.com FEISWO rld, where you can find show notes, other tools and resources. Thank you so much for being my audience. Without further ado, please welcome Bob Goodman.
Prior to starting this conversation, I’ve given our audience a very brief intro of who you are sort of painting a 360 picture of you in 32nd or, or minute, do you mind providing an update of you know where you are now and what you were really excited about?
Bob Goodman 3:32
Sure. So I am experienced design slash Creative Director here at Mullen, which is a new role that I just started really excited about it. But in general, I’ve been doing user experience design as a practitioner, and or as a kind of manager, director, really, both in tandem for many years, but about about 15 years, kind of in the UX industry, if you want to call it that. Yeah. And I really enjoy thinking about kind of users and consumers and how they might come at a product or service or platform. Also, branding, in terms of how the idea of a brand and its narrative actually interacts with end users, and how I can be kind of most relevant and useful to them. And I’ve done this kind of work as a consultant and also at with startups. And I was at Microsoft for a while and then also at different advertising agencies who were thinking about working hard on digital, digital experience and digital offerings.
Fei Wu 4:59
So for you Part of my audience who might not be as familiar with UX, user experience design with the role it plays in an agency setting? How would you explain that? I find that to be challenging a lot of the times, but I think many of us are overthinking the definition.
Bob Goodman 5:16
Definitely. So, I guess, first of all, I guess the way I think of user experience design is an approach to kind of design technology and people that tries to make things useful, usable, and engaging. Those are some of the qualities, sometimes people swap a different word for the word engaging, like delightful, for compelling, can choose your own adjectives. And I think of it as a practice that goes back to late 60s, early 70s, kind of a commercial perspective on what sometimes called human computer interaction, and ideas that were kicking around, really at the dawn of personal computing, especially in the West Coast at places like Xerox PARC. But I think it really took hold as a more sort of mainstream profession, you know, with really like the explosion of mobile and smartphones. And so it’s kind of confusing discipline, because people think, think it’s maybe graphic design. And it’s really starts more with, to my mind with architecture, like blueprints and flows and mapping user understanding and business strategy into that. So people think it’s my thing is graphic design, or they may think it’s development, like programming. And it really isn’t. That’s really, to my mind, yeah, best left two people that are like experts in that. Or people think that. Yeah, or that people think that it’s just like web design. And or people think is just researchers, it’s just strategies. There’s, it’s tough, because it’s a kind of its own hybrid discipline, and it’s kind of young itself as well. And then we take it into ad agencies to get back to your initial question. You know, it’s a challenge of the practice, because at ad agencies, it means something also maybe a little different. Because generally, the kind of design considerations and aesthetics and kind of quality and tone of voice these are thought of as kind of purely part of a creative practice within an ad agency. But I think what’s happened as agencies really expanded their mission and their remain with they’re asked to do by their clients, it kind of goes beyond, let’s say, traditional storytelling telling or beyond, you know, television campaigns or by beyond campaigns in general. And it starts to just say, how we like engaging consumers, in a way it’s really relevant to them and lets them contribute in a two way conversation.
Fei Wu 8:10
It’s an area we think about that. It’s been around for many, many years, as you mentioned, it’s a concept is already been there in the 60s and 70s, possibly earlier. And then I remember the agency I was with at a time in Oh, eight or 2010. It has become, you know, an official domain. And there was an announcement about it, there’s hiring associated with it. What do you think is the trigger for really explicitly calling it UX or user experience design? And now they’re even CFO chief? He’s your experience officer involved?
Bob Goodman 8:45
Yeah, and there can be a lot of a lot of clutter and confusion too, like the terms and the kind of tags and like, overlap. So I guess I think the reason that, that agencies, why they are excited about it, or why it’s useful. I mean, I think, in part before that we saw, you know, Silicon Valley, really embracing this and started really embracing this. So the technology firms really like innovating through UX design. And certainly I think, you know, people think of Apple as a place that is sort of passionate about the end experience, however they get there and whatever the roles are. And so I think that also the what feels like the the complexity of technology, and it’s a, you know, pervasiveness and ubiquity kind of sparked conversations about, you know, the new demands to be really useful and have the best impact for clients. I think that, you know, brought agencies to really think about this. And I think also just kind of Success Stories, it really can be like a really great bridging discipline that like unlocks, you know, the investment and equity that like agencies already have. And, you know, our partners, you know, want, you know, user experience design or customer experience design, or they want like holistic thinking run to bear on their challenges. And in many cases, you know, they’re trying to have that in house, but also getting get to that kind of like service or approach from their, you know, from their agencies. I guess another thing is just attention, like, it’s an attention economy. And people’s attentions are, you know, on their applications and on their phones. And so, and it’s not necessarily always that easy to simply kind of buy their attention. So you have to kind of earn their attention by understanding them and designing things that are useful. So that creates a new kind of set of challenges. If I don’t, if I haven’t, kind of like, you know, paid to receive your attention for a fixed time, via like a, you know, via an ad unit, then I really have to understand what would what you just choose of your own freewill to interact with and stick with in some way. And then users are also their own media channels, right? Like their, their media, if you have a network of two dozen friends, choosing what you’re going to share and how you’re going to share it, it’s up to you. And so I kind of have to earn your decision to like, share, advocate something as well.
Fei Wu 11:30
One of the themes, I realized that one of the discoveries I have with my podcast is sharing certain set of information and also discover to your point through my social networks, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter to find out what people are really interested in hearing. So instead of leaving one of the questions towards the end, I think you’re one of my favorite people to answer this question is UX really help solve many different types of problems and offer different solutions? We’ll get into that. But I believe part of my audience is already thinking that how do I get into UX? So twofold? One is someone’s fresh out of school. And you mentioned architecture. And I actually realized a lot of my friends who used to be architects got naturally maneuver their way into UX. And so we’ll maybe we’ll address that, like, what is the, you know, the personality type? The set of skills? And what would you seek in a 20 to 23 year old person to see if there might be a good fit for your team or for someone else’s UX team?
Bob Goodman 12:37
Definitely, I think that there are like, a lot of soft skills, and then there’s like a set of kind of craft or more hard skills. And I think that I think there’s a lot of demand and an opportunity for it. But you know, there’s, there’s also a lot of clutter and confusion. Yeah, about? Yeah. And, I guess, I think of the Corps, similarly to Caleb, who, you know, had the pleasure of being part of the on the same team, thank you, for a long time. So we’re referencing back to previous podcasts, you know, killed mentioned the information architecture, part of UX. And definitely, I think that’s, to me, kind of at the heart of it. And the information architecture is, you know, a set of like, a way of thinking about information architecture, and mapping and spaces, you know, that involves things like, how are, how are parts of an experience, like, categorized? Or how are they visualized? And how do you offer people choices? And at what level of of depth? And what is the information that’s supportive? And what’s interaction that gets them where they need to go? And how do they navigate in this space? And how do they understand it as a cohesive product or service or even, you know, how does it positively influence their perception of the brand that’s offering the product or service and so the the person trying to work in that space, you know, there’s a range of just us deliverables that like I personally look for in portfolios. And so, and it isn’t just what we’d call like comps, it isn’t just kind of pixel perfect deliverables, but yet things like like wireframes you know, annotations, basically like black and white or shades of grey schematics were initially the you know, visual, let’s say flair salesman’s on purpose a de emphasized to go to kind of core ideas and things like, like flow doc commands that show like where a user is in a series of steps that shows kind of like different logic or like interconnections in systems. And, you know, so and talking to someone that from my previous team was, like actual, an actual coming out of an actual architecture, architecture background, they had some interesting, you know, terms from that domain, there was like the rendering diagram that really conjured the whole building that we were trying to build. And then there were more of the like the engineering diagrams or even like the H rack system. And, to my mind, we don’t have terms that are that clear. But you know, the final visual design that came from a, you know, generally created in something like Photoshop, maybe illustrator that looked Pixel Perfect, that’s kind of the rendering. But that’s really like an end stage kind of deliverable. Often. Up until that run, there was a lot of things that the doc documents and drawings that were maybe a little more rough, and it might even be a sketch, that was like all the kind of beneath the iceberg thought work that led up to that.
Fei Wu 16:11
I had the pleasure, you know, what we’ve had the pleasure to work with many people you’ve hired on the team working on now, I’ve discovered many interesting learnings, as you know, me as a project manager, one of which is, I love the fact that the people we ended up interviewing and hiring are really good at storytelling. So in addition to the artifacts and their portfolio, they’re able to articulate, you know, as we go through the pages of this is my thinking process. And some of them are quite young, and they’re very comfortable with people. And there’s one, I can recall that, you know, for instance, worked at Apple, very comfortable with dealing with customers. And I think that storytelling process is really important. I think that is part of soft skills. I also love the fact that you didn’t just hire people in to a very specific vertical receptor to say you have to come from, you have to be an architect, you have to be a designer, you have to be a copywriter you hired into, you know, there’s one I can think of is, was a software developer. So somebody can say that’s kind of a hodgepodge. But somehow, every time I come to you to solve many different problems we’re dealing with, you can pinpoint to say, This person is really good with that. And of course, considering their time. Why why do you think you had such a vision, which I have to say, is very different than many of the other people I met on the leadership team?
Bob Goodman 17:46
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It does have your relate your other questions like what’s a good way in? So yeah, I’m definitely I guess, in terms of hiring. So I am looking for, you know, craft a like on the kind of deliverables I mentioned, or at least, a strong sense of information, that someone would be excited about those kinds of deliverables and have like the skills to do them. But then there’s a set of more like attributes or qualities that I think are really helpful as a US person. And I think, because you’re kind of flung into many different situations and have to try and make sense of them. situations which are not fully framed, but kind of semi framed or just completely unframed, you’re thrust into those situations, and then you have to kind of like, like, problem solve, and, like at a pretty like rapid pace. And, and also be willing to take the risk of like, showing someone like a rough like sketch, or some rendering of your understanding fed back to them to sort of confirm or advance the project in a very speculative or investigatory way. And that’s just a kind of straw man deliverable to at least advance the conversation. Because of those, those realities than some of the attributes, I guess, that I look for is someone that’s like a pretty, like really excited to learn and be constantly learning and have kind of built up their own ways to like, get up learning ramps quickly, and courageously.
Fei Wu 19:31
So regardless where they’re coming from, you know, men or women, it goes a really long way for me to stay true to say that you’re very open minded. You’re a very open minded leader. And one attribute about you I’m not sure if you realize that and it’s one of the the one of the attributes I really love most about you, is you somehow help demystify user experience as a domain. So what I mean I that is, instead of creating a silo, or to say, these are the only situations you can approach us, we are the smartest team in the entire agency, right? Look at us. We’re shining a light on a particular person when this was never yourself, but it’s a domain. It’s, you know, for me, it’s encouraging everybody else around you to learn. So, obviously, I think it’d be it’s a very truthful statement coming out of me. And I really want my audience to hear that about you how much you really care about your team. And you, I think you provided and really build a platform, to enable them to do their very best and to encourage them to continue to learn and help other learning. It’s, it sounds really trivial to you, and I look at you right now, you’re just like me, no, that’s just part of my natural process.
Bob Goodman 20:58
Just just thinking about Thank you very much. Yeah, no, I definitely, definitely appreciate that, you know, that compliment, that means a lot. And you know, that, that means a lot more to me that someone said, Oh, I just, uh, you know, I really liked that wireframe you’re building, it seems that you really like enable the team to contribute at their best are enabled, like other people to, you know, think about things from like a UX perspective. And I guess, one, one reason that, you know, I really, you know, appreciate your your comments is that is that, if we say that the experience is not just driven by, like a UX discipline, but you know, ultimately, you want a kind of a shared vision and some kind of collective ownership of that vision by the team. And really, like invariably, like the process, and the team’s ideas are kind of what is shaping the experience for the end user. And that takes a lot of different disciplines and stakeholders to do, then the, the UX team, or practitioners are really just modeling. Some, some ways to think about it, that people from other disciplines would kind of, you know, embrace or use from their own lens. So I think there are, and that’s how I try and I aspire to solve some of the contradictions of the idea of a of a practice for something that should be like broadly owned, like, if the customer experience is inclusive, it’s really been delivered by the entire team. People that have the business background, people have an account app, and people have a development background. And people have a UX background. And UX is or maybe trying to, like take the best thinking from the team and kind of like, harness it in a direction and provide some visual perspective on it. And then, the way to do that is to, like try and be sufficiently like, you know, open minded and bridging and like nimble, that you’re, you’re attuned to ideas from outside your own, you’re not, you’re not simply like, you’re not simply an advocate for your own perspective. And at times, you might have less of a like a product perspective, like this is what the pros are doing more of a process perspective. So you might say, Well, I’m still forming my perspective on what a product should do. But process wise, I think we need to work more closely together, or people need to work more faster, or who should be sketching this or should be agreeing to the terms by which we’re describing these things. And so I guess that’s the kind of, so I try and sort of practice what I preach, I’m looking for people that can also kind of do that in a nimble, like, open minded way. Kind of know, when they’re being a product advocate versus a process, advocate, or, or at least be able to kind of quickly kind of toggle between roles.
Fei Wu 24:06
Yeah, let’s see, I think empathy is one attribute, as you’re describing, as well, you know, correct me if I’m wrong. One of the things I learned the most from you is empathy, not only towards users, but oftentimes towards clients as well. Without mentioning the clients name, I remember working with you on the project and while all the other UX designers are, you know, really overloaded, overworked, and you really stepped up and say, you know, hey, how can I help? That was a project. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t have leveraged someone nearly at your level, your position and clearly you’re also very busy. But you know, as you’re discussing wires and the approach with a client and you’re extremely patient, and I think you literally over and over and over We’re again provided them with a most friendly one on one UX approach. And the client really appreciate it that on a level, I honestly did not have to, I couldn’t imagine myself having the patience for that. And in my mind, I was getting a little frustrated, because I had the preconception to think we are in 2014, who has not heard of user experience, who has not seen wireframes. But you have so much empathy for them, and in a way that they instantly relate it to you. And hence make the rest of the project flow like magic, you know, and I just want to call that out. And I’m not sure if empathy is something that you also consider as part of your practice. It’s something that you remind your team off as well.
Bob Goodman 25:50
Oh, thank you, I guess. Yeah, I mean, I guess, if we think of, like this user experience, you know, these ideas, then, you know, we don’t just have like, end users of systems or services, but we have, like, internal users, you know, within a company employee users that are using like, systems, like you have the agency and trying to, like work well together, like, our clients are their users of our process by which we’re trying to, like, you know, advocate, or deliver or partner and different ways of, of coming at this. And so, yes, so there’s a sort of, like, meta level meta thing going on, but you’re trying to, like deliver, like, like, end user experience, but like, have the actual, like, working process also, like, be a good experience for like everyone involved. And, and that’s, that’s pretty hard, because you have like, a lot of different points of view in the room and like, different language and different expensive people are like bringing to the table. And so I think it’s important that, you know, there’s enough kind of room for people to either say, what they, what they’re thinking, bring their ideas to light, you know, on a whiteboard, if they’re so inclined to pick up in sketch something mentioned, you know, past experiences they have that might be relevant, you know, or not, if they don’t want to do that they really just are more comfortable with you, like delivering, and they’ll tell you, what’s, what’s working, what isn’t, you know, that’s okay, too.
Fei Wu 27:34
You know, that’s realize you always welcome people to provide you with feedback, whether it’s a peep, you know, people way less experienced than you are even directly from the client. And during presentation where even a conversation, just like you had mentioned, for the UX approach and the philosophy that you promote a two way conversation, which that’s one of the key takeaways learning from you. Of course, I welcome more opportunities to continue that journey as well. We’ll get to let me just dive in a little bit more. I have one more question related to UX is what are some of the common UX challenges that you’ve seen today? And some of that one I observed? As I’m learning, I shouldn’t be answering my own question. But for instance, one that you have brought you brought up earlier is a lot of the times the problems are not really well defined. We’re not defined at all, I don’t know which one is worse, honestly. And how do you insert yourself as part of that solution. And also, it’s been tough to have a dedicated UX resources stay on the course of a project throughout, even though it’s an ideal situation. So oftentimes, you are challenged with the consequences and repercussions way later on in the project during development or after launching. So I think what I articulate is 5% of the challenges. What have you seen so far? And what are some of the quick tips, I guess, to kind of overcome that?
Bob Goodman 29:13
Let’s see. Okay, yeah. Yeah, so the second part was like, Yeah, we had a question about like, like, a process composition about, like, you know, kind of Oh, and then it was the nature of the problem that one’s trying to work on. I mean, to my mind, generally, in, in something that maybe is what you might think of as like a big UX or just to be more like design thinking. There’s an issue of like, the framed versus unframed, like challenges. And I think that the things that you know, whether it’s whether it’s clearly like a like a briefed in situation or not At, I think that oftentimes like a, like an unframed opportunity arrives in a framed package, and then a and then something that is a actually like framed like an opportunity to framing arrived in an unframed package. So I think it’s kind of, you have to be kind of open to the idea that something that looks like one could really be another. And it probably be good. So if maybe I’m pretty, very abstract, so be good. I’ll try and think of, like some examples of of where this is the case. But basically, I think it’s important if people like raced too quickly to a solution, either internally, or externally, to see if more space could be opened up to come at it from different directions. And to allow a what you might say, is some time for like, divergent thinking, and things to converge really quickly. And, you know, divergent thinking can make people nervous, because they feel it’s like messy and cluttered, and they feel it, you know, feels kind of like bottomless and we don’t know, like, you know, how or when it will, like converge. Men usually think that makes it convergent, simply like a time pressure, like, oh, it has to converge by x. Right. But But I think also, like, if if there’s a, you know, there’s some UX facilitation, then even the divergent things, you’re kind of taking stock, seeing what’s overlap, like outputting, some, some putting pen to paper, like sooner rather than later. So there’s prematurely you know, kind of convergent thinking that didn’t allow, like, a divergent process that could kind of like, you know, on frame an overly framed thing, or, yeah, that’s just kind of a, just about creativity in my mind. And then the maybe the, like, excessively, like divergent thinking, when there actually is a clear challenge in place, the kind of missing the, the, what’s at the core of the challenge. And actually, you need, like, the solutions to like, you know, really move in that direction, clearly, instead of just like, kind of like, banging your head against the wall, that can happen too. So yeah, I feel like a lot of that is kind of like getting in, in a flow of like, being like, a flexible, but also, like, pragmatic, is the same time. Yeah.
Fei Wu 32:34
Is it possible to paint part of the picture, and I think there again, consequences and maybe associated, but perhaps, there are opportunities where UX could come in and paint part of the picture, and leverage a set of tools or perhaps as patients and time to tell a story around possibilities and filling the gap? Do you think that maybe one of the approaches that people could take on?
Bob Goodman 33:02
Yeah, I mean, I think one thing is just one thing is like working in, in like, small groups. And the group, you know, in there may be like, you know, it may be like a there’s clearly some, like conference scale of like fruitful group work that’s, like bigger than two and smaller than 20. It’s more depending on like, the people in the room. But I think the idea of, you know, trying to, like surface the best ideas, like trying to, like organize them to want me to, it’s different than just an open ended a brainstorm, but it’s trying to bring some structure and some scaffolding to the situation. So I think that in terms of like, the facilitation role of like, UX is very helpful. That’s how I personally like to kick off projects is more of what I’d call like a working session. You know, there are other models that are more like kind of waterfall ish, to use, like a software process term, that’s more like, let’s brief everyone in and then we’ll all like kind of disperse to our separate corners. So, yeah, I think that that like, as far as like the UX process, that’s very helpful. And then if you are going to be the person that is actively like converging the divergent thinking, because you’re going to, you’ve had everyone’s input and you took stock, and then now you’re trying to shape it more as the architect with a product division. And you’re trying to put forward your theory, at least for people to like, bounce off of or like react to that also kind of like advances or leapfrogs things. And I think it’s a very different, like approach then, you know, simply more of a like a solo player or practitioner, or like, someone that’s what doing maybe like artistic work where it really makes sense for them to just simply really, you know, someone that’s like, share understanding quickly. And then to try and take some architectural work but for the purpose of of like the another facilitation, like iteratively, or progressively and working like kind of like fast and like rough at Progressive levels of fidelity. So, I mean, talking about your earlier point of like UX comes in, like at a later point, you know, it’s not doing, it’s not necessarily enabled to play these roles that I mentioned, it may be more functional than it may be smaller, small UX, and maybe just like, Okay, there’s really time to re facilitate, there isn’t time to reframe, it’s already really the ideas already really out there really just needs to be, like polished up, we need to close some gaps or like, see where it’s kind of broken and fix it. It’s that it’s more really like I’m just a practitioner, here’s my expert perspective, here’s all I do to solve it. X, Y, and Z. That’s important to know, there plenty of situations where that’s exactly the right constrained set of, you know, tools,
Fei Wu 36:05
I find it very helpful when somebody like yourself is leading a team that you’ve been working in user experience for a long time. So you’re able to offer a very, very tactical solution set of tools and resources to people were learning from you. I really liked that aspect. And, you know, particular you know, I personally have been very impressed with your facilitation, how you conduct a workshop, and you never frame you’re never corner yourself into thinking these are the things we’ve conducted before. I think you challenge yourself, as well as is your team to think outside of the box, find a better box, and to be slightly uncomfortable. So all of us and continue I was learning, we had this very brief conversation right before a agency speech. I think it’s called Full agency townhall, some sort of, we have this like one minute conversation about your upbringing, and I always assumed that you were a teacher, a previous life of yours. But turns out your parents are professors, I know we’re doing on an ad read dive here. Trying to respect your time, we have about 10 minutes. So I was wondering if it’s possible to kind of paint a picture to talk about your upbringing and, and perhaps that’s related to how you could bring such a set of unique skills, empathy to your clients to your team? So
Bob Goodman 37:39
yeah, well, I was interested to hear of this, like, within your previous podcast with Caleb was hearing these like, kind of like only child stories. So that was, you know, that’s mostly with mostly like, my upbringing, although like, stepsister, now. Yeah. But yeah, mainly, like, an only child. And but yeah, both my parents are college professors, one in political science and the other in, in like, English Lit and Western Civ. So there was a lot of, yeah, there was a lot of, like, academic life. Yeah, in the air growing up, and like a lot of like, strong perspectives. Definitely. And I think, I guess definitely the idea of, like, you know, going like pretty, like deep and broad on a sub subject and kind of like sharing a perspective on it. I guess that that does feel like pretty, you know, natural to me. And, but, so I sort of like, you know, at different points in my, like, professional journey, kind of tried to give myself a course on random subject X, Y, or Z.
Fei Wu 38:49
Totally makes sense. Yeah, it does
Bob Goodman 38:50
give you stuff of course, like on your, you know, now it’s more like on your on a business or on a tool or Yeah, so other
Fei Wu 38:57
than UX. Yeah. Imagine that. Other disciplines. Yeah. What are some of the things interests you? Besides
Bob Goodman 39:05
UX? Yeah, I mean, I like I’m a musician, and you know, a piano player. And like, you know, definitely, like, you know, improvisation and jazz and like, that’s really, I think, a really important like influence. Because, you know, obviously, there’s, especially if you’re just like improvising music, like on the fly, whether you’re doing like privately or publicly, you know, you’re pretty open to like, where it might lead. And then that about your boss. Comfortable, just like, I’ll sit down and I’ll play a song because it’s kind of come to, like, we’ll sit down and we’ll talk about this, you know, sort of a certain comfort level with like, performance or inspiring people to kind of like improvise and feel comfortable with that. And also, you know, there’s a certain aspect of like discipline or practice that maybe that wasn’t always my strongest suit like to play. But, you know, I think And, or like exploration, like making something like exploring through making or making through exploring. And yeah, and I mean piano, it can be, you know, it can be like a lead instrument or it can be supportive, like in a group, it can be laying down structure, you know, or, and it can kind of listen and respond to things. So I think that, I think that’s a Yeah, an important one. And, and writing definitely, as well, you know, you know, was doing, I don’t know, interested in like, public speaking and writing and was a, like a newspaper reporter. And, you know, sort of trying to quickly learn things, and then like, you know, output to these, you know, these reports about things like, you know, rapid fires to kind of synthesize information, put in a way that can be useful to someone, like in their everyday lives, and, you know, small ways. So, and then so I kind of the music and the writing, because I still sort of the rhetoric, you know, thinking of like an experience is also, you know, it kind of says things that can be summarized. visuals, you know, say things, interactions, say things, maybe not in words, but in other ways. And it’s possible to articulate what it’s trying to say, I can help people understand what the idea is.
Fei Wu 41:11
That’s mega important. And one of the things I love about this podcast was one excuses to visit all my friends to see them again, we’re not working together anymore. And the second is to completely rediscover a person. And I honestly do not know any of us. And I’m sure they’re not front and center on your LinkedIn profile, either. So I love it. due respect your time, we have just a few minutes. Yeah, I want to get a sense for we’re have the audience get a sense for the next big or small project you’re taking on. And if you can think of any do you mind? Maybe that’s answering a question for you. Sorry, I, you know, in the hallway, just now we talked about work bar. And, and perhaps that’s something that’s what you want to talk about?
Bob Goodman 42:00
Yeah, well, like, as I mentioned, I’m in a new job here, a new chapter, which is really exciting. And it’s kind of a like a hybrid, you know, Creative Director, UX director position, that that’s pretty exciting, too, for me to think about, like, what does that mean, you know, in terms of like, kind of bridging between, like storytelling and like utility. And then also, yeah, there’s a lot of exciting things going on at the agency, we have like a new kind of like makerspace. And other folks here, I just, I just showed up, they put this in motion, but this, this thing called wunderbar, that’s going to open up space within the agency for some startups to kind of kind of work here on their projects. But you know, really see how, you know, we might be able to, you know, help them primarily with this space, but you know, maybe with some some ideas or brainstorm sessions, and kind of, you know, really connect the agency to startup world through like, osmosis,
Fei Wu 42:59
and they can tap right into a resource like yourself, or what, uh, how wonderful is that? So this is great. Any anything else you’d like to discuss?
Bob Goodman 43:09
Yeah, no, I guess, you know, I just want maybe want to come back to your question of like, a young person trying to get into UX and stuff. Like I gave that one. I don’t know if I did that one. Justice. Because, like, it’s a hard question, because people kind of stumble into it. And it’s hard to find programs that really seem to sort of really seem to like advance, like all the different skills other than things like, you know, human computer interaction. But but a lot of people have stumbled into it and kind of like, you know, actively, like made themselves into UX errs. And without, you know, certainly training just because there’s like, amazing, like, range of resources and like thinkers out there like online, or like web courses, like to lynda.com on like the tooling. And there’s a pretty, you know, bustling you know, us like industry. There’s UX meetups here in Boston and other like major, like metropolitan areas, and just trying to be like, UX Boot Camps. So yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I think maybe I can, you know, give you some some starter resources like, like, offline, you could share with us and it’s probably easier than then talking them through just point people to good links and some good people to help get started. That will
Fei Wu 44:27
be great. As you see that create a web page, or story for every podcast there is. So for Kayla, for Josh Greene, and to my audience will include all the links within so they don’t have to take notes. Last question, how do people find or follow you on the internet?
Bob Goodman 44:47
Good question. Well, you know, I’m on LinkedIn, if you Google, you know, Bob Goodman and UX, you know, and maybe Boston you you’re bound to find me. Kind of like kind of that out. Yeah, I’m on Twitter. I think it’s it’s Bob like underscore Goodman. And I have a not very active blog at all. We’ll get back to it. It’s called UX culture.com. That’s another way to find me. But apologies for being a bit like outdated. But yeah, there’s some stuff there grants that those are some of the ways. Yeah. Well, thanks so much for really, for doing this fame for offering this really amazing service to people that are thinking about, you know, digital experience and like, their career or their work life. It’s really, really valuable.
Fei Wu 45:39
Great. Thank you, Bob, for your time. Thank you so much.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai