In defense of intuitiveness
July 20, 2001
One of the things people in UX have too often neglected is talking about the value of what we do—which is all the more important right now when clients and employeers are pinching pennies. And often they want to quantify, quantify, quantify… But while that's important, sometimes that can miss important aspects, sort of like assuming reading a musical score is the same thing as hearing the music. While reading Lynn Upshaw's excellent "Building Brand Identity," which takes a customer-centric approach to branding, I ran across an interesting set of points on the value of using intuitive approaches in business.

Upshaw quotes from "Creativity in Business," which I haven't read, but sounds interesting:

I really like the first three thoughts, especially the second, and the third I think is sometime that "creatives" need to keep in mind. I'm not sure I agree with last two thoughts, which can be misused to justify what the authors of the also excellent, "Counter-Intuitive Marketing," diagnose as the cowboy "testosterone-driven" decision-making that too often permeates American business—and which was particularly prevalent in the dot.com gold rush:

If business used to be based on the idea of "ready, aim, fire," it became "ready, fire, aim" in the late 1990s, and with Internet companies the slogan seems to be "fire, fire and fire some more." In fact, most dot-com businesses are based on testosterone, hopes and prayers rather than anything that could be called real business metrics.

One huge mistake with the embrace of the "ready, fire aim" approach was that people forgot it was advice intended for huge, ossified, paralysis-by-analysis corporations, not small start-ups. Of course the authors of "Counter-Intuitive Marketing" are quantitative marketing guys whose answer to anything seems to involve a six-month, six-figure research project, but their book is well-worth reading, if nothing else for the cautionary tales they cite.

Since many marketing people tend to be quantitive in orientation, and most executives are numbers-oriented, and since our profession often involves more intuitive processes there seems to be an inherent potential for conflict. So it's critical that we know how to defend "fuzzy" processes and figure out ways to come up with measures of success that may not be quantative, but are concrete enough to know whether we've succeeed.

NOTE: I've received comments that some people are finding the bulleted lists are getting cut off on the right side. I used CSS layout instead of HTML tables to build the site and although I tested it extensively, it looks like I might've pushed the technology a little too far. If you see this problem, please let me know what browser, browser version, platform and operating system version you're using—since so far I've been unable to replicate the problem, which needless to say, makes it tough to fix. ::

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