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Recap of UX Intensive

Heather, Michael, Jennifer, Ryan and Geoff. I'm glad we didn't rotate around different tables like we were supposed to. That's the toss-up at most workshops and conferences, isn't it? Network more broadly or more deeply? I think we chose well.
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/annegirl/2292745919/" title="KI1U5853 by Lucian Teo, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2250/2292745919_c6e37a28b7_m.jpg" width="240" height="160" alt="KI1U5853" class="img-right" /></a>Over the duration of the 4 day event, we got to work on fictitious websites, designed imaginary devices and cracked countless jokes. It was liberating to shed my Asian shell and get in there guns ablazing – after all, I only had 4 days.
On the first day, the most important thing I learned came not from the speaker but from Michael who sat beside me. He said managing working relationships was the same as crafting a user experience. What do your bosses need, what are their motivations, and how do you make it easy for them to close the "transaction"? How do you align what they need as a person with what the project needs? While the topic of managing bosses isn't new to me, the juxtaposition of that and user experience was highly interesting.
Another interesting tidbit we had from the casual chat at the table was the differences between relationships with Americans, Europeans and Asians. Michael mentioned how Americans are quick to bond, but devote only the relevant slice of themselves – you may get to know them fast, but just the work part of their being, or the parent if you happen to be the teacher of their child. You don't get the full person. His observations were that Asians were the other extreme. It took forever to get through the outer shell, but when you get past that, you get the whole person.
I suppose that is accurate to a certain degree. We tend to think of people as whole persons rather than functions. My mother has always drilled it in me to understand that people are more than their jobs. They are parents to their children, children to their parents, and that creates a fuller way of looking at people. Maybe not as efficient, but certainly more organic and less mechanical.
The workshops proper were grueling. I learned a lot from the design strategy, design research and interaction design workshops. The information architecture workshop was a little too rudimentary, but it probably helped those who didn't do <abbr title="Information Architecture">IA</abbr> for a living.

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