“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” — Luke 14:28
It’s not every day I quote the Bible. All the rarer that I quote from the New Testament, given the fact that I’m Jewish.
But I happened upon this passage for the first time a couple months ago while I was reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, and it really struck me. Though Ramsey uses it to make a point about financial planning, my brief research tells me that it is attributed to Jesus, regarding the cost of being a disciple.
If you’re going to devote yourself to a cause, and want to succeed, first you need to determine whether you’ll have the ability to endure.
This has applicability in all aspects of our lives: using our money, running a business, being in a relationship. I call it Preactive Procedure, in contrast to Reactive Procedure.
Perhaps put another way, do you lead with your id or your superego?
I see a lot of products developed using the Reactive Procedure:
- I’m scratching my itch.
- Should I keep scratching this itch?
- I’ll scratch this other itch.
As a user experience designer, consultant, and member of the NY tech community, I instead advocate for using the Preactive Procedure:
- Who’s itchy?
- That itch isn’t being scratched.
- This is how to scratch that itch.
By taking this approach, there’s a much higher likelihood of success — true understanding of needs, widespread value, and a sustainable solution. Most of all, there’s purpose.
Purpose is everything to me. Simon Sinek puts it more concretely than anyone with his Why? How? What? statement. By starting with why, we understand and acknowledge the “driving motivation for action.” This is much more meaningful than, “I’m itchy.” Instead of acting from our id, we act with our superego. We look outside ourselves for the answers. We dedicate ourselves to a greater mission.
But this, too, is just masturbation. The product becomes secondary to the process. We concern ourselves far too much with the theoretical and neglect the practical.
Campbell McKellar, founder of Loosecubes, is the first person to make me realize that there’s something even better than the Preactive Procedure — the Proactive Procedure.
By acting sooner, you are actually achieving more. You are creating the future instead of just predicting and accommodating for it. You are inventing a new reality, based half in what people need, and half in what you want them to have. You can observe behavior sooner and course-correct. It is the most transformative of all three procedures for both the subject and the object. In other words, it’s leading with your ego.
This is the way to balance user experience and business vision. It is the holy grail of product strategy. And it’s a new mentality I’m ready to try on for size.
[Some inspiration for this post]
- Designing for Startups in Smashing Magazine February 26, 2011 | 0 comments
- If the product doesn’t work, its “user experience” doesn’t matter August 18, 2010 | 9 comments
- The value of personas January 24, 2008 | 5 comments
- The truth about the presentation process February 21, 2013 | 6 comments
- Design — Architect — Engineer April 4, 2008 | 3 comments
John WIlliams says
So many organizations I work with are stuck in cycles of reactive planning. This approach leads to resources being dedicated to patching things together.
Like Whitney, I’ve always advocated planning for future developments as near as we can predict them. In reading this post, however, I can see that technique’s fatal flaw laid bare. We can’t predict the future. Planning for an assumed future is essentially developing a strategy based on the whims of chaos.
Proactive planning empowers us. Designing the future we imagine and then developing the products to enable that future sounds simple. I’m amazed at how many situations I’ve been in where this wasn’t the case at all!
Thanks for this post, Whitney.
Martha Orloci says
Great post Whitney. Certainly less boring as you promised!
The iterative process makes much more sense in a Decide/Act/Think/Decide loop.
Thanks again or a wonderful and thought provoking post.
matt gantner says
This was a thought provoking topic for me. I find my self often in the reactive mode. I would consider it my default state in most situations.
I made a connection while reading this to another article, one which I cannot locate right now despite my best Googling efforts, where a number of MBA students are thrust into a real Marine Corp officer candidate program. They have a team of several people and have to over come difficult physical-based problems (moving over a stream, through an obstacle course, etc) and the teams were time limited.
Long article short, even teams who succeeded were chided for planning too long. The recommendation was to act when you (the leader) have 70% agreement or confidence and make corrections in course. It was better to act sooner than to be absolutely sure your right. The idea in this case is that if your in a lethal fight and wait till your sure, then it is too late. This matter of thinking is identical or least very similar to the Proactive model.
Just thought that was interesting support for the ideas presented here. Thanks for posting it.