In the Moment

This Design Career: 4 Points of Gratitude

Erika Bailey

Most days I wake up feeling like today is going to be a great day. I can’t wait to connect with my clients and dig into their business and design challenges. It’s all so full of possibility! Right?

On other days (and they are rare) I want to pull the covers over my head and hide, or maybe go back to teaching music full-time. On these days, the pace of change is rather overwhelming. I feel the weight of responsibility for my clients’ success, and for how they navigate the world as it is right now… and now… and now. On these days there is always a new book to read or a new tool to learn. There is always something we need to be better at, or something we’re leaving behind. It isn’t so much that things are soooo last year. It’s more that they are soooo last quarter. That may seem like hyperbole, but in many cases this is just the rate of change we’re dealing with.

Today is good. I find myself feeling fortunate to have found a second career that constantly evolves with the times. It’s this that I want to focus on now: gratitude. And, in keeping with my belief that gratitude is a dish best served family style (shared!), here is a little of what I’m grateful for in this career we call Innovation and Service Design:

 1 Relentless Optimism

Despite living in a world fraught with complex and seemingly intractable problems, innovation and service designers really and truly do believe that problems can be solved. We get to share that relentless optimism with our clients. The relentlessness of our optimism is especially useful when clients have been beaten down by the many times they have tried and failed to solve a big problem. Helping them to find new ways of getting to solutions, and seeing possibilities in the mess is a big part of what we do best.

Turns out, when you’re in this line of work the glass is neither half empty nor half full. It is limitlessly refillable.

Turns out, when you’re in this line of work the glass is neither half empty nor half full. It is limitlessly refillable.

2 Problems seem like dares

I know we’re on to a juicy challenge when we start imagining the truly inspiring story we’ll tell at the end. The only problems we turn down are those we know an ally could do better, because of their experience or size of their firm, or ones that don’t align with our purpose.

Our best challenges, which have led to our most impressive successes have been ones where we were uncomfortable (in a good way!) at the start. We knew we could do it, but we also knew it would up both our game and that of our client.

In these moments, the universe seems to be saying “Hey, that’s pretty bold. Go on… I dare you.”

3 Lives change

Sometimes, when we’re working on building an innovation team with a client, lives are changed along the way. I remember one client team member for whom this was the case. Let’s call him Dave. When I met Dave, he was working in a quantitative data and research role. During the project, he showed himself to have a knack for design thinking and for using design tools to solve problems. When the time came to form the official innovation team, he was named immediately as Design Researcher and his hours were fully allocated to the Innovation Team. Though there is a tonne of learning for Dave in the coming months and years, his career has moved to a new path, and is becoming even more resilient to rapid changes around him. Talk about professional development!

It is in stories like this that I find myself connected to a big part of our human-centred social purpose — helping others find ways to show their talent through change and disruption.

4 Finding allies in competitors

With my Moment colleagues, I’m realizing quickly that our only competitors are people who are working to hold only the status quo, impede good design work, or engage in innovation and service design without knowledge and or skill in the field. These folks give what we do a bad name, and distort innovation and service design for those who really need to engage. When we are writing a proposal or trying to win a bid, we’re competing against all of that.

We know now that those who might have been called competitors in past are really our allies. This new mental model allows us to be authentic within the marketplace… really Momenty (friendly, talented, open, generous, and collaborative).

When we’re trying to win a bid in a field of allies, we’re challenged to be better in some way, which elevates us all — win or lose.

Closing thought

Career advice frequently tells us to Do what you love! and Do what you’re great at! Today is not one of those days where I want to pull the covers over my head. Today, I’m feeling lucky to be doing what I love, and to be constantly enlarging the bucket of things I’m good at.

This post was originally published on medium.com. 

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