Learning to fail – Overcoming fear in Lean UX
Underpinning the whole philosophy of Lean UX is the notion of the ‘permission to fail’. This gives designers the freedom to test their wildest assumptions, safe in the knowledge it will result in a greater user experience and a better product. It also decrees that Lean UX teams should suppose from the start that their initial designs for UIs etc will be wrong.
The only problem with this is overcoming what lurks deep within all but the most resilient of psychopaths – the fear of failure.
Playing it safe
Manifesting in a myriad of ways, fear of failure can be a crippling obstacle to the creative process. It conditions us to ‘play it safe’ and adhere to a doctrine of what we already know to work. This – completely natural – slice of psychological behaviour conflicts with what Lean UX espouses.
So how can UX teams, considering the merits of a Lean framework, ensure that they’re not constrained by a fear of failure? How can they learn to accept it as a valuable addition to the software development process?
To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail
To fail puts you in esteemed company. Some of the greatest innovators across all fields of design and commerce have notched up more than their fare share of misfires. Take Apple for instance. Or Thomas Edison. With over 1000 US patents to his name, not everything’s going to be the first commercially viable light bulb. What Edison understood though, and indeed made part of his creative process, is that a failed experiment isn’t a failure, so long as something constructive is learned from it. Failure at an early stage enables you to identify weaknesses in the design sooner, allowing you to improve your software product in quicker time.
If you have it in your mind that your early designs will be wrong, then you have the freedom to push the boat out, so to speak, and test things that you wouldn’t consider when your mindset is focussed on not failing. This way, revolutionary discoveries are made
Three tips for overcoming the Fear
If you are considering the Lean UX route, but find yourself wary of failure, here’s three quick tips to help overcome the mental block holding your innovation back:
- Reframe goals – Redefine what failure means. Widen your goals to include learning something from the design process. That way, even when things don’t work as intended, you can take something constructive away from the experience – therefore, you haven’t ‘failed’.
- Encourage failure early – Encourage your UX team to push their boundaries early on, until the inevitable happens and they crash and burn. This will instil a resilience and fortitude within them, as well as provide a valuable learning experience.
- Visualise stumbling blocks – Visualise the barriers that feed your fear, then plan how to overcome them. The imagination is a powerful tool, and envisaging your success can help to set you in the right frame of mind for the road ahead.
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