My wife and I are currently expecting our first child. It’s as much a worrying time as it is an amazing one. Being the youngest of four siblings my experience of being around babies is limited. In complete contrast, my wife is well up to speed. Not only is she a general practitioner but specialises in women and childrens’ healthcare. This, unfortunately, is also her undoing…
Training to be a GP includes a six-month stint working in a gynaecological ward. Her experience of aiding women whose labours went not quite to plan has had a lasting effect on how she perceives her own childbirth to play out. It turns out this is common amongst medics. To combat these worries we enrolled on a hypnobirthing course with the Wise Hippo. They teach a set of techniques to focus the mind and hypnotherapy plays a big role.
On day one of the course we speak about how the unconscious mind is responsible for much of our emotion, and therefore our behaviour. We discuss how daydreaming is essentially a short period of time where the unconscious mind temporarily takes over the conscious. At this point our experience of life could be literally anything we are thinking about. It’s not even mumbo-jumbo, that’s just how it is. How powerful is that?
The course leader asks each of us to think about if we ever daydream, to enter a trance-like state. I am first to answer. “Yes! I do that all the time! Every day at work.” I constantly shift between work-mode and daydreaming about how our users would feel if presented with this little piece of a website or app I have on my screen.
Designers must be able to daydream on purpose, to put yourself in the user’s position: In their location, having come from wherever they’ve just been, feeling the need for a certain goal, and the emotional response to what the interface is telling them. This, many times a day.
Throughout my entire school life I was branded a daydreamer by my teachers – as if it were a bad thing! I don’t think I’d be able to do my job if I didn’t daydream. I’d certainly be far less creative.
One of the techniques taught is, with the aid of hypnosis, to imagine wearing a ‘cloak of security’. That term alone conjures imagery laden with expectation of being surrounded by something warm and protective. It’s a surprisingly effective mental tool. Immediate benefits are a boost of self confidence and a feeling of bravado.
On the drive home I re-imagined this technique for my workplace. What we need there is a mental tool to aid creativity and put ourselves into the mind of our users so we can feel their experience with more potency.
Rather than a cloak, I imagined a hat. If I were to define hat styles that represented each of our key personas, and imagine wearing that hat when considering my work with users in mind, then would that make daydreaming lucid? Could I then focus my thoughts and get into the mind of a certain persona more effectively?
Using an imaginary hat as a trigger could speed up the transition between living in my conscious mind where I am myself at my desk, to my unconscious mind where I could be an imaginary 76-year-old man at Newcastle racecourse, in the rain, asking my imaginary nephew how he uses his phone to pick winners.
These are the kinds of cross-product scenarios that require the power of the unconscious mind to imagine and, more importantly, to feel. If your customers really do give a shit about some aspect of your work then you’ll do well to feel it from their perspective too.
Going one step further, purchasing real hats that real people can wear on their real heads could be an even stronger trigger into the imaginary world of customers. I think I’ll try the imaginary hats on for size first.