2012: a great year

2012 was a really great year, and I thank everyone who played roles in making it so fantastic. I’m particularly indebted to my coworkers at Capella. I made a major transition from design and design management to product management when I accepted a job here in 2011, and it’s been a wonderful career change. I used to think that design is where the best creative work takes place, but now I’m not so sure.

Designers work with pixels, layouts, libraries and frameworks, and can have exciting, tangible results to show people when they’re done. Product managers need to step back from hands-on design and look at the bigger picture: how should an existing site or app be improved and why? How will we know if our improvements are successful? Who needs to know? And what’s the next big thing we should tackle?

This work involves a ton of design, too, but it’s design of a different sort. It’s designing moments, meetings, presentations, and influence. It’s also art, but the art of persuasion, negotiation, research, and writing. The results are also different and can take a lot longer to be visible. But it’s truly where the art and science of design intersect, as well as where design and business intersect.

I used to be suspicious of “business” and “marketing”, but now I realize that organizations — whether for-profit or otherwise — are all about business success. Because business success is all about solving problems that people have. Or as Scott Jenson puts it so well, minimizing the pain in an existing service or product. In fact, minimizing pain can be so valuable and profound that it can motivate people to do amazing things, and result in immense product satisfaction.

So thanks to my coworkers who make all of this great work possible, especially in an area that is so exciting (online higher education, and business-to-business online training and support). You’re too many to name here without risk of leaving someone out, so I’ll just thank you as a whole.

I’m also very thankful for Michael Nolan at Peachpit Press, who signed me as an author in 2009 and worked with me on two books. Those books helped me more confidently find my voice, and have led to many speaking engagements at conferences that I only dreamed about having prior to 2009. I’m also very grateful for the support of Jeffrey Zeldman, who interviewed me earlier this year and published an article of mine on A List Apart. When Jeffrey has your back, great things are bound to happen. And they have.

I’m also very honored to have been a part of some great conferences organized by Hugh Forrest, Tim Kadlec, Christopher Schmitt and Ari Stiles, Trey Mitchell, Doug Ruschman, and Jan Jursa. Thanks to all of you. Your events are outstanding and I learned so much by speaking there and interacting with the other participants.

Finally, I’m incredibly grateful for my wife and daughters. They were alternately supportive, patient, and occasionally upset about my trips this year (upset when they didn’t come along). I certainly promise to never let my travel schedule get out of control; as much as I enjoyed seeing some new places and meeting many new people, returning home was always the best part of every trip.

Best wishes to all in 2013, and thanks for reading.

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