Intuit’s Jiri Jerabek: How to Evolve as a Designer

In today’s episode Jiri talks about doing research when there’s not enough time, traps designers fall into when they test prototypes, and about the progression from coming out of school to becoming an entrepreneur-designer.

Photo of Jiri Jerabek
Photo of Jiri Jerabek

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Guests

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Design Manager, Intuit

Jiri Jerabek

Connect with Jiri

LinkedIn, Twitter

Selected links from the episode

Eric Ries, The Lean Start-up
Art Lebedev AI-designer
Design at Intuit

Full transcript

Christian: Welcome to Design Meets Business – a show that inspires designers to think beyond pixels. I’m your host, Christian Vasile, and on this podcast I sit down with creatives to talk about their stories, lessons they’ve learned during their careers, and how you can use design to make a bigger impact in your organisation.
 
Today I’m talking to Jiri Jerabek. Jiri is a Design Manager at Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, TurboTax, and Mint.com. And in today’s episode he talks about doing research when there’s not enough time, traps designers fall into when they test prototypes, and about the progression from coming out of school to becoming an entrepreneur-designer.
 
Jiri, thanks for joining the podcast, I really, really appreciate it. The first season of Design Meets Business is exciting to put together, and I’m glad you wanted to be part of it. So you are an all-around designer who started your career a bit similar to how I did, and that is by coding and playing with Flash and all that good stuff… all the good times.

And so before we go into what you do today, your thinking around design and all that, tell me a bit about your background, where you’re coming from, and how did you decide to drop coding for a career in Design.

Jiri: Yeah. Oh, and you know what? I loved it so much. I thought with the late 90s and early noughties, what we witnessed was a democratisation of the Internet. We witnessed a time when getting online and coding was one of the easiest things someone in their late teens or early 20s could learn, just like that. There were so many of these resources popping up and I just loved it; this democratisation of something awesome like this. And yeah, so I went on, I did coding. I also did design. This job title almost disappeared these days. I was web designer. And you don’t get too many web designers these days. 

Christian: You don’t hear about that anymore. Everyone is UX and Product…

Jiri: Exactly. I never managed to become a web master. I always wanted to be a web master. That sounds so cool. I never was a web master.

Christian: Well, I think your current job is cooler than being a web master. To each their own…

Jiri: Probably, yes, there you go. So as I evolved in working with clients, most of my early career was spent on the agency side. And I was working for some pretty awesome clients in some pretty awesome agencies, but what I started realising was a lot of the digital products or websites we produced at the time, they were based on what you would call requirements from the client. And ultimately, we were meant to serve an audience, a customer, but we were not really looking at what did the customer need or how to design the product in a way that really satisfies those needs of the customer. 

And so I started learning about that. And I learned about UX. I learned about interaction design, and I fell in love, because I realised there’s so much knowledge accumulated in that area that could help me with getting on with the job. And so this is when I started switching. I basically switched in my heart first, then my career switch followed a little bit later.

Christian: How did you find that transition from a job that is very logical – the one of coding and I remember Flash and all those good times – to something that at least when you started as a designer, wasn’t as logical as your job is now? This was more about feelings and how things look and how they feel. It wasn’t as much about business goals in the beginning. So how was that transition going from one role to the other one? 

Jiri: I found it actually really easy, maybe I’m a little bit weird. I always found the interaction design and UX side to be fairly logical too – to understand what the customer wants to achieve, what is the goal, why they’re coming to this place. How then apply well-documented patterns, validate usability, understand how the customer might be challenged in their path to put items in the shopping basket and check out. To me it made perfect sense. My brain didn’t suffer as much. 

And I also, at the time when I was still coding, that was the time of CSS hacks, mind you. It was a time when I was trying to get the code working and looking similarly in IE6 and Opera. And code was just like a little, little thing somewhere on the horizon, slowly appearing, I suppose. So it was quite messy at the time as well. I didn’t see it as a huge massive change. 

Christian: Yeah. Design is messy, isn’t it? if the process is clean, then it’s something wrong there. I mean, I guess the more complex the project is, the more messy you expect the process to be from taking a product from a concept to finals. And I guess that’s one of the things that I’d like to move into talking about, because when you look from the outside, you see just what’s above the iceberg. You see the visual design, you see the copy and you think that’s what design is, but we both know that the hard work actually goes on behind.

You’ve worked a lot in agencies and I know that when you work in agencies, it’s more often than not all about delivering fast so you can move on to the next client. How did you balance that need of taking your time to do things properly and working on that discovery and understanding customers with the need of the clients to get something delivered in a week or two or three? In the agency world you don’t really have a lot of time. 

Jiri: Yeah, I’ll give you one example that is so funny. If I look back at it, it always makes me smile. So I was working for this agency that doesn’t exist anymore. It was a fairly sizeable, London- based agency called Fortune Cookie. But we were serving some pretty awesome clients and the team was a dream team. I joined there as a junior UX designer. And I felt really privileged to be joining such a fantastic team, with such a fantastic boss at the time. I loved it. 

And I was really looking up to all my Senior UX designer colleagues. And I was so hungry to learn from them. And one of the clients that we were designing for was National Rail Inquiries, which in the UK it is a system to gather your travel information from before Citymapper came and when Trainline was really crappy. You would always look to National Rail Inquiries, and a lot of people do still today. And so one of the products that we were working on was the mobile app. 

When I joined the team working on the app, it was already released. The team was working on it for a while. I joined them later and I was tasked with designing alerts – what happens when something bad goes on the train line and there’s a delay or there’s a disruption, and how do we let the customer know. And I started designing that. And there was, as you say, there was very little time for some involvement of customers, as it typically is in the agency land or at least used to be at the time. And so I got really creative. I was taking a train every morning. 

Christian: You did your own research… you researched yourself

Jiri: Yes, and you must know, and probably everyone who listens to his must know, that talking to someone on the public transport in the UK is a no-no. Even just looking at someone is a no-no. Even just looking at someone is a no-no.

Christian: Yeah.

Jiri: You’re risking being killed. 

Christian: Yes.

Jiri: But I was like “Hey stranger, I’ve got this prototype here. It is meant to make your journey to work easier.” That was amazing, because once the people understood, “Hey, this will make my life easier”, they’d be like, “Okay, I’m going to give you some feedback”.

So I did this a couple of times and basically I bypassed the constraint of not having the time to do it during my normal working hours. And I suppose it’s a little bit unfair to do that, but I was so hungry, I was so passionate about bringing that user-centric perspective into the project that I just did it anyway. I did it all on public transport. I’m cursed for life probably. 

Christian: Well, it’s a good curse, I think. What’s happening when you bring all this research home, and then you’ve done maybe a diary study, maybe some eye tracking, maybe some guerrilla testing on the train in the morning. You’ve got all this research and then you need to create a product based off of that. How do you transition from having all this information to actually putting something on a piece of paper or in Photoshop back then, or Sketch, or whatever way you’re doing it?

Jiri: There are many different ways a designer can go about doing that. I really fell in love with the way how this is done at Intuit right now. We distil a crystal-clear customer problem. Customer problem is your sort of a needle-sharp definition of what the customer wants to achieve, what is the behaviour they are doing instead, and what is the root cause of that problem and how it makes them feel? And it really needs to get to the bottom of the root cause. And if it does, then what we could do off the back of this customer problem definition is we can imagine what is the best possible solution? What is the best possible ideal experience, not a solution, I correct myself – experience. And we call it ideal state and we don’t describe a solution in there, we describe the ideal experience. 

So we say, in the perfect world the experience would look like this, and the actual change to the customer’s life would be this, and it needs to be something that is measurable so we can quantify that later. And we also declare how this makes them feel. And so we have these two inputs on the back of that synthesis of these research insights. We have the custom problems, we have the ideal state, and of course we have the various behavioural insights synthesised, as you do, in the various decks and diagrams.

And so we take this and then we go through your standard double diamond – we diverge in ideation, we converge to get to some specific solutions, then we say, “Okay so given that we have these solutions, what are the biggest assumptions we are making that have to be true for this to work?” And then we just go about and we experiment in the most rapidest way, if that’s a word…

Christian: Yes, we get it. We get it. 

Jiri: In the most fastest way possible we just experiment and then once we clear out all these unknowns, then we go about designing that thing and delivering it with our engineering partners.

Christian: So tell me about this fastest way of experimenting. How do you do that at Intuit? Because Intuit is quite a large company with, I would assume, a lot of resources. So you probably have a very different way of going by doing this than say a smaller company would. So what’s your… how does your testing, let’s say, look like?

Jiri: Actually, I don’t think it is about the size that makes a difference. I think it’s the culture. And the culture at Intuit is so customer-centric that the culture really determines how we do that. If you are familiar with, and I would suggest everyone to really get very familiar with The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries… we pretty much use it as a, well, not a Bible, but we get a lot of guidance from that. We run experiments to validate assumptions, not to validate designs at that stage, at that experimentation stage. So we would potentially run a fake door test on the website or on the product.

We would run really rapid experiments with just a couple of sketches on pen and paper, and we will be looking for strong, emotional reactions. We wouldn’t be, of course at this stage, looking at usability or anything like that. We would be just really looking at concepts. Does this concept work? And of course, you get tests of various fidelity – you could have a diary study with a prototype. I did that in one of my previous jobs and we ran a test for four weeks in total. And then you have some really high-quality data about how people start using it. And if they actually keep using it after the initial spike of excitement fades off, or you can run some really rapid testing of some of the examples of gave.

Another really good example we are doing very often is concierge test. When you would have a system that’s sort of looks like it’s a fully-working system, it looks like an automated AI-powered miracle, but actually there are a couple of guys sitting behind the screens and connecting all the dots.

And so if you have a higher fidelity test, you need to invest more effort, but you have higher confidence of the back of your concept. If you start running with some pen and paper sketches, of course, you can do this really quickly, but you don’t have so much confidence in the validation. 

Christian: Now I’m really happy, I’ve asked this question. I didn’t know where you were going to go with it, but it sounds to me that you’re following Eric Ries’ book and that’s it. It’s not more complicated than that. It’s following basic, simple ways of making sure that what your assumptions are or what your prototypes look like are validated. And the reason I’m saying this is… I often look at portfolios or talk to people about design and they do a lot of complex stuff. They use all these new frameworks appearing out of nowhere that I haven’t heard about. And they try all these methodologies when actually it’s not that complicated. It’s the basic stuff. 

 And if a company like Intuit, that’s really big and has a design culture at the core of it, simply just follows the basics, then probably that should be the advice for any company out there. Instead of trying to do too much, simply follow a very simple guide and try to make that part of your process. So I am really happy you mentioned Eric Ries’ book. It’s great.

Jiri: It’s fantastic. Of course, if you have a big bet and you are going to invest for next ten months on your product roadmap into something massive, you might want to get a bit more confident. You would run maybe a combination of three different experiments to validate your business assumptions. And after that validates, then you could start looking at your customer assumptions as well. That would be a specific specific solution. 

There are two traps that designers typically fall into when they are running experiments. One is they mix up conceptual testing and usability testing. And of course, at the stage of testing concepts, there is no point of testing usability whatsoever. And there is… the second trap is designers try to test everything. Often, I see that. There’s no need to it.

Many of the assumptions that designers declare as assumptions are actually not assumptions. We can see these things working elsewhere in the industry. And if we see something similar working somewhere else, well, it’s not a complete assumption that that thing is an assumption, when we can learn from elsewhere.

Christian: Let’s talk a few minutes about these two traps because I think they are interesting. So especially the first one, let’s dig a bit deeper into that. 

Jiri: So when designers test concepts, basically they’re trying to validate whether the assumption that has to be true for a specific idea is correct or not. They are testing a big idea. They are not testing the interface. They shouldn’t be testing whether the button is red or yellow on the right or the left, and what is the specific layout of the page, and if someone understands what this individual page says. They need to be testing whether a huge underlying question about whether this entire idea is viable, is true.

Christian: So that’s where you would do some sort of, let’s say, a fake door testing, right? Just to try to see if people would be interested in a new feature.

Jiri: For example. That’s one of the ways how to do that. And other way how to do that is potentially even like, if someone really wants to do something low fidelity, even just sketches on paper or some conceptual illustration of the concepts can be used, but you’re not looking at the feedback on the subject granularity of the single button You’re looking at, “Okay, I see massive value in this”. And you are looking for this positive reaction in the person as opposed to, “Oh, I’m confused by this text on this button here”.

I really like the sort of rapid fire tests with pen and paper. They don’t give too much confidence, but they give you a thumbs up / thumbs down, sort of, because if you don’t feel… if you don’t see an emotional reaction, then you are not striking the right chord at all. You need to see a reaction. If the reaction is amazingly positive, then probably you can persevere. If the reaction is extremely negative, then clearly you are onto something as well. And this is important for someone. You are just doing it wrongly and you have to persevere again and try to fix it in a better way. If you’re actually like “Meh”, there’s probably no point. 

Christian: …and it’s the end of the road for that idea. It’s interesting, because in some of the companies I used to work in before there was a lot of focus on doing usability testing and I guess that’s okay, all good and that, but if you can design a feature in the best way possible, but if nobody’s interested in that feature, then you’ve wasted your time. So I guess before putting together all those prototypes and doing all this usability testing you want to do as you call it conceptual testing to first figure out if whatever it is you’re building is actually interesting and useful for your customers.

And this takes me to the next point that I wanted to talk about. You have this idea or this concept about the three types of designers – that there are three types of designers in the world. And when we talked about this, I thought that was really interesting. So I want to talk a bit through that. And after you explain to us what the three designers are, talk a bit about how you get from one to the other.

Jiri: So this is something I observed over last 15 years in the industry is that the designers around the time when they are little more junior, they tend to really obsess about tools and visual style and about sort of these trends of what is cool at the time. So we got designers arguing about whether it’s Sketch or Figma, whether it’s neumorphism or skeuomorphism or whatever. This is nothing new though. Like if you look at the history of Arts, Design, and Architecture, this is happening since literally ancient times. You can have a look at the Doric column in the ancient Greek and the Ionic column and the Corinthian column and you’ll see, “Oh, these guys went from very stark, ornamental, aesthetics”. The same happens with, for example, Renaissance and Baroque, the same happens with art nouveau, and then the reaction to that is constructivism and modernism. 

So we see these trends of like highly-ornamental style and also highly-ornamental style in the history. So it’s nothing new. Designers just to get really passionate about that. And this is what I call artist-designer. They’re really obsessed about the tools and they’re really obsessed about the style. 

The second type of designer, I call designer-designer for the lack of better terminology. I don’t know how to call it.  Maybe I should call them experience-designers, because really they focus on the experience. They just fall in love with the concept of user experience and customer experience so much that this is all they want to do. They really obsess about delivering that amazing experience and they just can’t get over it. It is the entire goal of what they want to do, and we can’t really be angry with them for it. That’s the beauty. That’s what makes many of us motivated to design something great. This is why we exist in the world. So these other designer-designers, or the experience-designers, really obsess about that. 

And then there’s a third type. There’s actually a fourth type that I didn’t mention. There’s a third type  – and these are entrepreneur-designers. And these are the designers who start exhibiting the four mindsets or four behaviours.

The first of these behaviours is how they choose problems to work on. They choose problems based on what is the biggest unsolved customer problem. Ideally, this is something really painful for the customer. The second would be, is this something that is viable in the business? Is this something where there is big enough serviceable market that we can actually obtain? And this does sort of this realisation just doesn’t happen at once. This is typically a spiral of testing and figuring out, “Oh, are we on top of this problem?” Yes. And can we deliver this program to this market? Yes. And actually, if we do the investment, does it provide a good enough return? What is our strategy there? Are we going for growth? So are we trying to grow our customer base at whatever cost or are we chasing revenue? In which case we are probably looking at customers to stay with us for longer to be paying customers for longer and provide them great experience. So these three things have to come together. So, this is the first behaviour, how they choose problems. 

The second behaviour is giving up on perfectionism. So they’re kind of like saying goodbye to those experience-designers who just try for the perfect experience ever, and instead of focusing on delivering this amazing experience that is perfect, focus on delivering value to the organisation and to the customers as frequently as they can. Suddenly it’s not about the amazing architectural solution, but it’s about where the value really is and how can I quickly deliver it, so we improve the life of our customer and we improve the success of the business. 

The third one is applying their designs superpowers on other stuff than just design. Now designers have these amazing superpowers they obtain through their carrier. And these typically are things like I take stuff that is intangible and that is an idea, and that is in peoples’ heads, and I can turn it into something that others can literally see. So they can turn intangible into tangible. They can rapidly validate. So we talked about validation. We talked about rapid experimentation. So this is another superpower. They can take an unknown, use their superpower, and generate some data. This is another superpower, for example. So applying these superpowers not on design problems, but on any organisation problems, any business problems. This is the third attribute.

And the final one is focus on measurable difference to customers’ lives. So in this one, the designer really starts taking care of the outcomes, not just outputs. The outputs are already amazing designs, right? This is that grand vision.

But now designer is really passionate about what is that measurable difference they’re making to the life of a customer and to the life of the business. What can be measured? How can I deliver that? What it distills to? And for that to be something that the designer can apply, they have to really understand the customer problem so they can define, “Okay, this is how we are going to resolve this problem”. And in the core of that solution, there’s this customer benefit that we are going to deliver, and it has to be quantifiable. And that’s the point when the designer can be like, “Yes, we can measure this. We can measure how much time we save to this customer”. 

For example, over the course of last year, through various design activities and various product activities, my team was able to save over 260,000 hours to QuickBooks customers preparing their VAT. And we can quantify it like this – so much time saved, this is a huge customer benefit. And so these are the attributes: measurable difference, how they choose problems, ditching perfectionism, and using the superpower on other stuff than just designing. 

Christian: So I guess ideally everyone would hope that they would become these entrepreneurial designer or entrepreneur-designer as you called it, but I think everyone knows that it’s not as easy to go from the artist-designer to the experience-designer, to the entrepreneur-designer. There are some steps you need to take and getting out of school, for example, if you have a design education, is probably not enough to get you even to the experience-designer level. You’re going to become an artist-designer for the first few years of your career, because that’s the natural progression. So how do you go from the first one to the second one and then to the third type to become this person who truly understands the business and what the business is about and how they can use these superpowers that they gathered throughout their career to do some good in the world?

Jiri: Well, this is an answer that many won’t like, but I don’t think there are any shortcuts. Actually, you mentioned design education and there are many voices that will say, “Hey, in design education, you don’t get enough about the business, and it’s just theory”. And I’m going to say something that could be quite radical and potentially many people will not like this. And I’m going to say, I think this is what the university needs to be. They need to teach the underlying theory that is detached from the practice, because then it is universally applicable. The industry changes in waves, every couple of years it’s just different, but if at university there are big underlying principles taught, then this is something that can equip designers for life. That aside, how do you go about progressing from the artist-designer to the entrepreneur-designer? 

And by the way, the fourth stage that I mentioned is leader-designer. So how do you progress there? And they just have to understand these underlying concepts. They have to understand what is the big custom problem, how to define it, how to distil it, how to understand it.

Without that they would be just skipping ahead and it would be fake. So they have to — they have to do it, karate kid style, polishing windows to learn the moves and the same goes for the design superpowers. Well, the designers will not be able to start applying design superpowers on the other problems than design problems unless they learn the superpowers in the first place.

So again, Luke Skywalker in the swamp type of work. I always wanted to be that Yoda that is being carried on the back of younger designers. I have this picture in my mind. The only one where I think we could be much better and we could go much faster is data. And I have seen many companies just not being very good with data. 

There’s nothing like working with an awesome smart analyst on your team. I have an amazing analyst. He is worth his weight in gold. Hello, Brandon, I’m sending my regards this way! It’s amazing, because then what you could do is get help of a partner like this, and you could start making connections between customer’s behaviour and data that you really need to see for determining whether you’re getting business outcomes or not. 

I give you a real specific example from our world. We established that customers that use QuickBooks who also connect their business bank accounts typically stick around for longer, because they are getting much more value from the product. What it means is that if they stick around for longer, basically this is a retention. Retention is very important, because it leads to higher average revenue for that customer. And that also means that we are improving our ratio of the cost of acquiring that customer and the lifetime value they provide. And these are some of the key business metrics that we will be looking at to determine whether we are doing well or not. 

So having a good analyst can help us to really look for causations between behaviour and this business impact. Then what we could do as a team is to say, “Okay, so we are going to invest in improving this experience of connecting your bank, so we enable more people to connect their bank, so they get this amazing value, so they stick for longer and so we have a higher rate.“

Christian: So there’s this circle of benefit, I guess, for the company and for the customers as well that your analysts have helped you discover, and then you as a design team or a product team just tries to bring it home.

Jiri: Yes. And so I realised that I didn’t really answer your question about how a designer can do that, how they can sort of uplevel. They have to work with smart partners, they have to collaborate, and they have to understand the concept of causation between behaviour and business outcomes. But really design is about partnerships and collaborations. So if there’s one takeaway maybe that’s it…

Christian: You’ve said something that I fully agree with. And sometimes I see designers starting in their careers and the first thing they do is they go and freelance. I’ve done that myself. And looking back, the times when I’ve learned the most, were the times when I worked in product teams.

So I always say to people at the beginning of their career, “Try to go and work in a company, in a product team, around people that you can learn from, collaborate with, because that’s what’s going to allow you to build those superpowers. And then five-ten years later, you can actually go and become a freelancer, because you’ve got that toolbox. But you’ve got to learn it from somewhere.” 

So I think what you’re saying is really accurate. You’re learning a lot of these things by working in product teams and design is a team sport. Isn’t that what they say? And I truly believe that and I wish sometimes we, as an industry, would do a bit more towards the people coming in as juniors, and we would give them a few more opportunities to just join our teams and learn.

Jiri: Yes. I don’t think they are doing enough, because there’s this picture that many designers have in mind – the designer demigods. They want to be the Dieter Rams, sitting on the golden throne of other disciplines. Or they picture Jonny Ive making like all these amazing decisions about design, or Norman Foster or like whoever is there, Mark Newson, whoever is their designer demigod.

 But it’s not like that. It’s really a team sport, and I think we should admire the work of these great designers, but we shouldn’t aim for being the lone wolves – designers who are masters of everything and tell everyone what to do. I don’t think that’s… this is not how it should work.

Christian: I also think that you can look at these demigods as you’ve called them, and you know that, sure they brought their creativity, but they still work in teams. 

Jiri: Absolutely 

Christian: Jonny Ive didn’t work in a cave

Jiri: That’d be something

Christian: Yes, I can imagine… probably a beautiful cave, but the point is they’re still working in teams. Sure, they have some incredible creativity and what they bring to the table is fantastic, but they still work in teams. That’s just such an important point. 

Jiri: So you’re absolutely right because yes, Jonny Ive is not in his like white cave… glossy white cave. No, he’s not, actually. No, they are team players. They have teams, there are leaders, they are people. They are people managers as well. They have this. And ultimately, as someone scales to leadership, they ultimately, yes, they are zooming in on craft, yes, but their impact comes through scale and comes through teams and comes from nurturing other designers and helping other designers grow. This is how design leaders work. And so, I think if there’s a picture of design demigod, I think it’s a fake picture. 

Christian: I agree. So talking about leadership and leading designers, how do you on a daily basis help your team at Intuit move more towards those entrepreneur-designers, from wherever they are in their career?

Jiri: Yes, we do it as — we work through this, we follow these four things that I outlined before. This is basically how we work. And if a junior designer joins the team, we ensure that we infuse them in this working. It doesn’t happen as a big bang. They still have to learn. They still have to obtain these superpowers. They still have to understand. It’s a path. 

 So they do a little bit of that karate kid polishing windows, as I said, but ultimately, there are the other designers who are already doing it, and everyone basically learns from everyone. And my role is to ensure that the individual designers get enough coaching, that they get enough reflection, that I give them feedback where appropriate, but also, I give them enough space to go and do their own thing and actually fail. 

I suppose one role of a manager isn’t to ensure that no one fails, my role is to ensure that everyone learns, and sometimes the best learning comes from failures. So I have to make these decisions between… do I let this person fail now and are they going to learn from it, or raise the safety net or you know how that works… 

Christian: So you’re saying it’s about putting the right process, the right design framework in place. So whoever joins the company, they will all have to follow the same design process, I guess. And then that’s what you mentioned earlier as polishing the windows or whatever the metaphor is. But as long as you put the right process in place then the people who join your team will sooner or later learn to move more towards that mindset of an entrepreneur-designer. Right?

Jiri: It’s really a mindset rather than a process. Our process looks like a skeleton. We have very strong backbone that is really, really well defined. It defines the key parts of the process, the really impactful big chunks, but then the individual ribs and bones around. 

 Every senior designer, for example, can determine to themselves. They can basically take the toolbox and assemble their process appropriately to an appropriate project based on their own expertise. They can swap methods. They can swap tools for whatever they judge to be appropriate. And I trust them. To be honest, I’m so lucky that I work with such smart guys. I don’t really need to intervene there so much. They are all very happy to like assemble their own, but we have this backbone, and this backbone is so awesome that we can really rely on it and the entire skeleton just hangs off the backbone. 

Christian: And I guess by doing that, by not setting the clear path for everyone and letting them verge to the left and to the right, they also feel more ownership of the work. Because they’re not order takers. They are working on the back of a very well-defined process, but they can go to left and to the right as they see fit and use their experiences. And I guess that’s also where you’re learning throughout your career; not when you’re following orders. So that’s great. 

Right. We’re approaching the end. I have two more questions and I’m asking everyone on the show this. So the first one is what is one thing you wish more designers would know?

Jiri: Yeah, I wish more designers would be focused on…oh, there are two things. Is it cheating?

Christian: Cheating is allowed on this show. Cheating is allowed, go with two…

Jiri: So the first thing is I wish designers know more, how to be humble, how to keep listening, how to be open, and how to challenge everything they know at all times. My approach is strong opinions held lightly, and I wish more designers would be like that. And not just in their conversations with customers, but with their conversations with their partners, with their collaborators.

I believe that if someone is humble to acknowledge that they can be wrong almost at all times, then they are set up for success, because they will learn, they will scale, they will improve, they will grow, they’ll become better. That’s the first one. 

The second one, my cheating here, is I wish more designers actually knew all that amazing underlying knowledge base that defines our industry. For example, speaking of interaction design, there’s so much knowledge accumulated since the early years of interaction design, that basically originated from human factors about how to design a cockpit for planes. That’s the… the cockpit is the grand dad of that. So if you have this knowledge, that really equips us so well.

Christian: Fantastic. Thank you. And then the last question is how do you reckon the future of design as an industry looks like? 

Jiri: Yes. Okay. We are all going to get replaced by robots. 

Christian: I’m not sure I buy that. I’m just not sure I buy that. 

Jiri: I think we are, look, I have seen – was it this week or last week, there was this experiment done by the Art Lebedev Studio in Russia, and they created this artificial designer AI, and they let this non-person work on actual real client problems for a year and no one recognised it.

Christian: Wow

Jiri: This AI designer designed logos. You can’t really talk about brand identities, because brand is so complex, but they designed — this designer, yes, I called it a designer, designed logos. And you can check them on the Art Lebedev website website and it just looks — it looks like a David Carson copycat. My boss looked at it earlier and was like, “Oh, this looks like David Carson”. So yes, basically Art Lebedev cloned David Carson. Yeah… 

 So seriously, what it’s going to look like? It’s going to look like exactly as the industry looked always. We are going to be understanding the needs of our customers. We are going to be understanding what are the needle-sharp pain in the eye of our customers, and we are going to be resolving this. And we are going to be applying design superpowers, not just on design problems, but on the organisational problems and on the business problems. And then that’s how we become leaders. 

Christian: Fantastic. Jiri, this has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for joining the show. And is there anything that you want to mention to everyone listening about where you’re working or anything else you want to mention before we say goodbye?

Jiri: Yes, I’m going to mention two things. I work for Intuit. Intuit’s probably the most customer-centric organisation on this planet and in the solar system, check it out. I mentioned the Eric Ries’ book. Read it carefully, guys. You will not believe how many times Intuit is mentioned there as a good example for how these things should be done.

Check out Intuit. We are constantly hiring designers, if not in the UK, then for sure in the U.S. and around the globe. And second, I’m not hiring right now, but I might be hiring later in this year. So if you are passionate about design, I really want to hear from you. Ping me on LinkedIn or on Twitter or anywhere. And I’m always so passionate about meeting great designers who have their own opinion and who are passionate about Design. So yes, ping me and I’ll be very happy. 

Christian: Fantastic. We’re going to put all your links in the show notes so people can easily find you there. Jiri, again, thank you so much for joining the show and we’ll catch up soon. 

Jiri: Thanks Christian! 

Christian: Thanks!

Jiri: Cheers!

Christian: That’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening to the show. Since you’ve made it this far, I hope you found this useful. And if you did, you should know there’s much more content just like this on the way. So if you want to learn more about how designers can impact businesses, please consider subscribing, and maybe sharing the episode with others. And before I say goodbye, remember that you can find show notes and links for this episode and others on our website, designmeetsbusiness.co. Catch you in the next one.