Feb 10, 2009: Engagement and stakeholding. And steak.
Yesterday morning I was lugging a suitcase homeward, still bleary from a red-eye flight from Vancouver, where I'd attended the interaction'09 conference. Although I felt like hell, clearly I looked like a giant of industry, or at least a man of reasonable means, as I was approached by a fellow who asked me, "Hey, chief, want to buy some steaks?"
Raw steak. On Seventh Avenue. In the morning. Oh well, you've gotta admire the entrepreneurial instinct, however misplaced.
But the funny thing was that I'd just been thinking about steaks. Well, to be honest, stakes, as in stakeholding. At the conference, I'd been explaining the Rosenfeld Media publishing model to a dozen or so prospective authors. I kept returning to the words "engagement" and "stakeholding". I explained that one of our major goals is to engage with all sorts of people—practitioners, influencers, subject matter experts, and more—so that they'd have a stake in each book. More engagement from more stakeholders during the creation of the product leads to a better product.
That our goal, but isn't it yours too?
Whatever type of work we're doing, and whatever terms we use to describe it, when it comes to our hoped-for outcomes, aren't we all trying to get beyond experience, interaction, and design? Aren't we trying to create artifacts that ultimately engage? Isn't that the secret sauce?
For example, at the conference, I was talking with a couple of the interaction design field's strongest advocates. I think they're doing wonderful things, and the conference was fantastic. But the term interaction: well, interactions happen, one way or another. And they can be good, or not so good. But it's a dry term, almost too objective.
But engagement seems to have a much higher degree of implicit value. People don't typically engage with things the don't like. When they engage, they've acquired a sense of stake in whatever they're using, and there's a true dialogue between user and system and the people behind the system. Engagement means blurring the lines between user and provider, as the implicit dialogue leads to all players enjoying a stake in a shared system (or experience).
Thinking in terms of engagement, rather than experience, architecture, or interactions, has opened all sorts of doors for me, whether I'm consulting, publishing, or whatever. I look at every potential relationship between people involved in an experience, and ask "How we engage better?" and "How can they have a stake in what we're doing?" To me, that's much richer than asking how we can help users interact better, or help them find better, or entertain them better, or anything else.
So please pardon me if, during our next conversation, I keep repeating the terms "engagement" and "stakeholding". It just feels right. Moreso than any other term, even "user experience".
What do you think?
PS To all you vegetarians out there, please pardon the red meat reference; it's just difficult not to share some of the odd occurrences that happen along Brooklyn's Seventh Avenue.
Jan 20, 2009: IA Summit program now available
And then there were ten: check out the fantastic program assembled for the 2009 IA Summit (yes, our tenth!). It takes place in Memphis (home to Elvis and ancient Greeks), March 20-22; pre-conferences are March 18-19. See you there.
Jan 15, 2009: UX webinars galore
We've just announced five new Future Practice user experience webinars ("we" being Smart Experience and Rosenfeld Media). Great practical topics, great presenters (Christian Rohrer, Bill Scott, Kristina Halvorson, Ginny Redish, and John Ferrara). More coming; this will be a monthly thing. Check them out and register here.
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Peter Morville and I wrote the best-selling Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, aka "the polar bear book."
Louis Rosenfeld LLC