INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG 72 INTERACTIONS SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER2017
This forum is dedicated to maximizing the success of HCI practitioners within the frenetic world of product and service design.
It focuses on UX strategy approaches, leadership, management techniques, and above all the challenge of bringing HCI
to peer-level status with longstanding business disciplines such as marketing and engineering. — Daniel Rosenberg, Editor
FORUM THE BUSINESS OF UX
and maneuvers. I spent a lot of time
making sure the story made sense and
that the environment was set up just so,
and striking the proper balance of speed
and special moves. Sounds fun, right? I
After launching, the feedback from
customers on online forums made it
clear that this particular chapter was
anything but fun (Figure 1). During
development I should have sought out
more opinions from people outside
the team who weren’t already expert
players, and I should have listened
to those who said that it was a bit
too difficult—I didn’t recognize
my confirmation bias. I should have
ignored the fact that I had spent so
much time on it—that it was a sunk
cost. I listened to my gut a little too
much, and I honestly feel like I almost
broke the single-player campaign
mode because of it.
Instead of following your gut blindly
and falling victim to your own inherent
cognitive biases, do the following:
• Train your gut
• Lead with design
• Validate with data.
Instead of trusting your gut,
develop good judgment. Actively
train yourself to be aware of your
biases and find ways to work against
them. Train your brain to work with
you, not against you.
Put your design skills and
expertise to good use—understand
the problem before trying to solve it.
Validate your ideas and assumptions
through testing, and seek out data
that might refute it. It takes guts to
go back to see if you were wrong and
admit it when you are.
The right advice at the right moment can save an incredible amount of time, effort, and isappointment. I’ve had the privilege of working with smart and talented
people, many of whom have been
generous with words of wisdom.
What I didn’t realize early on was
that much of this advice was actually
bad. It’s not the obviously bad advice
that’s problematic. Rather, the most
dangerous advice is the kind that
sounds good. Advice like that can
make a difficult situation worse, a hard
job even harder.
Here, I share my top three examples of
bad advice and how I learned to avoid it.
“TRUST YOUR GUT”
This advice is empowering, suggesting
you already know the answer—just
ignore the naysayers. This is bad
advice because our cognitive biases
often lead us astray. The following are
just a few examples.
Confirmation bias is our tendency
to favor information that supports
our existing beliefs and discount
information that contradicts them.
Two people who hold different beliefs
can process the exact same information
and come to different conclusions.
We view the past in the best possible
light or least embarrassing way, and
we selectively remember those things
that support what we already hold to
be true. What rationalizations are you
creating to back up a decision you
were already inclined to support? Are
you dismissing legitimate critique of
The sunk-cost fallacy leads us to
continue because we have already
invested time, resources, and
effort in something, even when it’s
irrational to continue. How often
have you pursued a design solution
beyond the point of reason because
you already spent so much time on
it? It may be better to start fresh, but
we find it difficult to do so because
of the perceived waste of the already
One of my favorites is the
above-average effect, where we overestimate
our positive qualities, specifically our
capabilities. Most of us believe we are
exceptional—the majority of drivers
consider themselves to be above
average. We might believe that we have
such amazing insight into the human
condition that we can design something
that is obviously going to be immediately
intuitive. Of course people will get
it—I’m that good.
I was a designer on Crimson Skies ,
a game for the original Xbox. In that
game, you flew around in cool propeller
planes, shooting down other planes
and airships. One chapter I designed
required you, the protagonist, to prove
yourself worthy. I devised a series of
challenges, including a follow-the-leader
flight trial through a series of obstacles
Paolo Malabuyo, Google
→ Don’t simply trust your gut.
Develop good judgment.
→ Don’t be disruptive. Recruit
others to your cause.
→ Don’t let the work speak for
itself. Provide context to
connect the dots.