Thursday, August 9, 2007

Always one year removed from incompetence

As my wife will happily tell you, I have many, many faults. For example, I am incapable of finding the ketchup in the refrigerator. My wife can talk on the phone, make a craft, help the kids with their homework, and watch Oprah at the same time... I can watch a bad movie for two hours and not notice the house is on fire. My fashion sense has not changed or improved since I discovered jeans and t-shirts in second grade.

And I consistently hold my own opinion in higher regard than it deserves.

On the bright side, I eventually recognize that I was an idiot... it just takes about a year. Then I look back in horror at how incompetent I was. This became a yearly rite of passage for me - marveling at my newfound wisdom compared to the previous year. It was nicely validating for awhile, until I started looking ahead and wondering what I was doing now that I'd be embarrassed about next year. Takes all the fun out of feeling superior to... er, myself.

Looking back over my learning curve to date, one thing that strikes me is that in addition to simply learning through mistakes and casual chaos, I've always worked with a team of user experience professionals, and they are the ones who have helped me grow into the proud, just-beyond-incompetent UXer that I am today. I don't think you can overestimate how important that is - UXers who are isolated on development teams are almost doomed to stagnation, IMO. For those folks, the only way to avoid this fate is the virtual UX team on the internet. Bravo to all the UXers who make the net a vibrant community from which to learn.

Which brings me back to my original point - what am I going to learn over the next year that is going to make me feel incompetent now? I'm not sure (if I knew, I'd just go ahead and learn it now), but it's very likely that I'll learn it from someone on the internet. Not in one place on one day... in a hundred blog posts and comments and articles and research, all providing a tiny piece of the puzzle leading to the next minor epiphany.

I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, I'll just have to make do with what I've learned so far. And ask my wife to find the ketchup for me.

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