Everybody has probably heard of the concept of “saying yes to success” but that’s not always the best choice. Say “yes” to every opportunity, and every idea. What an awesome thought!
In reality saying YES to everything is kinda like shooting yourself in the foot before running a marathon. Most likely not gonna finish that race, buddy.
When it comes to UX/UI saying Yes to everything could mean jumbled creative, missed deadlines, and ultimately a poor finished product.
Julie Zhuo’s thought-piece titled “No No No” explains this dilemma perfectly when it comes to UX/UI, and why we should revisit our love of “No” now more than ever.
“Saying “No” however isn’t just healthy, it’s necessary. The path to success is paved in thousands of tiny No’s. Behind every inspired design is a graveyard of early iterations and averted feature creep. Only through stripping products down to their most essential elements can we focus on doing fewer things better. So, how might we build the skill of saying No?”
As the product design VP at Facebook she definitely knows a bit about making hard choices. She clarifies, there is a time and place for saying No, AND a way to say it.
When to say No:
- There’s a time and place for No. Don’t stifle creativity during the idea-generating stages. “Sometimes an idea you think is too hard or just plain crazy could turn out to be the idea that moves your team from being iterative to innovative.”
- Don’t say No until you understand the idea you’re saying No to. Let designers be designers. Let them think outside of the box and explain to you their approach. “For example, if someone describes a feature that seems odd to you, asking “why do you think that’s a good idea?” could lead you to understand the concept or notion behind it, which could then lead to promising new executions.”
- Don’t say No if you don’t have anything to back it up. The best decisions are made when you fully understand your alternatives. Don’t say No outright unless you have a solution. “If your gut reaction to an idea is “No” but you can’t come up with any concrete evidence to back up your opinion, this may indicate it’s not the right time to say No, and there’s an opportunity to gather more data/feedback to learn something new.”
- Don’t say No to all the small stuff. Let everybody feel ownership of the user experience. Support the passion of your team and encourage the small changes if they don’t negatively impact the schedule. “For example, if an engineer on your team has a small fix she’s passionate about doing, she’s able to do it herself, it will be quick (i.e. won’t impact the schedule), and it really doesn’t have much downside, this should be supported. Especially if this improves polish, usability, or squishes a bug.
- Say No during focused execution mode. When deadlines are quickly approaching new ideas should be tabled and reevaluated later. This is not the time to be creative. “Often the way to say No during these times is to simply say “Not yet. To stay focused, let’s ensure we do everything we planned for this milestone, and evaluate all the backlog ideas together after we hit our deadline.”
How to say No:
- No doesn’t have to be negative. Don’t be a d*ck to your team. Nobody wins with a bad attitude because negative energy stifles productivity. “The most frustrating way to receive “No” is when it’s delivered as an unproductive judgement, like “No, that is a bad idea.” You can always bring your No back to the goals, what course of action would be the strongest path towards the goals, and why. In this framing, there’s no such thing as a “bad idea”, but instead there are ideas that are more effective and ideas that are less effective at reaching your goals given the required effort/cost.”
- Make sure you’re saying “No” to the idea, not the person. Again, don’t be a d*ck to your team. “There’s a world of difference between critiquing an idea vs. disparaging theperson behind it. Saying “No, we shouldn’t do it your way” or “We should do it my way” might be a convenient shorthand, but be mindful to avoid using language that ties a person to their work product, as this can lead to judgement and resentment.”
- Don’t talk about your experience in the abstract, talk about the what’s happening right now. Don’t put unproductive distance between you and your team. Instead share specific examples of what worked and why as it relates to your current project. “You may be the most seasoned person in the room, but it erodes credibility to say No purely on the basis of your seniority without providing additional rationale.”
- Saying No to leadership isn’t insubordination, it’s your job. Don’t be afraid to say No to the boss! (Or to the client.)You are getting paid to have impact and not just do what you are told. “One of the hardest times to say “No” is when the bad idea is coming from your manager, or the executives running the company. There will be times when your marching orders don’t sound right. If you follow direction blindly without believing in what you are doing, not only will you produce lower quality work that isn’t coming from your heart, but you’ll be missing an opportunity to help inform the management of a better path.”
I agree with Julie when she says, “successful teams are built from cognitive diversity” because no one will have as much context into all the details of my work as I do. Only through collaboration and responsible communication can the strongest solutions/ideas emerge.