A Quick Thought on Enabling — The Dream Job Environment (for me at least)

I was recently given the book “Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park” by a Director and Senior Show Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, and someone I consider a friend, Jon Georges (who I also consider a Disney Imagineering Legend). 

In the forward of the book is this quote from Harrison (Buzz) Price, which rings true for any creative person, “”Yes, if…” is the language of the enabler. You never wanted to tell Walt “No, because…””.  

It can be very frustrating to be a creative person, or in my case an experience designer, and told time and again by people who are there to make your designs that they can’t be done, or “No, because…”

In my last 3 jobs, I encountered the “No, because…” syndrome at two companies, and the “Yes, if…” at one – my last one actually. The first time was at a software defense contractor, and when I had come up with a novel solution and design for something that would be normally be considered boring and a chore for the people using it, I had one developer tell me “I don’t think we’re smart enough to do what you want.” Shortly after that, the head developer came to me to show me how he thought the app should be designed so it would be easy for them to do.

This is a case of putting the needs of the developer ahead of the needs of the users. Great for them, bad for a good user experience.  

When I was done with that contract (and they did eventually stick to my designs which won them a huge contract…), I went on to  a small app development company that makes an app for iOS and Android.  

In this case, the “No, because…” wasn’t the fault of the Android developer. It was because using the Android SDK, a lot of stuff that would have made the app a better experience couldn’t be done. Still, as a designer/creative person, you tend to get your balloon popped a lot because of limitations – or so I believed there were limitations because that’s what the developer knew and what he conveyed to me. 

At my last job, which ended due to budget, I never got a “No, because…”. Not once. Ever. In fact when I came up with limited ideas, since that’s what I was used to doing by then, I was told to think bigger, and think for myself versus going with what was common design practices. 

I’d then ask the developers “Can we do this?”, expecting a “No, because…” but instead always getting a “Yes, if…” which was more in the form of “Sure, I guess so. We can do anything you want.”   

They weren’t tied to any SDK’s, and would come up with new ways to code in order to make things happen, and realize the designs, solutions and stuff I’d just throw out there to see if it would stick.  Coincidentally, this company was formed by a couple of Disney’s top Imagineers. 

That to me was a dream job environment — to be able to freely create great ideas and solutions, and have people say “Yes, if…”. A workplace of enablers, not disablers (that’s the best I could come up with as an anti-enabler). 

I encourage not only creatives to seek out companies like that, but I encourage companies and their management team to be more open to great ideas, and instead of saying “No, because…” as their first answer, maybe look at how something could really be accomplished beyond what you’re used to, and taking a chance of enabling greatness within your walls. 

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