Reframe Now! An Interview with Mona Patel
Personas are powerful tools used to help teams determine the wants and needs of potential users and stakeholders. A good persona provides a benchmark with which a design team can gauge the effectiveness of their work. They assist decision makers by adding understanding and meaning to the creative process, while empowering the team to address complex problems based on real data.
Mona Patel, CEO and Founder of New York’s Motivate Design, sees the persona extending farther than simply clients and users. She has turned it inward–using personas as an internally facing tool to help team members identify pain points in their own process. Mona and her team have developed a series of techniques to help take control of the creative process. Their resulting work has helped dozens of companies overcome perceived limitations and barriers. Her new book, Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think, acts as an extension of the work done at Motivate, outlining an eight step process to help companies get “unstuck”.
Mona took some time out from her busy schedule to talk with us about excuse personas, embracing change and her Reframework process.
Your upcoming talk at WebVisions Barcelona explores the idea of excuse personas. Why did you develop them and how are they used?
In the design world, personas are often used to create an understanding and put meaning behind why a design is successful (and why it isn’t). At Motivate Design, we create personas in all of our projects to ensure we are executing the best possible solutions to client’s problems. We developed the BS Excuse Personas as an approachable way to help all people, not just clients and users, gain awareness of the elements holding them back from accomplishing big things.
There are probably some who resist labeling themselves with a BS Excuse Persona – how do you handle those situations, especially if that person is a manager or CXO?
We haven’t really had much push back—especially in the C-suite and management positions. People are so interested in learning about themselves. Participants usually embarrassingly nod along with this part of the WIT Studio—taking this as a time to remember that we’re all human. The BS Excuse Personas are not offensive and never mean to be.
The goal is to show you that there are countless ideas and to encourage you to continue innovating, ideating, and creating.
However, when push back does occur, we take a step back to look at the bigger picture to confront the larger issues at hand within the organization and environment. Not everyone is ready to do the work in order to overcome their BS Excuse Personas, but realizing that much is a good first step.
Once someone identifies with a BS Excuse Persona, how can they embrace it and use it to remove barriers? Has it helped people to get ‘unstuck’ at a particular point?
The more you see it, the more it serves you. Once you are willing to identify with one of the personas and say, “I’m a Scaffolder”, you’re on your way to using it wisely. Embracing your BS Excuse Persona is a pivotal moment in getting unstuck.
Through your work at Motivate Design, you’ve developed a process that you call the Reframework…how does it help to break down barriers to innovation?
This helps break down barriers by identifying the mindsets preventing you from creativity, confronting your excuses, and seeing problems as opportunities. The Reframework will provide you with the tools needed to get out of your own way and start making meaningful change.
What are some of the challenges that teams face when adopting the Reframework in their organization?
One challenge that all teams face, ours included, when applying the Reframework to a project, culture, or overall organization is working through the BS Excuse Personas both individually and as a team. Luckily, this module tends to be the one to lend the most laughs.
How is the Reframework different than other exercises that teams adopt to encourage disruptive thinking?
The Reframework is different than other exercises of its kind because the goal is not to just come up with your “next big idea”. The goal is to show you that there are countless ideas and to encourage you to continue innovating, ideating, and creating.
Although you solve your problem, you also learn other strategies to adopt and implement in your every day life. The Reframework is what worked for us at Motivate Design when we felt stuck and people loved it so we shared it with everyone.
Speaking of disruptive thinking and buzzwords, such as ‘innovation’, – do you think that these terms get in the way of organizational change and creativity?
Maybe being a “buzzword” is our excuse. It’s “buzzy” to wear black pants but they’re a staple in everyone’s closets. If using buzzwords is what gets you to think creatively—if it’s a staple—then I encourage it. It’s not like people weren’t innovating before innovation was a “buzzword”. Wear black pants because they look good on you. Don’t dismiss innovation because it’s “buzzy”.
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Mona Patel is the CEO and founder of Motivate Design. She started Motivate Design in 2009 to create a place where clients could get what they want, rather than what an agency needs to sell. In her WebVisions Barcelona lecture, “Excuses, Excuses, Excuse Personas“, Mona will ask the audience to look inward and to reflect on and question their behaviors and attitudes when it comes to ideating and thinking in a creative space .