Lou, Shawn, and Steve from our team had an opportunity a few days ago to meet Kathy Sierra and Burt Bates of, “Creating Passionate Users“. They were on campus and the guys cold-emailed them and asked for a meeting. What they got what something so much more. In Kathy’s words:
I spent yesterday at Microsoft. And yes, it was on a “passionate users” mission — something even my teenage daughter found hilarious given the Microsoft we all know and love to hate. But the day was a string of surprises and challenged assumptions… ending with meeting some amazing MS guys including Furrygoat’s Steve Mafosky, Shawn Morrissey, and Lou (whose-last-name-I-forgot)).
…It’s so tempting to say that anyone who really cares that much about users ought to get the hell out of the big company. I know, having done my time at Sun. But I’d forgotten how to see Microsoft as something other than a Big Company. I’d forgotten (or never recognized) that it’s a collection of individual people, and no matter how entrenched the company’s views, policies, practices, values, bureaucracy, etc. are, there are motivated, smart, caring, creative people who work there.
It’s guys like Lou, Shawn and Steve that are the reason I joined this team. I wish I could have been there. In “traditional” models of user-interaction, some development teams abhor the idea of meeting customers, of “hanging out” at a booth at a trade show. One of my most memorable moments years ago was helping a wonderful woman from the US Postal Service who attended the old PC Expo show with her PC. She had just bought a Windows XP PC (which had just shipped) and had dozens of questions. She stuck around for 40 minutes asking questions, deferring to others with their own questions and coming back. She came back the next day with more questions. At the end, she said to me, “Thank you so much. I never knew Microsoft could be so helpful”. She’s one of the customers that I carry with me day to day – she needs to feel that what we’re doing “kicks ass”. (Then there’s the flight attendant in 1999 who sat in the aisle during final approach asking me questions until we’re 20 seconds from landing, but that’s another story.)
She wasn’t just referring to me. I was representing all of Microsoft. So often folks forget that. As Kathy points out, I too have been accused of “burning bridges” with coworkers on old teams who adopted “can’t do” attitudes, avoided talking to the customer, or thought that “blogging” is such a geeky and wasteful thing. Nothing upsets me more than taking the stance that they’re too important or already know the customer based on just primary and secondary research. Understanding the customer is a daily event.
While Kathy says to “Subvert from within”, I prefer to think of this as “raising up” or “raising the bar” from within. Sometimes you have to shine a light into the dark corners- the people you find there won’t like it, but it affects change.