Role Switching

I am not one to dump carte blanche categorization of people as a way to understand the world; but, I did recently have a realization of types of people who are involved in a product. I see these three lenses of understanding myself and others as an opportunity to better understand how I can best work with other people. These roles are dynamic depending on the situation and in some regards, I think we all play one of these roles more often than the other two and any one of these roles can be a full time profession.

The first person I see is the Creator. They are the designer of the product. The person who makes it, has the idea, develops the idea. Maybe even brings the idea to market. The Creator’s goal is to get the product in the hands of someone to use it and love it and the Creator uses it and loves it and they want people to never stop using their product and they will do anything to make it better for the Customer.

The second person I see is the User of the product. The person who interacts with the product’s creation process or back end every day. They are not the Customer. They keep the product working. The systems the product relies on are used by the User every day. The User is the fuel to the system and the maintainer of the processes. The product continues because of the User and the systems they perpetuate. Maybe they are on the manufacturing team of an assembly line or the coding team of an an application. Usually, they have more contact with either the Designer and less contact with the Customer or more contact with the Customer and less contact with the Creator. The User’s goal is to have a fine tuned product and an equally fine tuned process to keep the product going.

Finally, there is the Customer. This is the person who is the perfect target market. They see the product, put their hard earned resources on the line in exchange for taking the product home. They are meant to be with the product and the product is meant for them. They usually have almost no contact with the Designer and they only have contact with the User at best. Truly, the Customer is the target for the product.

The breakdown comes in when the members of this arc forget their place. The Creator, for instance, generally should not be the one to fill in the role of the User. The Creator is meant to have an idea and share an idea with someone who can do it better than they can. They are meant to be the origin point and let the User do their job. The flaw of the Creator is their ideas about how the Customer will use the product. The Creator generally thinks the customer will use the product one way and, generally speaking, the Customer will actually use the in a vastly different manner all together.

The User cannot forget their role either. They cannot start to fill in for the Creator and filter the feedback from the Customer. They need to make sure to always keep the Customer’s best interest first. They too easily get lost in what works best for the User and not what works best for the Customer. When the User starts to get too carried away with designing for themselves, they start to do what is best for them and their needs and the Customer’s are lost in the fray. Ultimately, the Customer will leave the product because the User is so busy maximizing the product’s processes to meet their own needs and not the needs of the Customer.

Finally, The Customer should be the simplest; but too often, the Customer forgets their role and starts to try and act like the Creator and forgets they only have a piece of the picture. When the Customer forgets their role they start trying to tell the User what to do not knowing how their decisions actually alter the process and derail the overall picture the User is orchestrating on their behalf as the Creator is designing and innovating in their product.

Ultimately, we must have all three roles in order to bring a product to our customers. And the products will vary. Maybe you work for a university and your customers are the students, you are the User, and the Designer is the university’s leadership. Or perhaps you love going to a certain restaurant or buying from a certain tech vendor, thus making you the Customer. Your server is then your User, and the cook or owner/menu selector is the creator.

For me, I have begun to realize my role in all of this. I have started remembering my place, not to over extend into other people’s areas but instead encourage them to succeed at what they do well that I might be able to succeed at what I do well.

Which role do you identify most with? Which role do you overextend into the most often? What can you do to help the people you overextend into instead of suffocating them with your overextension?