“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Is it really “creative” vs. “technical”?

On the Information Architecture Institute’s member’s only list there has been a discussion about the place of IA (I’ll even extend it to UX practitioners) in an organization. The conversation then turned towards discussing the nature of the dichotomy of “creative” vs. “technical” since so many agency and corporate cultures split teams in this manner. Below is my response to the thread.

I always thought of the dichotomy (actually a continuum) is more about methods & practice than about intelligence type & media.

So the dichotomy I use is “D”esign (capital “D” on purpose) vs. Engineering–or art vs. science.

Basically engineering starts with a problem statement & creates a hypothesis towards discovering solutions through methods associated with “proofs” a la high school geometry.

Design is more about random discovery through methods of personal expression.

Now before everyone jumps on this, please remener I said it is a continuum, or a better metaphor is a ying-yang relationship. For example any great expressionist designer still incorporated moments of at leaat qualitative validation in their processes and O have met few scientists & engineers that don’t also use creative expression as part of their work.

I would also say that I do not believe there is an ideal balanced perspective, & that I do believe that different problem types are more successfully attended to leaning one way vs. The other.

The clear example for me is that solutions that require or ate beat served by including emotional impact should use a more design-centered approach. Also, I believe if the “right” solutions are not derived using the method you are comfortable with you should shake it up.

Now back to what I understand is the original question. IA belongs where it can do the most good within your organization’s cultural structures. It is a design problem, that has no easy solution.

For example, In my 2 previous jobs I was firmly embedded in the engineering/product dev team, & that worked very well for us. Now I work inside a design bureau that acts as a service agency and here that has worked well.

In my agency past I have had the most success when UX roles were neither in the design, business, nor engineering units, but was the bridge between the three others. To evoke Don Norman’s model of the stool the 3 others are the legs & UX is the seat (that which the end user places its value on top of).

If I was forced to choose, I would choose design, but only if the agency sees the IA role as one to grow towards the creative director position. Most IAs don’t go that route which I think is part of the problem.

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