I’m learning how to unlock the passion of the explorer.

People who get into the business of design ethnography and qualitative customer insight research do it because they love it.  We have studied and worked in this field because we truly believe that this kind of work  can eventually make someone’s life better. Some days I help improve and redesign error messages and swipe interactions, but these little poorly designed cognitive burdens add up and make your life harder than it needs to be.  Other days I conduct in-depth research with customers on touchy personal topics of great social importance. Having such love for your domain sometimes makes it hard to step back and get perspective. I am  *almost* a passionate explorer, but I could use some work and I will always keep learning. I found some good tools to help re-frame how I thought about work and my passion and I am going to share them with you here.

This year Deloitte published an interesting report out of the Centre for the Edge, a future focused think tank based in the USA, Europe, and Australia. John Hagel and John Seely Brown head it up, you should Google these fine folks to see their fabulous careers and awesome research cred. John Seely Brown was at Xerox’s PARC for years, that is where ethnography and UX collided in the early days of people who did things like design ethnography, but didn’t call it that yet. John Hagel is a strategist and innovator, who not so secretly  has a bit of a passion for passion? I’ll explain.

My point is that the Centre for the Edge has put forth some interesting ideas regarding the difference between the standard (read antiquated) employee engagement measures and the new world of the passionate worker.  The passion of the explorer is a set of characteristics that are displayed by a category of workers that are more likely to be employed at successful companies. By reverse logic, if you employ these people, your company will increase the probability of healthy dividends.  Passion of the explorer can be identified by 3 core concepts: commitment to the domain, questing and connecting. You can watch John Hagel’s video explaining the core concepts of the report.

What impacted me is that, we can become even more passionate explorers, and what’s more is that others can be uplifted into this realm even if they had no interest in it before. The caveat is that I am assuming being a passionate explorer is awesome and that many people in the UX, design, and design research industries are already obsessed with being one. We can now identify and measure our own individual progress as passionate explorers and make plans to work on the parts crucial to our way of working. I really enjoyed this report and the way it laid out a very simple way of understanding the difference between passionate at work and miserable at work.

Additional resources to keep exploring the topic of a passionate workforce

Full Report:  Unlocking the passion  of the Explorer:  Report 1 of the 2013 Shift  Index series From the Deloitte Center for the Edge

A Blogpost from John Hagel about what passionate workers want: John Hagel’s blog on the Manifesto of the Creative Passionate Worker:

Report on the way we need to redesign our work environments physically and experientially in order to move towards more creative and passionate work: Work Environment Redesign Case Studies

DISCLAIMER: I work at Deloitte Digital, but I posted this because I really liked this stuff and it helped me in understanding my own goals 😉

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7 thoughts on “I’m learning how to unlock the passion of the explorer.

  1. Great story and I’ve also been inspired by johns work. I really like the questing and connecting dispositions because I think that passion lies in all of us. I have trouble resonating with the commitment to domain language though. I suppose it is similar to the concept of T shaped person and the desire to build a lond depth of expertise. In your case ethnography? Interested to hear more stories along your journey!

    • Thank you for your interesting comment. About the commitment to domain. .. it’s needed so that you have a home from which to set out on your journey. Providing you with a frame od reference on how to learn deeply and a platform to build your eminence upon. I know many people who are jack of all trades and master of none who are very successful but still lament a lack of direction and continue to search. Overall I speak to each their own. One man in his time wears many hats.

  2. When we start to understand how ethnic groups and culture render their environments to produce similar human values (food, family, friendship, fear, sympathy, empathy, etc.) we begin to see the how the edges of our consciousness construct our character and our what we think of as our “beliefs” and “knowledge.” The fact that resources available to humans in different environments are so varied, suggests to me, how we develop goals that come into conflict. In my interpretation of “pull” we see the needs of others as an opportunity to fulfill own needs, provide we can fulfill theirs. We are not in an environment of scarcity if what attracts us to other is what they want, and not just what we need.

    • This is a mighty interesting direction your thoughts have taken. Reminds me of the jared diamond book guns germs and steel. He discusses on a civilization level how that occurs. What you are talking about is the individual level and the situation that they come from within their society. I reckon there is huge relevance in understanding those links in terms of helping people navigate their passion. Or enabling them to have the resources to explore at all.

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