No one should really like job titles.
They can limit an executive’s ability to seize opportunities outside their supposed responsibilities. Awarding one could possibly stunt a person’s desire to continue doing the work that got them there in the first place. Worst of all, their often inflated nature makes people who have special-sounding ones believe that status-signalling is meaningful.
And yet, if you want your work to be significantly better - it is time for you to take on another job title.
In my current position, my job title is ‘VP of Product’ - but despite this fancy-sounding title, my professional responsibilities and passion simply make me a product designer. I work primarily on crafting pleasurable and meaningful experiences for people through disciplines such as interaction and usability design, motion design, and high-fidelity prototyping. But if I were to give the most credit to anything for enabling me to produce my best work: it would be the skills I practice when I give myself the title of ‘Writer’.
When I write, I look at my work with the critical eye of a premier ballet teacher. Stop attempting to say so much. Stop using so many unnecessary words. Stop trying to cram so many ideas into one sentence. Writing freezes your ideas for refinement. You’re free to chop and eliminate. To cut down on saying things that don’t add much or that simply don’t need to be said. Its almost as though the simple act of putting words on paper detaches you entirely from your thinking. To meditate on your extensive ideas and prune them like a master bonsai craftsman: with precision and grace.
When I write, a desire for focus and simplicity stirs from within. I cut out well-worded paragraphs and rewrite entire articles. I refuse to settle with impressive as I demand understandable.
This desire pays great dividends to my main profession.
Don Norman, author of two of my favourite books: The Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design, states that one of the keys to a great design is Discoverability. This means that a product allows the user to immediately discover what actions are possible and where and how to perform them.
For a long time, my digital product designs were a combination of anything and everything that had played a significant role in other successful products I studied. This ultimately resulted in overwhelming interfaces. Designs that did too much at once. Screens that forced the user to slow down but only to consider how clever this app was.
A simple and focused product makes the kind of discoverability that Don Norman talks about, easy. But when you’re trying to do everything, much like my clever designs attempted to do, it’s fairly difficult for your users to quickly discover the 1–2 important things your product can do or help them achieve.
For your work to be world-class, it often just needs less. That’s true for my designs - and I only learnt that because it’s true for my writing. So add ‘Writer’ to your job title and do the work that goes along with being one. Write a lot. Edit more. Publish frequently. It’ll be hard and it will require many hard hours from you - but it will give anything you create the simplicity and focus that French mathematician Blaise Pascal wish he had, as he once professed: “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
Don’t hesitate to say hello and so I can see your added job title on Twitter: @justincampbellp