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Lessons By Eric Reiss of FatDUX- Part 2

Posted on April 17th, by Brad in Blog, Life Lessons. 1 Comment

Earlier this week I published Part 1 of Lessons by Eric Reiss of FatDUX. Below is the second half of the interview where Eric shares with us the various lessons life has taught him and how those lessons have impacted his life.

Wait, who was Eric Reiss again?

(http://www is a well-known author (http://www, a former two-term president of the Information Architecture Institute (http://www NULL.iainstitute, Chair of the EuroIA Summit (http://www NULL.euroia, sits on the advisory boards of the Copenhagen Business School, Kent State University, and the Romanian Information Architecture Association, and was the Professor of Usability and Design at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. To pay the bills, Eric is CEO of the FatDUX Group (http://www NULL.fatdux, a user-experience company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, with offices, affiliates, and representatives throughout Europe and North America.

Lessons by Eric Reiss

For me, UX is about everything – online, offline, products, services, I can make a serious argument that UX is the oldest profession because it is the basis of pretty much everything that’s come along since then.
I can get pretty passionate about service-design issues. Service design has been practiced in Europe for over three decades although Americans don’t seem to fully appreciate the concepts yet. Basically, it’s not about services but the quality of service (singular). Today, the idea of scarcity as a business model is less and less viable, particularly when so many products consist of recycled electrons. Quality of service is often the differentiating factor when a customer needs to decide between two identical offerings. (http://www it can take time and money to chart out the factors that relate to service (and those that are genuinely important to customers), improving customer service is not always that difficult. In fact, a lot of it is simply common sense. I’m particularly attune to problems at restaurants; it always galls me that a chef can prepare a brilliant meal, present it beautifully, yet forget to warm the plate. This is just plain dumb. Or when a waiter mixes things up and then insists that what he brought is actually better than what I originally ordered. And of course there’s…ah…I’d better stop here.
Depending on how you look at it, I’m either the perpetual tourist, or I’m never a tourist. Personally, I feel more like a “cloud person” – plunk me down somewhere, and I’ll figure out how things work. I’ll adjust and adopt and soon feel at home. Even language isn’t really a barrier if you are able to pick up on non-verbal signals. And if you can say “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” “thank you,” and “May I have a beer?” you can get really far.
Because I’m naturally curious and not totally clueless, I find that people open up to me and tell me things about their country that you just don’t learn about in guidebooks.
I find inspiration in almost everything, but particularly in conversations with smart people. I travel a lot, which can be very tiring. But I enjoy meeting new people and hearing about their ideas and projects.

I have to confess that I rather like long plane rides as they give me a chance to reflect on my recent experiences. Look at it this way: all I have to do is sit quietly for nine or 10 hours. Food comes automatically. There will probably be movies to watch. The phone is off and I have no immediate responsibilities. This is really quite a luxury, if you ask me. I also enjoy quiet time in hotel rooms. Again, there are no obligations.
I’ve met a lot of autocrats who say “no” just to prove they have the power to do so. This is absurd. It’s incredibly important to let people know that you are not just making an arbitrary decision, but that you’ve listened to them carefully and actually thought about what they’ve said. Often this means explaining that you have a slightly different set of priorities. Saying “no” to the less important things makes it easier to say “yes” to the stuff that really matters. And above all else, make sure your “no” isn’t perceived as a personal attack but as a professional response. Actually, the biggest mistake is to give someone an insincere “yes” just to avoid a conflict. This will always come back to bite you in the ass when you least expect it.


I’ve always believed in “freedom with responsibility.” In other words, people have free reign to do stuff without constantly asking permission. But this also means people have to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions. More and more, I’m finding that although folks gladly grab authority, they shy away from taking responsibility. I don’t know if this is a generational thing, but I’m certainly more careful about whom I entrust to do things these days.
The faith others have placed in me is what I have valued most in my own career. I’ve been given an incredible number of opportunities and I have regularly been given positions of trust and authority. Keep in mind, though, when one assumes a position of authority, this also means accepting responsibility for the actions of others and occasionally cleaning up their messes. Freedom with responsibility. Good leaders don’t publicly point fingers or assign blame, but learn from what has happened and adjust their own actions accordingly.
My 40th high-school reunion is coming up in a couple of months. I’ve been practicing an “elevator speech” for some time, trying to explain what I do. The easy answer is “I design websites.” It’s not really true, but it’s close enough. Actually, I choreograph interactions between, people, processes, and devices. Sometimes this relates to websites, sometimes it relates to product design, sometimes it relates to service design. It’s basically all about increasing conversion rates, but even this term is easily misunderstood. The truth is, FatDUX has developed a terrific set of tools which consist of Business Model Canvas, Persona Template, Experience Scope, Journey Script and Touchpoint Matrix. We chart out the entire system and connections across all channels and show which steps should be taken and which projects should be initiated to make things better. Ultimately, this improves products and services, raises conversion rates, increases customer satisfaction, and reduces OPEX.
My alternative elevator pitch is, “I make other people rich.” I haven’t really tried this one out yet, but it might make the subsequent conversation interesting.

Let me share some background. Both my parents were politically aware scientists and founding members of the St. Louis Citizen’s Committee for Nuclear Information back in the late 1950s. At the time, there was great concern in the scientific community regarding the effects of radioactive fallout from the above-ground nuclear testing taking place in Nevada. When most other activists were presenting emotional arguments against these tests, my parents, with others, set out to provide a neutral scientific foundation on which the powers that be could make informed decisions My parents never talked baby talk to me and never treated me as a child except when I insisted on behaving as one. Even when I was just four, our dinner conversations were pretty sophisticated; I knew what an isotope was long before I learned to play Monopoly. The whole notion of scientifically based argumentation is one that has stuck with me. As a result, I tend to promote knowledge-based design rather than opinion-based design. And I also know that all statistics are not created equal!
I went to college because I wanted to become a doctor. Every grownup I had ever met had an academic title - I once addressed our garbage man as “Dr. Smith.” Somehow, becoming a physician and a researcher seemed like the most natural thing in the world. But my first year at school was rocky. I was shocked that there was as little opportunity for independent thinking as there was. So, during my sophomore year, I took classes in performing arts and political science (and ended up with a double major a couple of years later). Although I completed all the pre-med stuff, I never really considered going to med school after that first year. There are a lot of ways to change the world. Medicine is just one of them. All this did reinforce my understanding and practice of the scientific method. And for a long time, one of my marketing specialties was medical devices and pharmaceuticals. If nothing else, I learned how to communicate complex products and processes to people who don’t have a technical background.
I had a plain black lunchbox at one point. But for the most part, I ate at the school cafeteria and didn’t need a lunchbox.
Thank you again Eric for taking the time to write these insightful lessons.

One thought on “Lessons By Eric Reiss of FatDUX- Part 2

  1. Pingback: Lessons by Eric Reiss of FatDUX – Part 1 | One Stray Thought

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