It’s not HOW you do it, it’s WHY you do it!

A great user experience does not come from the perfect process, it comes from the right attitude

I often ask myself why some teams seem to produce better results while having more fun on the way. The other day, while listening to a wise Sadhu in “Enlightened Up!” I had an epiphany: “It’s not how you do it, it’s why you do it!” That’s the whole secret. Let me explain.

Imagine you are in the process of developing a new system. You are following all the good advice from usability gurus like Don Norman or Alan Cooper. Things are flowing nicely: The personas are defined, you already went through a series of usability tests using early mockups and the visual designers just started translating your brand message into an amazing, visual language. But the new system is still lacking something to make it special. Why? How can this be? You are following all the available “how” by the book. Maybe an user experience expert could help?

It’s time to ask yourself “why” you are developing this system. Is it just a job which needs to be done? Would you prefer to actually be working on something else? Do you really care about the users?

Why do you think the espresso in a quiet, little bar in Tuscany smells better than in any Starbucks around the world? Even with the same coffeemaker, the same beans, the same barista training, the coffee still would turn out differently. The “how” might be the same, but the “why” is not. The attitude, the intention of the barista matters. One just wants to make a living to be able to pay for something he really would like to do – which is perfectly ok – the other is content with his live in a small village, exited to prepare an expresso for anyone who happens to step into his bar.

Wan’t something better? Ask everyone “why” they are working on the project. Try to find a reason “why” YOU are working on the project. Try to look in your heart, not the project vision statement. And don’t forget: Everyone has his own reasons “why” he is passionate about something. Don’t try to force your values on anyone else!

Don’t get me wrong: The “how” will get you 80% of the way. But you will need the “why” to get to 100%. Getting to understand the “how” is complicated enough. Trying to answer the “why” is indeed much, much harder.


  1. Stephen Missler

    Why am I on this project because like most project related people I am a mercenary. Money is where it’s at and 1kCHF per day ain’t hay. Passion, oh that costs 2k per day.
    Sorry Philipp but that is what I see in our Investment Banking world.
    Cheers from the other end of the yoga mat, Stephen

    • Hey Steve,
      Thanks for your comment!

      You are so right! I many companies being passionate about the company or the business is in is hard, maybe impossible. In my current job I am really lucky to be able to work on something I am passionate about.

      I am not saying that anyone should be passionate about their business. I know that work can be pretty bad sometimes. A business is an abstract concept, but people are not. What I used to do when I would work in a bad environment was to focus on the people around me. Usually there is always someone around who sees things the same way. Together it was easier to laugh about the absurdity of the business situation. In many cases the “why” will simply be: Need to earn money.

      Hope this helps. And if not it would be fun to meet for a beer.


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