Growing up, I remember my Dad attempting to assemble furniture or install a new appliance. He would push and pry and struggle for a bit. You could see his sweat build and feel the frustration in the air. After another 15 min or so, things would get really serious. He would go to the garage and return with his hammer. I knew things were about to get real.
When certain sections or parts would not fit properly, he would start by tapping, then build to banging – then level up to ‘sledgehammer’ mode. Often parts of the new thing would break, sometimes (rarely) it would all work out and the assembly/installation was a success.
Often, it was at this point that my Dad would grab the user manual or instruction booklet for the first time. He would flip through the pages and try to discover where things went wrong.
What if he had started with the user manual?
When I started my most recent product design role, my Design Director asked me to create a user manual. I’d never heard of a user manual for people. But after reading his and doing some quick research, it’s actually pretty genius.
At it’s core, it’s a shortcut to help learn about a person and how they most like to work. It’s like the cliff-notes, quick-start version of how to best work with someone. It’s what my Father should’ve read before attempting to install our dishwasher. 🙂
It was a rich and challenging exercise to create it, but hopefully helpful for my team mates (it was even helpful for me to understand myself better). You can check out my user manual below.