3d view, three dimension, design, community persona, functional, Toby Elwin, blog

Community persona reaction for functional design

Toby Elwin, community person, communication, 3 dimension, cognitive processing
Communication so real that it touches

We communicate to guide expected action. When expectation is not met the fault is poor communication design. Functional communication needs to measure effective communication from design to result, from delivery through visceral reaction.

A community persona perspective measures functional, communication, design success.

We design constantly. Our email, training course, project plan, policy, program, survey, business case, strategy, facilitation, we are in a constant state of craft, create, model, test, build, and repair.

Whatever the intent, to take a concept from intention to adoption relies less on what you design and more on how you design.

That an email was sent is less important than if the email created the intended action. If not, the email was not functional. The survey was not functional. The training was not functional. The performance review was not functional. The intranet portal was not functional.

Design was not functional.

Sensory Overload = Visceral Reaction

Any manner of message requires us to connect to people or to communities; we rely upon another for their side of the transaction, without reaction, there is no equation. Coercion, persuasion, buy-in, debate, intervention these, too often, represent the current state of communication. More closely, the current state of communication saturation and interruption.

Let me provide context why, on this, a dedicated Organization Development (OD) site, I focus on design:

Organization development is a system-wide and values-based collaborative process of applying behavioral science knowledge to the adaptive development, improvement, and reinforcement of such organizational features as the strategies, structures, processes, people, and cultures that lead to organization effectiveness.*

The above paragraph deconstructed, provides design focus:

  1. System-wide process;
  2. Values-based;
  3. Collaborative;
  4. Is based on behavioral science knowledge;
  5. Is concerned with the adaptive development, improvement, and reinforcement of strategies, structures, processes, people, culture, and other features of organizational life; and
  6. Is about improving organizational effectiveness

OD is sociology; sociology is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society; functioning relies on expectation and expectation relies on good communication.

Reaction to how you design is the feedback loop of how people accept your design. How people accept your design might also reveal change management. And just like other measures of change management, your design success measure:

  • End-user adoption,
  • End-user utility, and
  • Practical use

Cognitive Dissonance by Design

Design success is not the amount of design features that motivate the designer. Neither is it the amount of features a designer jams into for features and benefits that benefit few, but only lead to design end-user confusion.

Toby Elwin, cognitive processing, emotional design, visceral, behavioral, reflective, Don Norman, community persona, design

Functional design impact plays out on intranet portals and corporate communication programs through reaction and ultimately measured through user adoption rate.

Donald Norman, in Emotional Design — Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things talks about a structure for modeling user responses. Though focused on product and brand concepts I find deep value for my OD design space.

Cognitive processing has three levels:

  1. Visceral — The most immediate level of processing where reaction happens before interaction occurs. Visceral reactions allow us to make rapid decisions, such as flight, fight, or freeze. What is initially perceived can disrupt or hijack behavioral cognitive processing.
  2. Behavioral — The middle level of processing for management of everyday, common behaviors. As the majority of our human activity this both enhances or inhibits lower-level visceral reactions and higher-level reflective. The majority of design and usability practices attempt to address this level of cognitive processing.
  3. Reflective — As this relies on conscious consideration to past experiences, this is takes the longest to attain. Reflective processing can enhance or inhibit behavioral processing, but not visceral reactions. Through reflection we integrate experiences and associate meaning and value.  This level of cognitive processing is accessible only via memory, not through direct interaction or perception. Reflective processing can disrupt or hijack behavioral cognitive processing.  Of deeper interest of reflective processing is the ability to integrate experience into broad life experiences and, over time, associate meaning and value.

In our design how do you review your effort through the 3 processing choices for your audience, be they an individual or group, against your expectation? The communication choices, vehicles, channels, and tools should support the goal.

Formula or Formulae?design, community persona, Donald A. Norman, emotional, Toby Elwin, persona

Form follows function. Because the intranet visitor seeks answers to their questions and have a distinct motivation for things to help them get their work done. Function does not follow form. Start with the approach that form follows function: end-user function.

A community persona strategy focuses design, and on-going content development on the end-user motivation, from the identification and feedback of the end-user need; as the goal.

An organization is a self-organized social network of people. An organization only develops when people within the organization community develop. The organization is designed to enable collaboration and interaction. No organization sets out to become a hierarchy or a bloated bureaucracy, it happens over time and navigates competing values.

The organization, itself, is a design.



The function for goal-oriented design and community persona strategy is sharing and you can not share something no one wants.

Community Persona Reaction Design Sources

Community Persona Design for Organizations

  1. Buyer persona for organization strategy and development
  2. Community persona for organization development
  3. 4 design tools to meet persona context
  4. Community persona resource and influence timeline
  5. Communication with goal-oriented design and community persona strategy
  6. Community persona for SharePoint intranet design
  7. Community persona reaction for functional design
  8. Community persona for change management
  9. Community persona for project management
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