The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

Interview with IDEA attendee Scott Berkun

I last spoke with Scott Berkun in person at OSCON 2005, just a few months after his first book; “The Art of Project Management” was released. I was working for his publisher, O’Reilly Media then, and we were all a bit surprised at how well Berkun’s book sold in a market filled with books about project management. The reality is, Scott’s years of hands-on experience in designing and leading creative development projects were instrumental in connecting with readers through practical insights. No slacker, Berkun was already bouncing ideas off me and the ORA publisher for his latest book, “The Myths of Innovation“. A Seattle resident, Scott attended IDEA in 2006 and I thought I would take this opportunity to do a short interview with him.

IDEA Q: IDEA brings together designers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to address the challenge of designing complex information spaces. What did you learn about the creative process and innovation at IDEA 2006? Did any of these lessons make it into your new book “The Myths of Innovation”?

Scott: All design is problem solving and IDEA 2006 showcased how storytellers, architects and visual designers share the same challenges: finding new ways to solve problems for people. The myths of innovation book is related, as it explores the patterns of innovation that we often overlook in how new things have come to be. There are definitely strong connections between what designers, and innovators, try to do.

IDEA Q: In recent writings and presentations, you talk about decision-making authority and specifically with regards to the IA, product designer, or usability engineer role in authority over design or usability issues. Can you explain what you mean by this? Is there really that much of a split in your view between being a Decision maker and being a Consultant? Are both roles needed in the innovation process?

Scott: It’s always good to know who in the room is going to call the shot - otherwise everyone spends more time fighting for power than actually trying to solve problems. I think designers can play the decision maker role, but they have to then be willing to incorporate business, political and engineering constraints into their decisions. But yes, both roles are useful. Consultants can take bigger risks in their ideas since the final decision isn’t theirs - it can be empowering not to be final decision maker.

IDEA Q: What was your “ah ha” moment of IDEA 2006?

Scott: The most amazing thing I saw was Cabspotter by the folks at Stamen. Not sure how useful it is, but I was entirely mesmerized.

IDEA Q: Will you be attending the 2007 conference in October in NYC?

Scott: What could be better than NYC in October? I hope to be there.

About Scott Berkun:
Scott is an author, public speaker and consultant. He worked as a manager at Microsoft from 1994-2003, on projects including (v1-5) of Internet Explorer, Windows and MSN.

He started his own consulting practice in 2003. Wrote the best seller “The Art of Project Management” (O’Reilly 2005) and “Myths of Innovation” (O’Reilly 2007). And teaches a graduate course in creative thinking at the University of Washington.

He’s an excellent speaker for hire, and frequently performs workshops, talks, and courses for organizations, conferences and the occasional living room couch.

Scott grew up in Queens NYC, studied design, philosophy and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, graduating with a B.S. in Logic and Computation (’94). He currently lives somewhere deep in the woods outside of Seattle, Washington.

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