“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” –Einstein
Everyone has a unique strength; everyone is better than everyone else at something and everyone who is great at something is worse than most others at many other things. (Oprah crashed and burned in her first career as a news anchor. Many, many entrepreneurs have been fired from jobs, under the presumption that they are “inept.” Few of us would try to use a rubber spatula to cut a steak or a steak knife to brush our teeth.) None of us are good at everything; all of us are great at something.
In a recent UX Booth article, UX professional Marli Mesibov offers a single perspective on multiple intelligences. In it, she explores Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences – the argument that people “possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways.” Identify the way in which you – or any user – is intelligent, provide the appropriate channel, and you – or they – will lean into it to do greater things.
Just as teachers constantly seek out new ways to engage their students, UX designers constantly concern themselves with what best suits their users. It’s no surprise, then, that an educational theory such as Gardner’s is so valuable to our practice. It’s the next logical step to personalizing every application and website for its ideal user.
To make the most of this idea, there are a few techniques, all of which first start with identifying yourself (or your user)…
Prefer expression, creation and/or interpretation of images, understand relationships between image and meanings as well as the influence of space. Often architects, artists, photographers, designers (all kinds), planners, engineers, inventors. Respond strongly to imagery and visual mappings.
Highly coordinated and often athletic, demonstrate strengths in balance, agility and dexterity. Often athletes, dances, performers, actors, chefs, massage therapists, etc. Learn by doing things firsthand and are energized by physical movement.
Recognize and are highly receptive to sound, rhythm and music. Often musicians, but also producers, composers, voice coaches and acoustic engineers. Learn readily when information is set to rhythm or music (for example, the way in which we all learned the alphabet.)
High social and emotional intelligence, with strengths in relationships, communications, and intuitive interpretation of behavior. Often work as therapists, HR professionals, politicians, managers, educators, doctors and coaches. Respond very well in team settings and learn readily when able to identify as part of a group.
Strong intuition for one’s self and, in some cases, “the individual” overall, as well as their relationship with the world and the influences on their own well-being. Professors, psychologists, writers, freelancers and most entrepreneurs. Appreciates and responds well to independent study, self-taught courses and alternative (unstructured) learning.
Excellent communicators, spoken and/or written. Writers, public relations professionals, lawyers, journalists, speakers, speech writers, translators. Learn by reading, writing, and presenting information. (Conventional education systems are based on this learning style.)
Strongly prefer logic, analytics, numbers and critical thinking. Most often engineers, scientists, accountants, bankers, statisticians, insurance brokers, and programmers. Respond well to logical problems inviting analysis and complex solution design.
So… then what?
Mesibov suggests a number of really constructive ways to use this information in reaching, understanding and motivating your users, including: isolating user intelligence types, connecting the easy and the enjoyable, and incorporating prior knowledge. Read the rest of her article – and actionable applications to UX – here.