That is what I heard from a very nice and smart guy Ryan. You might think of an idiom with elephant in the room but this is quite different. How many times you had that feeling in your guts that your idea is spread around wrongly. Why did it happened? Because you presented it only to the middle man.
Who is a hippo?
If you want to put your vision into product you should reach the decisive person who will validate the product. In the vendor <-> client environment it might be the Project Director or a Project Sponsor. If you are the part of the product team, it might be a Product Manager. In some cases it might be the Director of the board or a Company Owner. Basically that’s a hippo. As you can see, they might wear a lot of hats.
Why should I reach them?
It’s quite simple. The more middle men you have the more your vision is distorted. Think of a few reasons for that:
- You think completely differently to the person who will pass your idea around. They may use another words and another analogies while explaining the vision so others get slightly different image that one you tried to paint in their head
- A middle man is a very ambitious one and wants to improve the product. It might get better but in some cases it could be a disaster. It’s a Russian Roulette to be honest. Do you want to put the design in that risk?
- A middle man might have some motivations to just change the vision, so they can cut the project scope, budget or deployment time but along with elimination of some crucial UX benefits. And to be honest it’s not the bad will what drives the person, for most of the cases it’s completely the opposite. But you know what they say: “Road to hell is paved with good intentions”
How could I reach them?
It’s the hard part since their time is usually very limited and your appointment is not in their schedule on the high priority. Firstly, it takes guts to stand to the middle man and demand a direct meeting, so if you see a hostile reaction to your proposition calm down and try a way around:
- If you know the organization well you might accidentally bump into a hippo and ask for a meeting
- Ask your supervisor to request an appointment with a hippo and be convincing. You supposedly know your boss quite well so you know how to reason with them
- Contact a hippo directly. Reach them via e-mail. It might be an easiest method. Don’t write an essay. Clearly state why you demand the meeting and what would be the benefits for the hippo’s environment if you have a rendezvous.
And you reached them. What’s next?
Remember, the higher the person is in the organization the more people try to reach them and so the less time they have for meetings. There is a short checklist what to do or to think before the meeting happens:
- Get to know the person. Ask around. Check their LinkedIn. Sketch their psychological outline. Do they like numbers or do they respond to images? Are they down-to-earth or visionaries? Prepare your talk based on the gathered intelligence on the person. Fit your presentation to the audience.
- Have a back-up plan. Your intel might be extensive but on the other hand you might not get the precise information. Don’t make your presentation based on one single assumptions like “They like numbers” and every slide is filled with figures and diagrams. Mix it up a little and respond to their reactions.
- Be precise again. Cut to the chase. Don’t trim around the bush :)
And finally… Be brave! If they want to meet it’s not because they like to smash people. You are there because you have something important to say, they are there because they want to hear it.