The bathroom in our new house looks quite nice. It’s not our style, but on our first walk around we saw it clearly had been the subject of lots of work. There’s a big bath tub with stone surrounding it, double sinks, and lots of storage. It looks exactly like a bathroom should.

But it doesn’t really function properly… the stone around the bathtub is way too wide to easily step in. You can’t lean over the sinks because the mirror comes off the wall too far (many heads have been hit … well, two heads, many times).

It looks good, but it doesn’t really work.

This is how I feel about financial planning a lot of the time. A lot of care is put into making sure that projections and plans look great. They are made with an eye to the regulators and the industry. They are made with the thought that … if someone looks at this, I better have all my t’s crossed and i’s dotted.

And that’s good in some ways. Regulations matter and they’re there to make sure people don’t do poor quality work, but they need to be balanced with actual function.

When I was in the Design Museum in London last year I saw this cycle described – Designers – Makers – Users.. and I’ve been thinking of it ever since.

Designers dream up the idea. Makers create it in the world. Users use it and figure out if it actually works. Then their feedback goes back to the designers to make things better and the cycle continues.

Here’s another place where the finance industry could learn from the creative world. It doesn’t matter if you designed the coolest thing… Can it be made? Can it be used?

How can we better engage in this cycle, both in the Making (which I see as the implementation of a plan in the world, rather than just dumping the perfect projections in front of someone) and listening for feedback from Users.

There is no pedestal for designers. Their ideas are not right until they are tried and tested at every level. And if we really want to be great designers… we need to be better listeners of the users of our designs.