Whatever your job title is, think of your job role as problem solving. As a usability professional, your role could be described like this: "I make products work better, giving users a better experience, and helping my company save money and build repeat business." Or, try the three-word version, "I solve problems."
Problem-solving focus is one of the key differences between the business world and academia. Academics find questions more interesting than answers. A college course like "Democratization in Latin America" teaches students how complicated the problem is, eschewing simplistic solutions. But in the business world, problems make people so uncomfortable, they're not happy until they've identified a reasonable solution and begun to act on it.
The first day at my first professional job out of college, I learned how important it is to focus on problem solving. I was in a meeting with my new boss and I brought up the problem that our online service was very slow on dialup. "Okay, what's the solution then?" she asked.
"I'm not sure there is one," I said. "Our contract says we can't change the content ..."
"I don't want to hear about problems with no solutions," she broke in. I looked incredulous, because it was clear to me this was an important issue affecting users. She firmly continued, "We need to concentrate on things we can change." Welcome to the business world.
A problem-solving focus is critical for your company to listen to your ideas. Ideas you want to see acted upon must solve people's problems: for example, your supervisor's need to cut expenses or reduce customer service call volume.