Everything posted here is worth thinking about. On the other hand, the ideas and opinions put forth may not be right.
Curated by Timoni West.
This quote illustrates a variable that isn’t often discussed when people talk about meritocracy in the workplace, or (more importantly) address when product decisions are being made. When those people who have excellent ideas are naturally self-effacing, how does one make sure that their ideas get special attention? It’s easy to confuse a good idea with a good argument.
I see quotes like this a lot. They sound right, but aren’t based on data, just gut reaction, or perhaps personal experience.
Only in the previous century has humanity had large populations with significant literacy rates. When it comes to reading, analyzing, and thinking about written material, it’s fair to say that we’ve moved into uncharted territory.
We simply do not know if humans will be better off they read less fluffy articles and social timelines. We do know the following:
- Historically, fluffy articles and social timelines are similar to the oral updates humans would have heard throughout the day: gossip from people they know, and news about the area.
- TVs and movies now occupy a space similar to the oral storytelling traditions of yore.
- There has almost always been something of a small literate population. They have had long-form materials throughout history, though popular fiction only happened after the improvements of mass publishing tools, and with a few exceptions, popular non-fiction came even later.
I like the idea that humans are bettered by reading and absorbing large abstract ideas, ideas that allow them a greater understanding of the human experience without having to live it. But I’m not entirely sold on the idea that consuming small bits of shallow data must then be harmful.
I quoted this because it roughly supports an idea I’ve been kicking around lately: that there is an uncanny-valley-like problem for apps and sites that display user-generated content. If content is too high-quality, it seems wasted on an ugly interface, regardless of audience. If the content is low quality, it’s not worthy of posting on a well-designed interface, again, almost regardless of audience.
There is a sliding scale of what is high or low quality, of course, that goes beyond pretty pictures: what the content says, how original it is, what it captures, and who made it. But the dichotomy appears to persist, subconsciously, across user bases, and the promise of ephemerality seems to have the same qualities as an ugly interface.
Narrator: One interesting thing Seth says he learned from studying leaders leader is that a lot of them…are not textbook leader material. They’re not charismatic, or inspiring, at least not at first.
Seth Godin: There’s a nonsense belief that leaders have this glib George Clooney-like, or even Adolph Hitler like, effect to them…and that you need to have that in order to lead—that charisma leads to leadership. In fact, in all of my research, the opposite is true. Charisma doesn’t come from being a leader; being a leader makes you charismatic. And when we look at someone like Nathan [Winograd, of SPCA], who’s quite shy, he doesn’t seem like someone who could take a Jimmy Stewart role in a movie.
Guy Raz: Or Bill Gates!
Seth Godin: Right. Bill has a lot of trouble making eye contact. Bill has a lot of trouble getting a room of strangers to come around to his point of view.
Guy Raz: Yeah, he’s kind of an awkward guy.
Seth Godin: Yeah. But now, because of the kind of impact his foundation has had, with he and Melinda, he gets charisma. People feel differently around him.
Seth Godin on Ted Radio Hour: Disruptive Leadership
This is something I’ve noticed before and part of the reason I advocate for affirmative action. Often people are assigned respect due to their role, and will then naturally grow to deserve that respect.
Allison said that in the top areas within Apple, there were no politics. Which sounded strange, even artificial. But then she proceeded. She said that company politics are based on people’s aspiration to advance themselves in the organization and replace others. But at Apple, no one could imagine replacing Johnny Ive. Or replacing Scott Fortsall. Or replacing her.
And that struck me. A truly “top” person is someone who no one can imagine replacing. If you’re an entrepreneur or run a company, you can probably look around you at each of your peers and ask yourself this question. “Can anyone in my company imagine himself replacing that guy/gal?”. Your management team needs to include people for whom the answer is “No”.
While I prefer working from home, and don’t love open offices, I am genuinely surprised at this article’s conclusions.
One way to understand this is: there is some central problem or challenge which the business is facing. Your first job is to figure out what that problem is, and, just as importantly, what words the Important Person uses when they think about that problem.
A very important thing: it usually takes a considerable bit of effort to get beyond the proposed solution (e.g. the report), to the actual underlying problem. Laura Klein summarizes this marvelously as “[People] will tell you that they want a toaster in their car, when what they really mean is that they don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning.” She’s talking about user research, but I find the same perspective is incredibly useful when talking to, e.g. CEO’s.
Returning to our example, let’s say that, as you talk to the Important Person, you come to understand that your new business, which sells software via a monthly subscription plan, has a serious problem — too many customers are canceling every month. What’s more, you’ve joined a startup, and, although it has a solid chunk of cash in the bank, the leaders very much want to ramp up how much they spend on sales and marketing. Of course, doing that will burn through their cash, and thus require raising more capital sooner than later. And getting VC’s to invest more money with that high cancel rate is going to be very difficult, if not impossible.
You’ve been hired, at some level, to help solve that problem. Even if the people who have hired you don’t think about it that way.
As Rumsfeld said: ‘There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.’
Product design. This is my definition, at least. The term is being used to describe any interface designer who happens to work on a product, which is unfortunate, but I’ll keep using this one.
But why us? Why should designers be in these roles? Well, one immediate answer is simply that I would like to be in control over the future I’m building. Right now, many of us can only change our answer to Wilson’s questions by just quitting and finding a new job where we’re bought into the vision.
But deeper, I think this is something designers can be really great at. We already understand how to induce utility, delight, motivation at the level of the interface. Expanding that toolset to apply to the bigger picture is not a huge leap.
This is a way of thinking about design that’s growing in popularity, but I recognize that it’s still a minority, maybe even an extreme minority. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic. When I look at the major shifts in our field over the past years — user-centered design, standards-based design, responsive design — years of advocacy have led to genuine, sustained progress. I’m confident we’ll get there.
David Cole, on Product Designers, via (86) Applied Discovery: Presentation from Build 2013 - Emesis - Quora