Archive of posts from October 2020

October 31, 2020     Daily Post

You Only ‘Know’ When You ‘Did’

You Only ‘Know’ When You ‘Did’

Ever caught yourself thinking (or worse, saying) “I know that” when someone is speaking or sharing insights with you?

Check yourself: you only know if you can answer “Yes” to all of these things:

  • You’ve spent some time really thinking the topic through (if you haven’t, how can you really know that you know?)
  • You know enough about it to know the extent and limits of your knowledge on the topic (if you don’t have any, you don’t know it well enough)
  • You’ve done the things being described in the topic, or experienced them first-hand (so it’s not just hearsay passing as real knowledge)
  • You could do the thing being described again, with present-day considerations in mind (so that your knowledge isn’t out-of-date)

Our Creative team often hears things like, “We know our target market really well”, and “We’re really clear on our marketing messaging.”

Yet when pressed to share the things they know, the answers are decidedly less confident. They didn’t do the work to really, truly know.

We only ‘discover’ when we ‘do.’

So we only ‘know’ when we ‘did’.

Doing the work separates the deluded from the enlightened.

Over to you: in the areas that matter in your pursuit of important work, what things do you know for sure? Are you sure about that?

October 30, 2020     Daily Post

Greatness Goes Stale

Greatness Goes Stale

Unless it has stewards.

Process needs stewards. It goes stale when you think you’re done making process. When it’s ‘done’, it stops getting better, it stops reflecting the best of your knowledge. Stewards represent the results by ensuring the process reflects the greatest your team has to offer.

Products need stewards. They go stale when you think they’re the best on the market. When it’s ‘done’, it slows while others reap the rewards of your coasting. Stewards represent the market by ensuring the product reflects the needs of those it serves.

Technology needs stewards. Projects go stale when maintainers think it’s finished. When it’s ‘finished’, tech moves on, as do the contributors who made it possible. Stewards represent the developers who use and contribute to it, so that the project stays alive and healthy.

Every part of your company needs a steward. Someone to stand in the gap, representing the work, committed to making it better, whether it’s you or someone else.

Do you have stewards in place, to ensure your greatness doesn’t go stale?

October 29, 2020     Daily Post

Truth & Confidence

Truth & Confidence

To be confident in your work is to tell the truth:

Lacking confidence while applying skills, product development or engaging in sales conversations means the truth is suppressed. There is meaningful, ethical advantage that a project, company or individual could benefit from that you wilfully withdrew, because of that lack of confidence.

An equal but opposite concern is when over-confidence appears, which augments truth with delusion. Here the same meaningful, ethical advantage is still available, but misrepresented so the project, company or individual can’t critically or clearly assess a situation, because of that over-confidence.

Being truly confident in our work avoids both of these pitfalls. From confidence comes a clear, accurate representation of the truth, impeded by neither suppressions or augmentations. The work is what it is, it’s merits accurately and completely articulated.

Are you (truly) confident about your work and your wares?

October 28, 2020     Daily Post

Revering the Right Things

Revering the Right Things

What do you revere at work?

Small businesses often hustle in hope of becoming large corporations, even at the expense of sacrificing their advantages as a SMB. But SMBs that own the work, innovate methodically serve people with care, ultimately get to outlast the corporations who forget the things that matter.

Digital marketers often hustle for a transaction at any cost, even at the expense of their own integrity. Web practitioners that revere the work of helping others with technology and language that lasts, ultimately get to outlast the flash-in-the-pan names we see temporarily in ads.

Your company or project may be in pursuit of something you’ve spotted others doing, even at the expense of your own customers. But those who remember to focus on those they serve (profitably) – making all else secondary – rarely seem to find themselves coming up short.

Again: what do you revere at work?

October 27, 2020     Daily Post

Good Communication’s Secret Ingredient

Good Communication’s Secret Ingredient

What is “good communication”?

Is it saying the right things? Partly, but what if those words don’t land on those who needed to hear them?

Is it saying the right things to the right people? Closer… but again, what if those words don’t land because those right-people weren’t truly listening?

Is it saying the right things to the right people where those things will be heard? That’s more like it. The environment matters. The state of the listener (or reader) matters. We don’t often think about it, but it’s a huge part of what makes good communication, good communication.

Consider the environment you create or contribute to. If you’re stressed or panicked, good communication goes away for everybody. You can break it, or you can make it better for everyone.

October 26, 2020     Daily Post

When It All Comes Together

When It All Comes Together

It all comes together, in its timing.

The brand vision you share with your team may be great, and the elements you’ve prepared may all look super. But it all comes together when it’s been lived in, and it’s personality reveals itself as an reflection of those it exists to serve. Rushing it doesn’t help.

The new product you’ve worked hard on might be excellent. The value and results might be great too. But it all comes together when those it was made for have had the opportunity to spend some time with it, and it receives some key tweaks that really make it sing. Rushing it doesn’t help.

The trajectory your business is on might look strong, the forecasts promising and the deal flow healthy. But it all comes together when the business gets better at truly listening to its target audience, and it’s message echoes the message in the hearts of those it’s best equipped to serve. Rushing that doesn’t help.

Those we’re creating for hold they keys. They make everything come together. If we let them.

October 25, 2020     Daily Post

Did You Stop Understanding?

Did You Stop Understanding?

Do you understand your target market?

Let’s see…

A ‘hermeneutic circle’ depicts the way we interpret information when we read.

It depicts the cycle of understanding and context that leads to, well, more understanding and more context.

The fact that it is a cycle suggests that it continues to rotate; understanding begets context, context begets understanding.

Many of us don’t cycle when it comes to truly understanding those we wish to serve.

Rather, we decide that we have come to understand, and that’s it: “we understand.”

We can learn from the hermeneutic circle: understanding isn’t an end. It produces context which, if wielded, produces yet more understanding.

Did you stop understanding?

October 24, 2020     Daily Post

Online Office Problems

Online Office Problems

Reproducing the office in remote-work-land reproduces it’s problems:

Real-time voice/video calls are vaults of exchange where nobody outside of those present knows what went on (call recordings don’t count, who listens to those, really?)

Synchronous creativity where “you had to be there”, where great ideas were missed because they were on a slightly different timezone, where the thinking behind the genius is left to folklore rather than documented fact.

Heroes who heroically save the day with a great plan or last-minute solve, because the process behind collaboration wasn’t suitably organised to let the ‘heroes’ all retire.

If you have a physical office, embrace it and all it’s flaws.

But if you’re fortunate enough to have a remote office, leave those flaws behind by embracing the principles that make remote working effective, efficient and calm.

October 23, 2020     Daily Post

Simple, Complex, Simple

Simple, Complex, Simple

There always seems to be a rhythm with work:

It starts off simple. We’re taking a few courses and reading around the subject, getting acquainted with its principles. “Seems simple enough”, we think, as we make our way through the basics.

Then it gets complex. We become aware of all the possibilities and buttons. And so we must press those buttons and model those possibilities so the world will know that we found them.

Then it gets simple again. So familiar with this new skill set or toolbox that we no longer feel the need to use every tool, every time. Heck, we see that most tools fit into one of a few categories anyway, and the art behind our new practice becomes clear.

Strategies, code, design, writing, speaking, math, science, philosophy, all fields of practice (that I’ve experienced anyway!) seem to follow these three stages. And all who experience them appear to find themselves in one of these three stages.

People in stage 1 admire stage 3. People in stage 2 show off to stage 1. People in stage 3 are busy succeeding and further refining their craft.

Which sounds most like you at the moment?

October 22, 2020     Daily Post

Listening VS Being Clever

Listening VS Being Clever

Being clever sounds great, until you have a product to sell:

Being clever means you finish other people’s sentences with domain knowledge rather than their language. When the uninitiated speak differently to those experienced in the solution, how can one relate with those they wish to serve other than by listening?

Being clever means you’re so versed in the solution that you may not fully understand the problem anymore. When operating in a world void of that problem, exploring deeper problems rather than spending time with those who aren’t quite there yet makes us less able to relate effectively.

Being clever means we can make our solutions even better. But we must remember that part of that solution lives in the minds and worlds of those still experiencing that problem. To them, we must not be clever: we must see their world through their eyes to find new opportunities to serve.

October 21, 2020     Daily Post

Things That Make Us Blind

Things That Make Us Blind

These are just a few of them that affect people who work on their work:

You want what you decided to buy, the alternative becomes less desirable when you’ve made a decision mentally. It makes us blind, the solution is to know it’s happening and choose to see the full picture.

You want what you decided life should look like, the alternative makes you anxious because you’re living alongside ego in the gap between those worlds. It makes us blind, the solution is to know it’s happening and choose to see the full picture.

You want people to want what you decided to sell, the alternatives seem silly to you because you sold yourself on your own solution as being the only true path. It makes us blind, the solution is to know it’s happening and to see the full picture.

Bias and ego are tripwires to our work’s progress (and our own pursuits of virtuous living, really). Watch out for them to give that work (and yourself) a better chance at reaching its potential.

October 20, 2020     Daily Post

The Problem With Being A Startup

The Problem With Being A Startup

…is that folks don’t want to stop being a startup.

If a startup fails because it didn’t plan a suitable solution to a problem, that’s one thing. We see that happen all the time, as a result of a lack of customer-centric focus or lack of resourcefulness or just plain bad luck.

But succeeding as a startup is to no longer be a startup, too. To graduate from startup-town and move into being… well, just a business. An operation that systematically serves and solves, with many of those early concerns replaced with new problems.

Staying a startup means you don’t get to do any of that to your full potential, because you’re still in “figuring the initial stuff out” mode.

It’s a lot of fun to start up something. But we achieve so much more for those we serve if we don’t stay at the start.

October 19, 2020     Daily Post

A Path VS The Path

A Path VS The Path

It’s rare to solve a problem that previously had no solution at all.

It’s also often unprofitable since there’s usually not a developed market there.

But when we’re in a sales environment, this fact sometimes gets forgotten:

“You need to buy this if you’re going to X.” Do we, really? Is there no other path for us to reach our goal, than the one you’re pitching to us?

“You’re going to miss out if you don’t X today.” Maybe, but is that as big of a deal to us as it is to you? Are you pushing because it matters more to you or because it matters more for us?

“There are many ways, but this way is straight, simple, well-defined and on good terms.” That’s more like it. Show us a way to where we want to go and make the path straight. We’re interested now.

The path that our body of work paves to a solution need not be the only path. We don’t buy because it’s the only path. More likely, we’ll buy because you made the path straight for us.

October 18, 2020     Daily Post

Choosing Your Byproducts

Choosing Your Byproducts

We get to choose the byproducts of our work:

For instance, when we boost videos on Facebook designed to peddle products or bask in our own majesty, we wear people down or wind them up. The byproduct is that they may tolerate you, ignore you, or yield to your pursuit under duress.

Conversely, when we spend money boosting videos on social platforms that are designed to make problems go away, we make lives better. The byproduct is that they may come to you for more support, whether it’s free or paid.

Which sounds like the kind of business you’d like to operate?

We get to choose the byproduct of our work by the kind of work we create.

Choose wisely.

October 17, 2020     Daily Post

Conversations VS Deliverables

Conversations VS Deliverables

What do designs, business plans and product development plans have in common?

They’re conversations, not deliverables.

For instance, design software isn’t for making pixel-perfect designs. It’s for allowing creative mediums to converge in one place prior to preparing them for development. Illustrations, animations, things that if you were to take straight into code may not quite work together in quite the same way without first having a canvas to spike it all out in varying levels of fidelity.

Design files aren’t supposed to be perfect: They’re supposed to be enough to inform the creative and the code how to come together.

Business plans aren’t supposed to be perfect: They’re supposed to be enough to inform operations, marketing, product, finance and more how to come together, not correctly predict the future and reward our minds for getting there in advance.

Product development plans aren’t supposed to be perfect: They’re supposed to enable the product and the marketing to be the same thing, by giving a language for product and marketing minds to converge over together, rather than merely producing widgets others have to figure out how to peddle.

Are you creating deliverables where you should be creating conversations? What would change in your body of work if you changed that?

October 16, 2020     Daily Post

Like Clockwork

Like Clockwork

I had a beautiful wall clock for my birthday.

Watching it keep perfect time without a single gram of silicon in sight to power it is a great reminder of a business formula I preach all the time in our companies:

Process + Hard work + Humility = Success

Process without hard work doesn’t tick. With no pendulum swinging back ‘n’ forth to keep the cogs turning, we won’t be able to keep time at all.

Hard work without humility doesn’t stay in beat. With some parts of the system thinking they’re better than others, the process won’t be adhered to (much less improved) and we won’t keep good time.

Hard work without process ticks and bongs at all the wrong times. Good intentions without the focus and discipline of process makes an impressive amount of noise, but it’s not to be relied upon to tell the time.

Process + Hard work + Humility creates a unique blend of focused, methodical, harmonized work that stays the same worst-case, and gets better with time best-case.

Does your company, team or cause run like clockwork?

October 15, 2020     Daily Post

The Process VS The Guru

The Process VS The Guru

Do you trust the process, or the guru?

The guru: This is the internet marketer promising untold riches if you buy his course. This is also the version of yourself you might want the world to see, the one where everyone thinks that you’re extra-special, the one that doesn’t receive feedback very well.

The process: This is the map you wanted to follow to get to your goal, but may have strayed from because a guru showed up. This is also the thing that reveals us to be diligent –rather than extra-special – when we trust (and refine) the process.

The guru makes us feel better. The process makes us better.

October 14, 2020     Daily Post

On Not Being Amazing

On Not Being Amazing

Our egos aren’t going to enjoy this one. Here we go:

We’re not amazing. You and I, that is. We’re not born with unique undefinable, un-refineable skills that the world desperately needs. What we do have is the ability to work hard with humility, to create process, and make great things as a result.

Our teams aren’t amazing. But if we all have the disciplines of humility and hard work above, we can produce great things. That’s far more desirable by the marketplace than the ability to produce delusion that distances one’s self from reality by ego.

Our clients aren’t amazing. Forgetting this leads to starstruck abandonment of our ability to think critically and deliver our best work. A great client shouldn’t receive worse output from us than the rest, should they?

Humility and hard work often lead to the perception of “amazing”. But believing that you are often leads to the loss of humility and hard work.

The question is, do we want to produce great things?

October 13, 2020     Daily Post

Where Great Work Comes From

Where Great Work Comes From

Designers don’t have the job of experiencing great design. Those they produce designs for have that job. Designers have the job of wrestling subpar design into great design.

Writers don’t have the job of reading great books. Those they produce words for have that job. Writers have the job of wrestling with blank pages and fifth drafts into great prose.

The job is to live and create in ‘the void’ between those two places. To make ‘the void’ a place of work, leaving the appreciation of great works to others.

Average practitioners spend their time with great work.

Great ones invest their time into average work.

Because that’s where the great work comes from.

October 12, 2020     Daily Post

ASAP Doesn’t Work In Your Favour

ASAP Doesn’t Work In Your Favour

When a customer cries, “ASAP!”, relax.

Because that’s not a deadline.

ASAP is uncomfortable because it’s ill-defined. Some focus on the “as soon as” part of it, others on “as possible” part. One is tense, one is slack. That’s not a deadline.

ASAP is uncomfortable because you’re anxious about the wrong thing. About getting something done “right this second”, rather than getting a workable deadline (date & time).

ASAP is what happens when deadlines don’t happen, but the thing still needed to get done, and still nobody stepped up to set a deadline.

So set a deadline.

October 11, 2020     Daily Post

The Wrong Narrative

The Wrong Narrative

You might be telling yourself the wrong story.

Your team mate is probably not trying to sabotage your success. The success of the team (and the contribution they’re making) is more likely to be why they showed up today than merely to make your life difficult.

Your client is probably not trying to make your life difficult for the heck of it. They’ve got goals and to-dos and schedules and family and responsibilities just like the rest of us. They’re more likely to be slammed than sadistic.

Your company is probably capable of more, even when you’re feeling tired. Because how we feel today rarely has much to do with our reality and our potential, not to mention the reality and potential of the team you serve alongside.

The wrong narrative is hand-delivered, in person, by ego. The real narrative is found in reason.

Which narrative are you listening to today?

October 10, 2020     Daily Post

Goodwill Blast Radius

Goodwill Blast Radius

You don’t get to place a grenade in your friend’s hand, pull the pin, and expect to walk away in one piece.

Do the same rules apply beyond explosives?

If you refer business to a client, there’s a blast radius: You’re perceived to be dripping with engagements, an oracle of opportunity, a good person to know. They’ll tell others when asked.

If you connect a peer with a service they need, there’s a blast radius: You’re perceived as the one that knows all the tools, all the hacks, a good person to know. They’ll tell others when asked.

If you extend goodwill to others in the marketplace, there’s a blast radius: You’ll be associated with that which you extend to others, because our brains like patterns and putting things (and people) into boxes.

For the betterment of your meaningful work, pick good boxes, live it out, and pull the pin.

October 09, 2020     Daily Post

The Contribution You Make

The Contribution You Make

Should you be taking credit for that?

Project managers: the project being smooth and successful can’t be your success, if it being bumpy would not also be your failing to work on (rather than the fault of some other stakeholder).

Sales people: closing that big deal can’t be your success, if it’s loss would not also be your failing to work on (rather than the fault of process or support).

Leaders: a business moving in the right direction can’t be your success, if it going in the wrong direction (or flatlining) would not also be your failing to work on (rather than the fault of the economy or your team).

The contributions you make produce the results in your wake.

If you don’t like the results, change your actions, because it’ll only be your success if you can first take responsibility for the failure.

October 08, 2020     Daily Post

Types of Simple

Types of Simple

There are different types of simple.

When we say our work is “simple” for a customer to operate, what kind of simple do you mean?

First-timer simple. Think WordPress, with its “click and done” operation. Or an iPhone, with its consistent, reliable operating system.

Both are simple to pick up and use. Both restrict you in what is possible in order to create that kind of simplicity.

Long-timer simple. Think Adobe Photoshop with its endless possibilities. Or Raspberry Pi with it’s entirely open construction.

Both are simple in the sense that they allow you to do what you need to do without looking for other products or services to get the job done. Both are intimidating to first-timers in order to create that kind of simplicity.

Bare-bones simple. Think flat HTML files and their lack of dependencies and ‘points of failure’. Or a paper notebook that can’t compute, but does a great job of holding ink.

The files can’t remember your name or let you edit from a web browser. The notebook won’t sync with your laptop or let you hit ‘Undo’. They’re bare-bones simple.

Photoshop doesn’t benefit from being First-timer simple (that just creates more work). WordPress can’t be bare-bones simple (or it wouldn’t be a browser-editable CMS anymore).

In our pursuit of work that is “simple” for our customer to operate, make sure you choose the right kind of simple, or it won’t really be simple at all.

October 07, 2020     Daily Post

Slow Learning Is Fast Learning

Slow Learning Is Fast Learning

Want to know how to learn something new then forget it again, all in one day?

Watch a YouTube video about a thing, then do it.

It’s fast, efficient, and your brain doesn’t care to hold onto it. It’ll remember how to retrieve that information again, but it likely won’t remember what you did. You learned fast and so you learned nothing. You’ll have to repeat this routine many times to finally learn. Fast is slow.

How about if you’d like to quickly learn something and remember it for a very long time (possibly even for the rest of your life)?

Copy. Copy the picture on paper, write the words by hand, then copy it again.

From foreign languages to programming languages, how to structure a sales call or how to rebuild your toaster… copying is the slow way to learn it , and so it’ll be learned more quickly. Slow is fast.

Next time you need to learn something new, slow it down. It’s much faster that way.

October 06, 2020     Daily Post

Teflon Product Design

Teflon Product Design

Companies are desperate for stickier, more addictive designs for their products and services.

Facebook execs, for instance, are guilty of taking pages out of Big Tobacco’s book, to deliberately make their products stickier.

Tools like Slack and Twitter reward nervous energy, revealing things that you may otherwise fear missing out on.

We need more Teflon (non-stick) products:

Products that get the job done then ask you to leave. One that truly solves the problem, rather than drawing us into a company’s insecurities about ‘churn’.

Products that expel nervous energy rather than creating and rewarding it. Because the peace and calm such products create are scarce commodities these days, and one we’d do well to tell others about.

Products that make us useful when we share it with others, rather than drug dealers. Because getting people addicted to something isn’t as cool as simply making their lives better.

Feels relaxing just thinking about it, doesn’t it?

October 05, 2020     Daily Post

The Right Number of Moving Parts

The Right Number of Moving Parts

Does your work have the right number of moving parts?

Does every business need lots and lots of products or services? While it’s tempting if there’s lots you’re capable of, focus and simplicity may be exactly what your customers need from you, especially in an expanding marketplace with increasing options.

Jobs famously axed most of Apple’s product lineup upon his return to Apple, reducing the lineup to just four core machines.

Does every website need a database? While over 31% of the Internet uses WordPress, most sites don’t need the compute or overhead of a dynamic site, particularly when many sites struggle to update their content even weekly.

For instance, this website recently moved back to Jekyll from WordPress to reduce the number of moving parts for longevity.

Does every project need a separate project manager? While it sounds tidy and organized, oftentimes leadership and management training for top producers can outperform and outmaneuver larger head-counts on smaller, nimbler projects.

For instance, in our Creative team’s work, many routine projects only require 2-3 people, none of which are just a manager (they are all producers).

Smaller isn’t always better. Neither is bigger. The status quo doesn’t represent what’s best, only what’s most common.

How could you change your team, products and process to outperform and outmaneuver your competitors thanks to having more thoughtfully considered using the right number of moving parts?

October 04, 2020     Daily Post

Look At What We Made

Look At What We Made

When we sign a document, we’re responsible for the contents of that document.

When we sign our work, we’re responsible for the contents of that work.

There’s a huge difference between saying “look at what we made” and “look at how awesome this is”:

“Look at what we made”: We’re responsible, we want your feedback, because we want to make it better. Your opinion matters here.

“Look at how awesome this is”: We’re not looking for responsibility, but affirmation, because we want you to agree with us and soothe our insecurity.

The second option is more popular on social media because people are insecure on social media. Stand out by taking responsibility and making it clearer that “your opinion matters here”.

October 03, 2020     Daily Post

A Different Way Of Doing Things

A Different Way Of Doing Things

Do you have one?

You probably do:

If you’re passionate about your work, there will likely be parts of your industry you can’t stand. Be it a certain sales tactic or production method, if you model a different way of doing things, we want to know.

We want to see what’s broken. We want to see how you fixed it.

For instance, you may decide to not track people on Facebook or Google because you think people deserve their privacy. Or you may decide to forgo a marketing “trick” because dark patterns and manipulation are disrespectful to your valued customers.

These elevations in reverence for your audience and commitments to your craft help us see who you are, what sets you apart, why we should choose you.

We’ll attract people who believe the same things we do. Who value what we value.

It’s a two-way valve, too: modeling a different way of doing things that your audience wishes existed in the world (and then telling them about it) works in exactly the same way.

You probably have a different way of doing things.

Show us.

October 01, 2020     Daily Post

Manufacturing Weakness

Manufacturing Weakness

We wouldn’t manufacture weakness on purpose…would we?

Each time we lull ourselves with the melodic tones of inspiration, encouragement and assurance from internet gurus, we nurture weakness within ourselves. One in need of comfort during times we need to be uncomfortable, akin to staying under the covers because the room feels cold.

Each time we look past the need for Likes, followers and positive reenforcement, we’re able to step into the difficult work that makes great work great. A cold call “No” or a knowledge gap that needs addressing are but stepping stones toward a goal, rather than fate’s fatal blow to our dreams.

Each generation seems to have it worse than the one before it. Such is the opportunity for you – to nurture strength in response – to create the kind of meaningful body of work you’ve envisioned while others stay comfortable.

Power to you.