Change Your Angle

A cognitive empathy experiment: Do you see differently when you change your angle of view?

I heard a perfect example of this recently in the NPR “Hidden Brain” podcast. The episode’s guest speaker describes a medical organization where doctors and nurses wouldn’t notice details in hospital rooms to make patients more happy and comfortable — yet the hospital cleaning staff did notice.

Their special viewpoint? A different angle, looking at the ceiling to see what the patient sees when they lie down in the hospital bed. Is there dirt there, dust, or something else undesirable? What could they then do to make it look nice, safe, inviting?

Looking at what other people see helps to understand how they perceive the situation; how they view the world.

Listen to the episode: You 2.0: Dream Jobs.

Photo: Pexels.

(Listen) You 2.0, Hidden Brain on NPR

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Two weeks ago I mentioned the notion of think as a poet, work as a bookkeeper. Not surprisingly I heard an echo of this on a new summer series on the “Hidden Brain” NPR radio show. The first episode — You 2.0: The Value Of ‘Deep Work’ In An Age Of Distraction — features Deep Work author Cal Newton (I haven’t read his book yet, but my colleague Jeremey DuVall posted a detailed 5-star review).

In the show, Cal Newton brings up a quote by David Brooks:

Think like artists but work like accountants.

Echoes of E.O. Wilson? Yes, I’m going to assume Wilson said it first. Either way, it’s a brilliant way to frame the paradox of disciplined work to drive creativity and free thinking.

System shutdown complete.

(Video) CSS Grid Changes Everything

If you make websites, this is must-watch TV: CSS Grid Changes Everything (About Web Layouts) with Morten Rands-Hendriksen at WordCamp Europe 2017.

 

An educational and engaging presentation by @mor10 (epic pun on his Twitter handle!) that explains everything you need to know to move past float and flex and start using CSS grid today in your web design or WordPress theme.

View links and slides on the author’s site; source: WordPress YouTube channel.

Data for Breakfast, via Reader

Have you checked out data.blog yet? Data for Breakfast – Ideas and Insights from the Data Team at Automattic. Geektastic.

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Bookmarked and now following new posts with the WordPress.com Reader. Speaking of which, with significant improvements in recent months I’ve now stopped using other RSS readers and moved everything there.

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A great way to get lost in streams of wonderful content like Discover and Longreads and all your friends’ blogs.

Abstract, High Resolution, Listen & Learn

Have you watched Abstract on Netflix yet? World-class designers share their life and work and philosophy, which I’ve found fascinating. A common thread in the episodes I’ve watched so far is that design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In order to produce something useful and beautiful that people will love and buy, you have to engage with the world. It involves talking to people. Listening and verifying with your own eyes and ears.

Ralph Gilles — Head of Design at General Motors — says in Episode 5, “Go out and talk to people.” He gives the example of his Chrysler/Jeep design team engaging with millennials literally “in their living rooms.” Listening to their problems and trying to solve those problems, taking it all back to the car design lab. “How do you know what consumers want even before they know what they want?”

Tinker Hatfield — shoe Designer at Nike — says in Episode 2, “Get outside, engage with the world.” How a steady stream of fresh input leads to innovation and being outside, doing sports he loves, helps him staying connected to everything. Running a mile in their shoes, if you will. An example of the years of close back-and-forth work with Michael Jordan to perfect the Air Jordan basketball shoes.

I’m sensing a trend here: if I listen, I learn. When I approach my own software work, do I understand the needs of the person for whom I am designing and developing? If the answer is no, I need to step outside my office and talk to people using the software.

Another compelling series to hear from talented and innovative product designers is High Resolution, available on YouTube. In Episode 8, similar ideas emerge from Automattic’s own Head of Computational Design & Inclusion, John Maeda:

Don’t focus on kerfuffles within your org — keep your focus on the world. That’s where you are meant to be. No matter how great of the place you’re in.

… Creative people are diverse-oriented, and great remixers. — John Maeda

These thoughts remind me of the “jobs to be done” philosophy where success comes from understanding peoples’ circumstances. And not only accepting input when it fits a certain profile I already expect.

The key to successful innovation is identifying jobs that are poorly performed in customers’ lives and then designing products, experiences, and processes around those jobs. — via Harvard Business Review

Discovering what those jobs are requires engaging with your customers, in their lives, in their work. Now it’s time for me to get outta this chair.

Running to Stand Still

With Jeff Immelt out and John Flannery in as General Electric CEO, The Economist describes the company as having gone through a lot of important changes without achieving greater results. Shuffling. Reorganizing. Yet in the same place as before.

“GE has been running to stand still. …what it now needs is less re-engineering and more consistent execution.” — General Electric picks a new boss

This made me think. When I have the urge to shift things around: team, products, projects, office furniture, books on the bookshelf — I can ask myself, “Am I doing this just to stay busy? Look busy? Feel busy?”

Instead of movement for its own sake, I should find impact where I am today in my exact location. With this team, this project, this company — not something new. Work on meaningful results to help people by finishing what I’ve started.

Automattic: When a Company Grows, but the Office Shrinks

The story behind Automattic’s decision to emphasize a distributed company by downsizing our “office” in San Francisco.

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Automattic, a distributed company with over 500 people, is moving out of our San Francisco offices. Why?

The story begins in late 2011. Automattic had about 100 employees with 15 of us in the San Francisco Bay Area and the rest spread around the world. We had a small office in San Francisco’s Pier 38 that we used for Bay Area employees, various visitors, and WordPress events. Then we, along with dozens of other startups, got evicted by the San Francisco Port Authority and started looking for a new space. Since 15% of our company was Bay Area based and we were planning to grow to 500+ people over the next 5 years, we decided we needed space for about 75-100 people. We ended up leasing a 14k square foot warehouse in the SOMA area of San Francisco and renovated it into a fantastic space for both co-working and events.

Then something…

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