Inspired by Viktor Frankl and the Stoics
We like to think we are in control of our own destiny. But we are not. Life happens. Yes, fortunes are not immune to influence — we can improve the odds, but that does not mean the world is within our control.
“I don’t like the idea that I am not in control of my life.” — Neo in the Matrix
The stock market falls, the board of directors loses faith in your leadership — the project is canceled.
“Often, when a man is young and idealistic…
Inspired by Mike Markkula
The iPhone is as much art as it is technology. Even the packaging is a joy to use. How did Apple learn to value aesthetics? We are told it was the maniacal focus of the late Steve Jobs, and it surely helped. But who influenced him? Who shaped his worldview?
We’ve talked before about Steve’s adoptive father, Paul Jobs. He certainly played a major role, imploring the young Jobs to care as much about the things people won’t see as the things they will. …
Every business teeters on oblivion. Survival is not assured by virtue of incorporation. Early in an organization’s life, this instability permeates everything — uncertainty is the norm. As a venture grows, presumably finding a better fit with the market and adding more people to its ranks, these fears fade evermore into the background.
Company growth is a sign of success and certainly preferred to the alternative, but there is a downside — without discomfort there is no growth, and the palpable feeling of risk dissolves as employee count rises. …
Inspired by Paul Graham
Innovation will always be fought. It a cliche, but it’s also true; if you don’t have haters you’re likely not doing much interesting.
“If you discover something new, there’s a significant chance you’ll be accused of some form of heresy.” — Paul Graham
Different scares us, especially when we are deeply entrenched in the old world. An obvious example was with the iPhone. It was originally dismissed due to its departures from the norm; high price and a lack of a physical keyboard. …
Big ideas are exciting — they motivate people. It’s why it’s can be easier to build an ambitious company than a modest one. But once the real work of building begins, we have to constrain ourselves. Breaking the 12-course meal in our mind into entrees, appetizers, and desserts.
Yet too often, even these smaller bites are so big we choke. Just as we are bad at estimating how long something will take to build, we whiff on how many pieces are required to complete the user’s job, end-to-end.
A cohesive experience is farther away…
Inspired by Jared Spool and Kim Goodwin
Focus diminishes peripheral vision. Our work draws us in — tipping headlong, end over end towards the object of our attention. For makers, it’s an occupational hazard. We’re captivated by what we’re creating — where it can be improved, and imagining what it can become. Yet, somehow, even with a maniacal focus on every nuance of our creation, it’s no guarantee things will work out.
We’ve heard the Silicon Valley gurus speak of ‘embracing failure’ and how ‘the best product doesn’t always win’. Sure, we understand it…
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
We know what we already know. This tautology is one of the major roadblocks to communication. We mistakenly think that since we understand something, everyone else must too. The fallacy bleeds into how we communicate. We think that once we’ve verbalized an idea that it was grasped, when in fact, all we did was say something aloud.
Everyone in enterprise software talks about ‘Consumerization’. The idea is that the products we use at work are getting easier to use — more like the products we use in our everyday lives. It’s not a new idea, 20 years ago Marc Benioff founded Salesforce on the dream of making CRM as easy as Amazon.
So why do consumer products, almost universally, have better user experiences than work tools? Are the product teams better? Do they invest more in design? Do they just care more? Well, maybe, but the truth is that consumer products…
Inspired by Joel Spolsky
Have you ever seen the foundation of a house being poured? A crew shows up for a day with a fleet of cement trucks parading by, one by one, filling framed out wooden squares with molten gray sludge. By the next morning, you have a solid structure on which to build. It’s just about the most straightforward part of the home building project.
“Building software is very little like building houses.” — @dhh
On software projects, we tend to spend way too much time considering the foundation. We get ratholed…
Inspired by Ryan Singer
The team was deep in presentation mode — sharing the new dashboard designs with our Product Leader. After 10 minutes of polite squirming, unable to contain himself, he exclaimed, “People don’t use dashboards!” You could hear the frustration in his voice — exhaustion earned through years of failed attempts at making the one perfect screen.
Now, this executive rarely voiced such a strong opinion, so when he did, I took notice. I filed it away and let my subconscious mind chew on it. Fast forward six months and guess what…