Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Human, all too human

My friend Staylo and I engage in many dialogues on many topics. But we rarely do so online for all posterity. He asked me to read his posting on leadership and comment on it. I really loved the post in that I found it distinct, insightful and nuanced. It was so well written that I found myself puzzled at what to say about it, other than simple praise.

While looking through his posts, I came across an older one on User Experience and the motives from which it arises.

The central point of this post is that the motives of many User Experience professionals are somehow less honorable because they are rooted in obtaining business benefit. While I find this articulation to be very well written and very well thought out, I see some subtle contradictions within the post and also choose to see some of the points from a slightly different angle.

First - I must disagree with the precept that the motive of honest enlightened self interest is somehow less honorable. This line of thought strikes me as pompous, self-righteous and inherently false. Mutually beneficial relationships are not superior because they are more honorable, rather they are superior because they are more sustainable, allow for the reaping of emergent benefits for both parties, they allow for the creation of additional beneficial relationships and ultimately allow both parties to benefit society at large in more meaningful and lasting ways.

When society continues on with the charade that self interest is dishonorable, we end up with the behavior that the post itself identifies as the most dishonorable - acting with disingenuous motives.

Being authentic with your motives is, in my opinion, necessary (although not sufficient) for being honorable.

Second - I must disagree with the precept that "When people are given a viable alternative to soulless, hollow, insincere, inauthentic, self-interested manipulation, they take it. Customers prefer the human, and so do employees". It is not that this is wrong, it is that it is not precise. I would reword it as such "When observant & sensitive people are given a viable alternative to soulless, hollow, insincere, inauthentic, self-interested manipulation, they take it. Observant & sensitivecustomers prefer the human, and so do observant & sensitive employees."

This may be provocative and controversial - but in my experience, many people float through interactions in a fairly careless fashion with an almost singular focus on short term self interest.

Lastly - The title of the post reveals the endemic contradiction with the whole line of thinking - "Being human is a competitive advantage". i.e., Be human, so you can gain advantage.

On the other hand, maybe I'm just too much of a functionalist.


Anomalogue Blog - like it.

Synetic Brand Blog - like it.

My friend Staylo - like him.

Leadership post - like it.

Not embracing enlightened long-term self interest as honorable an desirable - crap.

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, November 2, 2009

Adventures in Barcelona (Days 4 & 5)

Day 4:

Spent the morning at Sagrada Familia - I was blown away, and I'm a Jew! The Cathedral in process was the most insane thing I've ever seen. If you are a fan of architecture, you must come to Barcelona. The museums honoring Gaudi and the construction are fantastic.

Moved to Hotel #2 - Willow Moon B&B on a boat. Captain Steve is a great host. Spent the afternoon going over to Montjujic (Mount of the Jews) on a Funicular (cable car) and then roaming around looking for the Miro museum. I got us lost on the mountain (some Jew I am) and we got to the Museum just before closing.

Had tapas for dinner in the Born at Taller De Tapas. Pretty good fare. Went back to the boat and talked for hours. CRASHED HARD and slept like a rock!

Day 5:

Steve made us eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast - Fabulous! We got to the Miro late again, but went in anyway. Saw some good art (I liked Picasso better). Wandered around the mountain for the rest of the afternoon and went shopping for gifts (got some great coats for the girls). Ate Tapas at Palau de Musica and saw a great classical guitar show (I was so tired, but the show was great). Had a crepe before bed and spent the late hours with Kathleen.

Modernista architecture - like it
Staying on the boat - like it
Being with the love of my life - LOVE IT!!!!

All props to my love.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Adventures in Barcelona (Day 3)

OMG - I am awed by the genius and creativity of Antoni Gaudi.

Took a bus tour today... went EVERYWHERE to get the macro view of the city.

Stopped at one of the apartment buildings designed by Gaudi. Truly astonishing.

But I am getting ahead of myself...back up.

Brought cafe con leche y groissants to Kathleen for Breakfast. Went on the tour. Two more coffee breaks!!! Bought some presents for friends and family.

Looking forward to a fabulous seafood dinner with the love of my life. Will upload some pictures tomorrow.

Buildings by Gaudi - Like it.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adventures in Barcelona (Day 2)

Meta Subject First: This is strange to me. I don't really write in my blog about my day to day goings on - and this sort of feels like that. The blog isn't usually meant to be my daily journal.

I try to write about experiences that inspire me, and this qualifies... so I guess it's OK.

DAY 2 - Woke up at 11:00! Had breakfast in a little dive where no one spoke English. My meager Spanish got us through with exactly what we ordered:

  1. Dos cafes con leche - did I say the coffee here was magnificent? I think it was an understatement.

  2. Juevos y patates frites for me - my arteries hardened just looking at them.

  3. Juevos y beicon for Kathleen - per Kathleen they tasted like a mix between Ham and Bacon.

Went to two Museums

  1. Disseny Hub Barcelona - very odd indeed! Devoted to souvenirs and other oddities. I'll post photos later.

  2. Picasso Museum - there is nothing so humbling as seeing the masterworks made by a 13 year old picasso.

Had noodles for a late lunch, took a nap, had black rice for dinner and went dancing until 2.

Went to bed and slept like a rock!

Day 2: Like it.

Muchas Gracias

Adventures in Barcelona

Like it! Like it! Like it!

I know I'm supposed to end with ratings, not begin with them, but being on my honeymoon has me overflowing with ebullience.

Delta performed near flawlessly - two minor hiccups during the reservation process, each time Delta CSRs managed me in my angst ridden "OMG! Is my honeymoon gonna crash and burn?" state and made everything right.

We managed to use the metro to get to our hotel (Grand Central). A little hiking involved, but I can stand to lose a few pounds anyway.

The hotel is very, very nice. 3 strong points: 1) Comfortable Bed, 2) Nice Pillow, 3) Blackout Curtains. 3 "Could be betters": 1) The clock in the room was an hour fast, 2) The shower head droops, 3) Oops! Only 2! So much for parallelism.

Other hotel goodies: Nice staff, DVD player in room, free minibar, bittersweet choclates, middle of the gothic quarter, pool on the roof.

Walked around Barcelona, eating at cafes and restaurants (The coffee here is truly magnificent!).

Saw a flamenco show - very impressive, so much emotion is conveyed in the dance.

Today's plan: We don't really have a plan as such, we'll probably go to the Picasso Museum &/or the Gaudi Cathedral.

Yes, I do like Barcelona. More notes tomorrow.

Peace out.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Who Da Man?

My good friend Staylo (http://anomalogue.com/blog & http://syneticbrand.com/) sent me the following fable:

The captain of a lost ship reasoned thusly:

“If I were at my destination I would no longer be lost. What separates me from my destination is distance. Distance is traversed through the rowing of my oarsman.

“If it is untraversed distance keeping me from my destination and the responsibility for traversing distance belongs to the oarsmen, it is obvious that my oarmen are to blame for our being lost!”

So the captain ordered his navigator and all his officers to report immediately to the galley. He called the oarsmen before them, rebuked them and had them flogged. Then every man, officer and crew alike, grabbed an oar, and together they sat straining in the dark, rowing and rowing and rowing and rowing across the distance.

After some discussion, I sent him the quote below:

"It is the greatest houses and the tallest trees that gods bring low with bolts of thunder. For the Gods love to thwart whatever is greater than the rest. They do not suffer pride in anyone but themselves"

I'm not sure if Herotodus knew of "The Man" but it sure sounds like it to me.

I see the main idea is to relate the "Gods" to "men in power", e.g., The Man. One of the main signatures of The Man is to crush the bright lights of those whom they can in order to illustrate what "power" is to them (not intelligence, merit or any other aspect worthless to them). The Man seeks to reward those he can control and dominate and will be forever limited in this fashion because he is mortally afraid of being seen as "less than" the ones he is accompanied by.

Staylo more so thought the quote was about hubris and pride in men and spoke about the tower of Babyl. I can see his point, but I like to think my interpretation is more the intended one.... Or maybe I'm just obsessed with the concept of the man...

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posits that people who let their outlook be impacted by a sense that those in power (e.g., the Man) can crush them curtail their likelihood of achieving success and leading an impactful life.

Herein lies the safe zone...

1) Acknowledge that The Man exists and navigate accordingly

2) Acknowledge that The Man only has power over what you grant him and act accordingly.


1) Denial of the Man - Garbage

2) Fear of the Man - Garbage

3) Fight the Power (intelligently) - Like it

PS - Big props to my man Brant Barton for one of my favorite Halloween costumes ever. He showed up in a 3 piece pinstripe suit with vampire fangs - i.e., The Man!

Well, it's 1 a.m. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

King of Eight

I sent the above video to one of my co-workers the other week as I was trying to explain some stuff to him. He is a good amount younger than me and we have some highly similar personality traits.

We both have a professional and personal approach that seeks to "define the moment" rather than "be defined by circumstance". This amongst many other aspects puts us in the category of "Eights" as defined by the Enneagram of Personality.

In talking with my comrade about the characteristics of the eight, he basically referred to personality typing as "new-age" and followed up with some disparaging profanity (very typical thing for an eight to say).

As we talked more, about the original subject and beyond, he has lowered his guard a little bit and sought out more career and professional advice from me and another of my network.

I've been very happy about this for a couple of reasons:

  1. I get a lot of self actualization out of being helpful in a meaningful way to other people

  2. I like watching other people move out of self-imposed mental constraints to break-through to a new way of seeing

  3. I'm very happy that my professional relationship has turned a corner in a way that enables us to be personally more in-tune with each other

My dad had an aphorism that he used to quote:

He who knows not what he knows and knows not what he knows not is a fool; avoid him.
He who knows what he knows and knows not what he knows not is a student; teach him.
He who knows what he knows and knows what he knows not is a wise man; follow him.

In later years I tacked a corollary on it:

He who knows that he is at times a wise man, at times a student and at times a fool is amongst the wisest of all men

I love teaching, and I love learning. I'm very happy to be an eight and at the same time, I strive to be humble enough to know how god laughs at the plans of mice and men (as the king of eight finds out at the end of the video).

Rating -

Life long pursuit of learning - like it

That's it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I'm going to clown college!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Long OW!

Brandon Schauer, one of my past Sapient co-workers, now works at Adaptive Path and is relatively well known in UX circles for his thought leadership. One of my favorites is The Long Wow. In brief, "the long wow is a means to achieving long-term customer loyalty through systematically impressing your customers again and again."

Well, true to my nature, I feel compelled to point out the flip side, which I call the long OW. In brief, the long OW is a means to achieving long-term customer hatred through systematically disappointing your customers again and again.

Where long wow companies like Apple and Nike continually look for ways to express to customers how much they appreciate them through phenomenally well designed, user-centric products and services. Long OW companies like Blockbuster, the cable companies and phone companies seemingly look for ways to contemptuously exploit their customers through products and no-service processes that are equally well designed, except that the products and no-services are dollar-centric.

I understand the mindset and organizational culture that drive the long OW companies to make decisions like these. Like many American cultural aspects they are all focused on $ tomorrow. What they fail to see is the long term lasting hatred consumers have for them and the taint these business practices have on their brands that can't be washed away.

Blockbuster is the perfect case study for this. I know, I know... I pick on Blockbuster quite often... But THIS IS EXACTLY THE POINT! Neither I, nor other consumers have forgotten the YEARS of gouging we suffered from the late-fee nazis in Blockbuster management. Even when Blockbuster's Click & Mortar offering is VASTLY superior to every online only offering - people still choose netflix. The people who still patronize Blockbuster do it only begrudgingly and silently hope for the day when a online & meat-space combo retailer will offer something better so that they can stick it to the man REAL GOOD!

Cell phone companies and the Cable companies have paved the way for this type of business model for decades! The Cable companies were first. Having regional monopolies, the combination of easy money and little competition has created crappy behemoths of companies who really could not give a rat's ass about how much consumers hate them. Maybe instead of focusing on churn, they should focus on the root cause - the legacy of contempt they have shown for their customers.

How can the leaders of these companies not get it? Consumers generally feel that all the options suck it's up to them to choose the one that least sucks for them and their lifestyle.

My recommendation for these purveyors of contempt is to either:

1) Go for a "truth and reconciliation" approach in which you actually try to make legitimate amends with people who despise your organization. If you decide to do this one, you have to do more than say "sorry", you have to show you mean it. See my past blog entry on this topic for more information.


2) Prepare for an upstart with a clean reputation to come and eat your lunch.

Rating Time:

Long Wow companies - Like them.

Long OW companies - Garbage.

Tell em' Large Marge Sent Ya!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!!!

I loved the Super Friends. I loved the Legion of Doom. I even loved it when they trotted out the politically correct heroes who just so happened to match almost every genetic heritage (Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, Samurai, Rima the Jungle Girl, El Dorado).

What I wasn't too thrilled about was the use of the sidekicks. At first it was "Wendy, Marvin and Wonder-Dog". This is too lame to garner more than a passing mention. "Zan and Jana", however, are more than just lame. They defy any use of common sense - and I love ridiculousness. The girl, "Jana", changes into animals - I get it, good power. The boy, "Zan", can change into water or something made of ice. What kind of drugs were the script writers on? An ice cage? Breath on it really hard, and you're free! Whenever they had to go anywhere, Zan changed into water and was carried in a bucket by Gleek the pet monkey!

The way I figure it is this: The writers thought that Wendy, Marvin and Wonder-Dog were too stupid to continue and so they tried to think up something better. Alien shape shifters who have to touch to use their powers... good start. And then for some reason, the whole travel in a bucket and turn into ice things comes up and ruins the show for several years.

Super Friends - Like em.
Legion of Doom - Like em.
Wonder Twins - Garbage.

Go on with your bad self!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Resolution Schmesolution

'09 is here. So are new year's resolutions.

Lose weight? Exercise more? Not for me.

I've had the same set of resolutions since 1989. Well, technically not exactly the same.

  • Always remember it's only school.

  • Eat more ding-dongs

  • Always remember it's only work.

  • Eat more cake

The changes... Well, I'm not in school anymore. And I never really ate any ding-dongs at all, so I decided to go easy on myself and make it more achievable by going with the more generic "cake".

My deal with resolutions is that - if you need a specific event to commit yourself, then you probably don't really want to do the thing you are committing yourself to. If you want to lose weight, go on a diet... TODAY. Not 3 weeks from now on your birthday.


Resolutions - Like them
New Year's Resolutions - Garbage

PS - Yes, I'm Writing about New Year's Resolutions just before January ends. At least it is not February.

Party for your right to fight!