(And Will Keep You From Giving Up on Your Dreams Too Soon)
Jeff Bezos knows how to make smart decisions. He knows how to hire the right people.
And he knows how to stay the course -- and stay true to a vision -- in spite of doubters, naysayers, and critics.
Here's an example: Referring to the Amazon Echo, Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phillip Schiller once said, "There's many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn't mean you'd never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations."
Tens of millions of Echo devices in homes later... yep: Oops.
As Bezos said (as recounted in John Rossman's upcoming book, Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ways to Become a Digital Leader):
To Bezos, critics of online reviews missed the point. Amazon's goal was to help customers make the best purchase decisions they possibly could; deliver that, and customer loyalty would skyrocket.
And as a result... Amazon would sell more things.
Input is Great... Until It's Not
Of course, seeking input is natural. We're taught to actively solicit opinions. We're taught to bounce ideas off others. We're taught to run ideas up proverbial flagpoles and harness the incredible power of a group to make great decisions.
Yet the main power wielded by group thinking is the power of the middle ground: Groups grind away clean edges and sharp corners. After all of the input and feedback and devil's advocacy, what remains is safe, secure...
If you want to be different -- if you want to achieve "different" -- you must be willing to accept criticism. To accept disapproval. To be questioned, to be doubted...
To be, as Bezos says (again from Think Like Amazon), misunderstood:
Of course, it's hard not to worry about what other people think. And much of the time you should worry about what other people think -- but not if it stands in the way of living the lives you really want to live.
That's when you must be willing to be misunderstood. If you decide to start a business (which you can do in less than half a day.) If you decide to adopt the one work/life balance that actually works. If you decide to consistently say the four most important words a leader can say.
Some people will question you. Some will doubt you. Some will think you're crazy.
They're not wrong. They just misunderstand.
And that's okay -- especially if you're living your life the way you want to live it.
No one has to make harder decisions than the president. Here's how Obama dealt with his toughest calls.
You think you have to make stressful, high-stakes decisions for your work? Just imagine what it's like to have to make the call to send young soldiers into harm's way or weigh bailing out bankers who deserve a jail sentence more than a rescue boat against tanking the economy?
How on earth could any mere mortal make such impossibly tough decisions? There are only five Americans in the world who can speak to that, and one of them just opened up.
Speaking at a gathering of tech workers, former President Barack Obama spoke in detail about how he handled the crushing pressure of presidential decision-making. Every call was horrible -- "If it was an easily solvable problem, or even a modestly difficult but solvable problem, it would not reach me, because, by definition, somebody else would have solved it," he recalled -- but he figured out a constructive approach to thinking through some of the world's most intractable problems.
1. Swap certainty for probabilities.
Psychologist David Dunning, of Dunning-Kruger effect fame, is known for studying stupidity, but through the power of contrast his work also illuminates how smart people think. Dumb people, he recently opined, see the world in black and white. Smart people think in probabilities.
"Not 'Will X or Y occur?' but 'What is the chance of X or Y occurring -- 10, 50, 80 percent?'" he said. Obama agrees with him.
The first step to making a truly tough decision, he told the gathering is "being comfortable with the fact that you're not going to get [a] 100 percent solution, and understanding that you're dealing with probabilities, so that you don't get paralyzed trying to think that you're going to actually solve this perfectly," Quartz reports.
2. Get the smartest people in the room.
"I'm old fashioned. I believe in these Enlightenment values like facts and reason and logic," Obama went on, offering a not-so-subtle dig at his fact-challenged successor.
"If I had set up a good process in which I could get all the information, all the data, all perspectives, if I knew that I had around the table all the angles ... then I could feel confident that even if I didn't get a perfect answer, that I was making the best decision that anybody in my situation could make," he continued.
How do you get the best information? From the best people, of course, and that means putting your ego aside and not insisting you know everything or have the biggest brain. Obama insisted that "having the confidence to have people around you who were smarter than you, or disagreed with you," was "critical."
3. Ask dumb questions.
Just humbling yourself to seek out expert advice and actually listen to it isn't enough, however. You also have to understand it. That often means going a step further and asking a lot of seemingly dumb questions.
"I always would say to somebody, if they're talking about a really complicated issue, 'I don't understand what you're saying. Explain it to me in English,'" Obama relates. "I think one of the problems with people who are in big jobs is they start feeling as if they have to project that 'I have every answer' when, in fact, most of the time, you may not."
Looking for more information on how this process played out in regards to some of the most high-profile decisions of his presidency, such as the bin Laden raid and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster? Check out the complete Quartz article for lots more detail.
Ever hear of a brand style guide? That's the very first thing you'll need.
Think of branding as you would meeting someone on a blind date. You dress to make a specific impression. You communicate in a way that makes the other person interested in knowing more. And, if things work out, you may nudge your way toward a second date.
This is also the heart of branding, because with branding, you give someone an experience of your company that establishes a clear picture of who you are and ultimately engages that someone -- now a "customer" -- enough to buy your goods and services.
Many entrepreneurs ignore branding because they consider it too expensive or don’t think they'll need it until they reach a specific growth point. The truth is, however, that the longer you wait to brand, the more confusion you'll create in the marketplace. So, instead, start with the basics and use the many free or inexpensive branding tools that won’t break the bank but will have a drive revenue.
Create a brand style guide.
A brand style guide establishes guidelines that define your brand and how it will be shared with the marketplace. Similar to a marketing plan, a style guide assures a consistent company presence across every engagement so that your brand becomes recognizable to current and potential customers.
A brand style guide can be as complex or limited as you choose, and for most small businesses and startups should cover:
Establishing your brand style guide requires time and effort, but no money unless you choose to hire a consultant. There are also several free examples of brand style guides that can provide inspiration.
Design your logo.
Design your logo using your brand style guide. Your logo will appear on everything from business cards to your website, so it needs to visually encapsulate your brand. For assistance, check out the free or inexpensive logo-making websites, like AI logo designer by Designhill, or Sothink Logo Maker. Both provide quality designs for little to no money.
You can also find independent contractors on sites like Fiverr, to design your logo. Before using any of these options, study competitors' logos and logos from businesses that you admire, even if they are in a different industry. Identify the elements you like, and the ones you don’t, and design the logo that best represents your brand and will appeal to your target audience.
Launch your website.
Every business needs a website. Period. Why? A recent study by Deloitte found that small business with a strong digital presence earned twice as much revenue per employee than those without it. Websites generate sales, increase consumer trust and provide a 24/7 online marketing presence, which supports the company’s growth.
The challenge is that developing a website can be expensive, but resources such as Squarespace and WiseIntro can get you on the digital map cheaply, and you can upgrade or redesign your site as your company grows. If you have the funds to splurge on one piece of your branding, this is the place to spend it.
Leverage social media.
Social media sites are free to use and a great way to build your brand. Yes, you can pay to run ads and access high-level analytics, but you don’t need to start there right out of the box. Effective social media leveraging requires a professional and consistent presence. Start by conducting research to determine which social media channels are most likely to reach your target market and industry influencers.
Next, use free resources, such as Canva, to give your posts the branded look you need for a small-time investment but no financial outlay. Finally, utilize an editorial calendar to remind you to upload fresh information to these sites on a scheduled basis. Think outside the marketing box, and truly enhance your brand by sharing information about your mission and vision in ways that also highlight your personality.
Start a blog.
Blogging is another excellent way to establish your brand and engage your audience. This is where branding your voice is critical. Be intentional and consistent in your tone and communication process. Establish your expertise in your industry, discuss trends or other information relevant to your target audience and share stories about your company and staff to personalize your relationship with customers.
This is also a great opportunity to connect with other experts or influences by offering them opportunities to guest blog or request to curate their content on your site. The key to branding is to deliver fresh content on a consistent basis that will bring your audience back for more. There are several free and inexpensive blogging platforms, such as WordPress, that can get you up and running in minutes.
Your brand is the foundation of your business. but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to establish and support it. The brand style guide should inform every aspect of your professional engagements, from your logo to your blog, to clearly and consistently communicate who you are to your target audience. A strong brand will provide financial returns, so get started today.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug - Eugen Eşanu
The saying that “good design is obvious” is pretty damn old, and I am sure it took different shapes in the previous centuries. It referred to good food, music, architecture, clothes, philosophy and everything else.
We forget that the human mind changes slowly, and the knowledge you have about human behaviour will not go old for at least 50 years or so. To make it easy for you, we need to keep consistent with a couple of principles that will remind us of how to design great products. We should be told at least once a month about these small principles until we live and breathe good design.
The human brain’s capacity doesn’t change from one year to the next, so the insights from studying human behaviour have a very long shelf life. What was difficult for user twenty years ago continues to be difficult today — J. Nielsen
Revisiting: Don’t Make Me Think
Steve Krug laid out some useful principles back in 2000, after the dot-com boom which are still valuable and relevant nowadays. Even after his revised version, nothing changed. Yes, you will tell me that the looks are more modern and the websites are more organised and advanced (no more flash!). But what I mean about that is — nothing has changed in human behaviour. We will always want the principle “don’t make me think” applied to any type of product we interact (whether it is a microwave, tv, smartphone or car).
1. We don’t read, we scan
The reason for that is — we are on a mission, and we only look for the thing that interests us. For example, I rarely remember myself going through all the text on the homepage of a product website. Why? Because most of the web users are trying to get something done, and done quickly. We do not have time to read more than necessary. And we still put a lot of text because we think people need to know that. Or as some designers say: “it adds to the experience”.
2. Create effective visual hierarchies
Another important aspect that will help scanning a page is offering a proper visual hierarchy. We have to make it clear that the appearance on a page portrays the relationship between elements. So there are a couple of principles for that:
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel
We believe that people want something new and more. But we forget that there are so many applications on the market that each demands our time. Each of them has different interactions, and we need to learn each one of them. And our mind blows up when: “Oh man, another app to learn?!”.
It is an important point to know before I am going to say this:
We as designers, when asked to design something new, have a temptation to try and reinvent the wheel. Because doing something like everyone else seems somehow wrong. We have been hired to do something different. Not to mention that the industry rarely offers awards and praises for designing something that has “the best use of conventions”.
Before reinventing the wheel, you have to understand the value (time, effort, knowledge) that went into what you are trying to disrupt and innovate.
4. Product instructions must die
Our job is to make stuff clear and obvious. If obvious is not an option, then at least self-explanatory. The main thing you need to know about instructions is that nobody is going to read them. We should aim for removing the instructions to make everything self-explanatory. But when they are necessary, cut as much as possible. (but, really, nobody is going to read them). We muddle through.
If it is not obvious then we should aim for self-explanatory.
Take IKEA as an example. If you gave an average person to assemble a wardrobe from IKEA, I am sure that he will assemble it right most of the times. Why? It is, most of the cases, apparent on how it should be assembled if we have a clear picture in front of us. But even in instances where they look at the instructions, there are no words — only images.
5. We do not care how your product works
For most of the people, it is not essential to know or understand how your product works. Not because they are not intelligent, but merely because they do not care. So once they nail down the use of your product, they will rarely switch to something else.
Let’s take as an example the Apple AirPods. We can all admit that they are the worst sounding earbuds for the price you pay. But when I look at how people interact with it, I understand the real reason why they buy it. They do not make you think about why it is not working. You even don’t notice they have new technology.
I look at how my mom interacts with them, and she never asked me what technology is behind or how they work. She knows that whenever you open the case near your device, it is going to connect. It is that easy.
6. People don’t look for “subtle cues” — we are in a hurry
My favourite one. We, designers, love giving the users subtle effects and add beautiful delights. Right? Well, what if I told you that your users don’t care about it? No matter how much they tell you they do, they don’t. First time? Yes. Second? Ok. Third? Really, how much do I have to see this until it’s enough?
Why is this happening? Life is a much more stressful and demanding environment than an app’s delights and subtle effects. For example, you are a father, and your kid is screaming because he wants ice cream, the dog is barking because somebody is calling at the front door and you are trying to book a quick train ticket that should leave in 40 minutes. In that specific moment, people will not give a f* about your subtle cues. On the other side, we should use them, but not when it kills the user flow.
7. Focus groups are not usability tests
Focus group is a small group of people that sit around at the table and discuss things. They talk about their opinions about the product, past experiences, their feelings and reactions to new concepts. Focus groups are great for determining what your audience wants.
A usability test is about watching one person at a time trying to use something (your product in this case). In this case, you ask them to perform specific actions to see if you need to fix something in your concepts. So focus groups is about listening and usability tests are about watching.
8. We allow personal feelings take over the process
All of us who design digital products have the moment when they say — “I am a user too, so I know what is good or bad.” And because of that, we tend to have strong feelings about what we like and don’t.
We enjoy using products with ______, or we think that _____ is a big pain. And when we work on a team it tends to be hard to check those feelings at the door. The result is a room full of people with strong personal feelings on what it takes to design a great product. We tend to think that most of the users are like us.
9. You ask the wrong questions
It is not productive and will not add any value if you ask questions such as: “Do people like drop-down menus?”. The right question to ask is: “Does this drop-down menu, with these words, in this context, on this page create a good experience for people who are likely to use the site?”
We should leave aside “do people like it?” and get deeper into the strategic context of design.
The reason for that is if we focus on what people like, we will lose focus and energy. Usability testing will erase any “likes” and show you what needs to be done.
10. When a person uses your product, you forget that she shouldn’t spend time thinking about…
The point is that every question that pops into our head, when using your product, only adds up to the cognitive workload. It distracts our attention from “why I am here” and “what I need to do”. And as a rule, people don’t enjoy solving puzzles when they merely want to know if that button is clickable or not.
And every time you make a user tap on something that does not work, or it looks like a button/link but it’s not, it also adds up to the pile of questions. And this happens because who built the product did not care too much about the product.
Many of today’s jobs with the most openings—nurses and health aides, customer service reps and sales representatives, just to name a few—require you to manage relationships with customers or clients. So, not only will displaying relationship-building skills likely land you one of these jobs, but it's also likely to increase your pay and further your career success. In fact, several studies have linked emotional intelligence, a key skill for managing relationships, to higher career achievement and better pay.
Plus, building and maintaining relationships with customers is best left to, well, humans—an important detail in a time when automation is threatening more and more jobs. Last we checked, it’s no one’s favorite thing to call customer service only to get trapped in an automated phone system. People prefer people, and the same jobs that we mentioned before are included on the list of jobs least likely to disappear due to automation. To embark on a career with a strong outlook, here’s how to improve your ability to manage customers and clients like a pro.
The next time you are adjusting your resume to add the latest skills and/or job (which experts say should be done early and often), take a moment to give thanks to Leonardo da Vinci.
The Renaissance man is often credited with crafting the very first one, years before he began painting the masterworks he’s come to be renowned for. In 1482, around the time he was 30, Da Vinci was looking to land a job with Ludovico Sforza, then de facto ruler of Milan. Sforza wanted to hire military engineers, so Da Vinci wrote a letter to apply. Within the text, he outlined a 10-point list of his abilities that included bridge, cannon, and catapult construction, and water removal from moats, with a small mention of his artistic skills at the end.
According to Letters of Note, the document was believed to be written by a professional writer, and not Da Vinci himself. Either way, he did get hired and 10 years later, Sforza commissioned him to paint The Last Supper.
Close to 100 years later, Ralph Agas, an English land surveyor, penned a bunch of ads touting his 40 years of experience in the industry as well as his particular skills and projects. Although Agas’s ads were the closest thing to a modern resume, the term resume wasn’t commonly used at this point.
The word itself is French and means summary. But there are several different accounts of who actually coined the term to stand for a summary of jobs skills and experience. One predates even Da Vinci, suggesting it evolved in the Middle Ages with English skilled artisan and labor guilds. Wealthy patrons could use the lists to make a targeted hire based on qualifications. Another is that a traveling English lord called his letter of introduction a resume.
1900-1950: A listing of age, weight, and heritage
1990-2010: What the internet did to the resume
The future: not dead yet
By Justin BarisoFounder, Insight
Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a powerful speech last week at a privacy conference in Brussels. He spoke about the wonders of technology. But his main focus was on the grave dangers with which mankind has been suddenly confronted.
"Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies," Cook stated. "Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false."
Cook summed up the most frightening truth about technology today--in a single powerful sentence:
"Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency."
Let's consider those words for a moment.
A weapon of mass persuasion
Technology has unleashed some truly deadly weapons through the years. Automatic firearms, along with chemical and nuclear weapons, have been used to cause countless deaths over the past century.
But Cook highlights a far more dangerous weapon--one that uses knowledge about you: your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions.
Cook explained further in his speech:
It is this "enduring digital profile" that can be used against you, in an effort to persuade, influence, and manipulate, completely without your knowledge.
I write in detail about this insidious danger in my recently published book, EQ Applied: The Real World Guide to Emotional Intelligence. This invaluable data is being used to feed what we describe as "the dark side" of emotional intelligence--when persons or organizations use knowledge of a person's thoughts and emotions to strategically achieve self-serving goals.
Companies use this data in a variety of underhanded ways, ranging from their attempts to sell products targeted to your individual tastes, preferences, and circumstances (while hiding how much they actually know about you) to selling your harvested data and that of millions of others in an attempt to influence the political landscape.
"We shouldn't sugarcoat the consequences," Cook said in his speech. "This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them."
So, how can you protect yourself in this battle for your mind?
First of all, it's important to realize that social media apps and websites are powerful and potentially dangerous tools. Just like a sharp knife can be used either to prepare food or to cause injury, social media can be used to help you or to harm you.
Recognizing the power such platforms have to provide insights into your behavior, you may decide to do the following:
1. Limit the access websites have to your personal data.
Remember that you have control over what data you share with websites and social media. Utilize private browsing and privacy controls to do so.
If the website or app you're attempting to use makes this difficult, ditch it.
2. Use the 3-Question Rule.
You may be completely willing to share your thoughts or opinions online. But if you do, remember that there are people who will use those thoughts and opinions in an effort to manipulate you.
So, before posting anything, ask yourself three questions:
If the answer to any of these questions is no, think twice before posting.
3. Work to increase your self- and social awareness.
Both self-awareness (the ability to identify and understand your own emotions and how they affect you) and social awareness (your capacity to accurately perceive others' abilities to manage emotions) can serve as valuable self-defense mechanisms.
Such "emotional alarm systems" can help alert you to the fact that someone is attempting to manipulate your feelings, to get you to act in a way that is not in your best interests or that conflicts with your values and principles.
At some point, you will cross paths with those who attempt to use your data against you.
In fact, you probably already have.
"This crisis is real," Cook went on to say. "It is not imagined or exaggerated or 'crazy.' And those of us who believe in technology's potential for good must not shrink from this moment."
BY AMBER MADISON
Everyone’s in a different place when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This handy matrix can help you utilize all of them.
As someone who develops programming to foster more inclusive workplaces, the biggest challenge I face (and I know I’m not alone in this) is tailoring conversations about diversity and inclusion to everybody in the room. Not only are some people more informed than others, but some are more receptive to the need for change in the first place. Preaching to the choir isn’t ultimately the most effective way to drive change. So I created this chart to give leaders a framework for how to best utilize each one of these archetypes to advance diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals.
Here’s who those four archetypes are, and how your company can approach each one.
Amber Madison is the founder of Peoplism, a comprehensive program to help people challenge and change their biases and create more inclusive companies. She is also a licensed therapist, and an over-analyzer who likes to think through actions 10 steps ahead.
By Leo Babauta
I ran across a friend who’s been dreaming about starting his business for years … and he feels stuck.
Like many people who want to start a business, write a book or a blog, or launch some other kind of creative or entrepreneurial venture … he’s stuck in overwhelm, indecision, inaction.
I’m going to share a simple technique for overcoming these difficulties and taking action on your business, book, organisation or other venture sooner. It takes just 20 minutes.
And it could change your life.
How to Overcome All the Obstacles
But first, let’s look at what stops people from taking action — and how we might overcome these individual obstacles:
The 20-Minute Technique
OK, let’s get to the technique you’ve been waiting for.
First, I’m going to assume you have a business idea, project, book, blog, non-profit organisation you want to start, something like that. If not, go pick one. Then come back and try this.
Second, I’m also assuming you are doing this business or project because you care deeply about something. You want to serve people. You’re not doing this just to make yourself look good or make money (those might also happen, but your reason goes deeper). If you don’t have this deeper reason, someone you are devoted to … take an hour outside in stillness and silence to look within yourself. What moves you to tears?
So this technique assumes you have the first two things above covered.
Now here’s the technique:
You’ve now launched your business or project. You have taken a tiny step, and that’s all that it takes to get moving. Now keep moving. Repeat these steps several more times, and notice how much progress you’re making. Let that encourage you to keep doing this, every single day, calling on support when you need it, reminding yourself of what you care deeply about, serving your people with all of your heart, feeling the uncertainty and being joyful in the middle of that shakiness.
This is your love story.
(The 90 Minutes Focus Technique)
By Thomas Oppong
To transform your workday, start by transforming your morning.
You are most productive in the morning, according to research.
Your best work happens within a short time span of the day. And you should be making the most of it.
Your morning should be spent on outputs, not inputs.
Do your best work in the morning whilst your brain and body can deliver the best results.
It pays to protect your morning.
Wake up early and be productive with that time.
The basic principle of the first 90 minutes rule is to start your day by spending the first 90 minutes on your most important task.
The first 90-minute routine can help you start and maintain a more meaningful, successful and productive days.
The human body operates on cycles called “ultradian rhythms.”
According to research, during each of these cycles, there is a peak when we are most energized and a period when we are exhausted.
With the 90 minutes rule, you take full advantage of the energy peaks.
To make the most of your energy for the rest of the day, you can use the 90-minute technique: work in 90 minutes sprints and then rest for 20–30 minutes.
In discussing peak performance in a 1993 study, Anders Ericcson, author of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, pointed out that those rest periods between intense work sessions is essential for improvement.
What is the one most important thing you have to do every work day?
A focused work rule is also important.
In the words of Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert, “How you begin your morning often sets the tone and your attitude for the day. It can also derail or direct your focus. If you remain committed to good morning work habits, you won’t fall prey to feeling unproductive and distracted at the end of the day or week.”