Turning Advice Into Action (Alexandria Issue #034)
The best content related to design, psychology, and productivity. Sent sporadically.
“You probably have a friend or family member who’s infamous for refusing to take no for an answer. The kind of person who will march into a department store and bullheadedly argue with the management until they get a purchase refunded.
This person seems like they often get what they want. They make you cringe, but perhaps you should try to be more like them.
Rest assured, this person is actually a terrible negotiator. They’re good at being difficult and causing a scene, which can sometimes convince a waitress or shift manager to appease them. But this style of negotiating will get you nowhere when negotiating with a business partner (that is, an employer).
A good negotiator is empathetic and collaborative. They don’t try to control you or issue ultimatums. Rather, they try to think creatively about how to fulfill both your and their needs.
So when you think of negotiating a job offer, don’t imagine haggling over a used car. Think more like negotiating dinner plans with a group of friends, and you’ll fare much better.”
More Amazing Reads
“A funny lie of adulthood is pretending we’ll act on the life advice we save. We don’t revisit bookmarks. We don’t re-read Kindle highlights. We rarely re-open Google docs. I recently overcame this self-sabotage. If I have a superpower, it’s that I now turn advice into action.
My solution is to treat life advice like I can only remember a few pieces at a time. Meaning, whenever I encounter valuable wisdom, I distill it into a decision-making principle and ask myself: Is this more useful than one of my existing memorized principles? If so, I swap it in for one of them. I keep doing this until I curate the ultimate list of decision-making principles.”
“Giving good feedback requires an awareness of both what you’re saying, and how you say it. To the first point, make it personal, provide specific examples, and notice how things have changed over time. Reassure the person that you are trying to help them be a better version of themselves, that you are in their corner. Consequently, be aware of your tone. You’re a team member, not an accuser. And choose your timing wisely. At the end of a busy workday is probably not the time to give constructive feedback. People need the space to hear and process what you have to say.”
“What’s curious about curiosity, though, is that it doesn’t seem to be tied to any specific reward. “The theoretical puzzle posed by curiosity is why people are so strongly attracted to information that, by the definition of curiosity, confers no extrinsic benefit,” Loewenstein once wrote. It makes sense for organisms to seek food, water, sex, shelter, rest, wealth, or any of the other myriad nourishing and pleasant things in life. But what is the good of deducing the nature of gravity, or of going to the moon?”
“Sometimes you’re working on a design problem and trying to get something to feel right, and yet you’re just banging your head against a wall. Nothing you try is actually achieving the look you want. Ever get that feeling? So I want to talk about a couple of situations like that, and how to get around them. And I mean that literally. We’re going to sidestep the problem instead of trying to force something that’s not working. I call it the “Reframe Technique”, which, let’s face it, is not incredibly subtle.”
“What kinds of questions do you usually ask people? We ask Yes/No questions — they’re simple and direct. But when simplicity and directness aren’t our only goals, Yes/No questions can be problematic. They surface a minimum of new information because they don’t invite the other into a dialogue, and they constrain the boundaries of the conversation.
In the courses I’m involved in at Stanford we encourage students to ask questions that are designed to get the other person actively involved. Such questions can be challenging and even blunt, but they’re also open-ended and compel the other person to reflect before answering.”
“Chasing speed is a flawed approach. Because decisions — at least good ones — don’t come out of thin air. They’re supported by a lot of thinking. You can’t force yourself to think faster. If you try, you’re likely to end up making much worse decisions. Here’s how to improve the actual quality of your decisions instead of chasing hacks to speed them up.”
“In the wide-ranging email interview that follows, I turn the tables and ask Patrick to explain his own ideas to me! We discuss the future of technology, what kinds of innovation humanity needs, whether innovation has slowed down and what to do about it, the proper roles of government and the private sector, how research funding can be reformed, how international competition (including U.S.-China competition) figures into the equation, and much more!”
“In his excellent book “Living with complexity” Donald Norman offers numerous strategies for how designers can harness the design of complexity to improve the user experience. And there lies a problem. I am increasingly wary of the term “user centered design”. The word “user” has a second meaning — “consumer of drugs” — which implies dependence, short-sighted gratification and a reliable source of income for the “dealer”. The word “centered” excludes pretty much everyone and everything else.”
“…I used to draw it horizontally like a value stream, showing how products are shaped first by research, then modeling, etc. I added feedback loops to show that it’s not linear but it always had a misleading sequential feel. Then I rediscovered Jesse James Garrett’s Elements of User Experience diagram, and I realized a stack was a much better way to think about this. There isn’t a time dependency between the layers, but there is a logical dependency. If something in a lower layer changes, it can dislodge the layers above. If the layers above don’t map well to the layers below, you’ll find yourself with UX debt, and a poor experience…”
“Selling the value of User Research is sometimes an insurmountable challenge, especially when you’re a 1-person army. Far too often, we find ourselves persuading stakeholders and selling the value of our work more than actually carrying out our real responsibilities — being the voice of the user, advocating for them, and ensuring that the product or service effectively solves their needs and pain points.
How do you ensure that, if you’re investing in research, people are actually using the data? How do you create a composite picture of the user in a way that fosters empathy from stakeholders? How do you make your work as a Researcher appreciated?”
“One of the benefits of material culture research is unpicking the “social lives” of objects and finding other narratives, which may not be reflected in other forms of material evidence, such as in text documents, in the process. Employing a transnational methodology also enables you to trace how a “thing” — objects, ideas, patterns, people — move across time and space, and can impact different contexts in varying ways. These approaches have allowed me to explore shared histories and connections between communities as well.”
“It’s too much to hope that writing could ever be pure ideas. You might not even want it to be. But for most writers, most of the time, that’s the goal to aim for. The gap between most writing and pure ideas is not filled with poetry. Plus it’s more considerate to write simply. When you write in a fancy way to impress people, you’re making them do extra work just so you can seem cool. It’s like trailing a long train behind you that readers have to carry.”
“The simplest, best definition (IMO) of voice for nonfiction writers is point of view. Rather than your knowledge or expertise, your opinion, or even your attitude, your true voice reflects your experiences and therefore your perspective. It is unique to you. Ok, so that’s what it means theoretically. But how do you go about finding your so-called point of view anyway?”