Asking for features but wanting better methods
For a number of years, SharePoint had been a part of the toolkit for project teams. Our experience in working with these teams has given a few lessons towards what is understood about features, and what isn’t undertood about behaviors. And yet, across more than a decade, there seems to have been little movement towards reconciling these. Features — as it relates to what teams understand about their tools — can very much be a trap instead of a help.
Our work with teams centers on helping them understand better what they want to do, and what about the software packages they might perfer helps them to get there. To that end, we spend a bit more time getting to know teams, their challenges, and the opportunities they’d like to feature, rather than getting to know every nook and wrinkle of the software tools. This seems a bit anthetical towards the signaling certification, CPE credits, licensing, and even “we want to do it like them” ethos of knowledge work; yet, this has been found to give the best return on teaching, not just return on investment.
Yet, there’s a place in each of those conversations where the topic turns to features. And it is here where its heard how some one is using this thing differently (or the “let me pull up this site and show you what I mean”). What’s being asked for is the method. The language being used is all about features.
The challenge for Avanceé is to clearly point our where these expectations might lie and make a clear distinction between the features which enable what looks like a pleasing method, and the behaviors which backend that method into profitable processes. This means if we are talking about reporting, and your focus is on making Excel a better used tool, that we will be asking questions about what you do with reports, what kinds of decisions do those reports help you make, and what about other tools and behaviors which get to those decision points faster or richer might have been missed. It might mean wanting automated processes, but taking a detailed look at communication practices between teams/team members, and what the entrance of automation might add or take away.
The question of any tools is rarely about the features it offers; its more about methods of work — what it does and doesn’t facilitate. To steer clear of the features trap grants the ability to concentrate on the better part of the process equation. That better part, enables your best parts.
The backend of Spring has hit a number of places and industries differently. Where some areas are getting so much rain that what looked refreshing is now flooding, other places are finding themselves parched, looking fot a relief. What does that have to do with the links for the week? Maybe nothing. Then again, the amount of water one needs to make it to the next season does depend on where you are in this one.
The Physics — and Physicality — of Extreme Juggling via Wired
The Case for Rethinking the Calendar via Sapiens
Human Works Design Newsletter
Why the Apple Store is Selling A Bike Helmet via Slate
Google Uses AI to Make Phone Calls Interesting Again
And one from us:
From Mundane to Tactile
A long day where you move about within about a 25ft radius yet still travel across continents, trade information, and engage various groups of people who use information technology to do mundane and wonderful things. This has been a pretty consistent piece of the story which has led to Avanceé and seems like an area most ripe for thinking a bit outside of the box.
On the same day of these, Microsoft announces its Surface Hub 2 another gesture towards the collaborative whiteboard which connects to people in open spaces, and uses a combination of touch, gesture, and camera-based input schemes for interfacing with content. A fan of such devices, its almost a shame these aren’t used more often — smartboards get a bad rap in educational settings, the Surface Table was best seen in Vegas, and so on. We seem to like the idea of large, public interfaces in concept, but something in the execution (or price, or administration) has kept them on the countertop rather than on the table with the main course of computing.
Perhaps there’s something to be said about touching, about being more tactile than screens can offer?
In a past project, we used a combination of the Layar AR system, QR codes, several other pieces of linked media, and a business card to trigger experiences which extended touch. Being in the time period not long after the introduction of the iPhone, such experiments weren’t unfamiliar to some, but they were eye-opening to many. Why would someone take the common practice of passing a business card, and overload it with content that needed a magic wand (read: a mobile with a camera) to enable? And then why would this be pushed further (building webpages to act like business cards, building websites hosted on mobiles, building entire courses and their materials from said mobiles, etc.). For all the connectivity that being digital offers, we often just do the mundane thing until we see there’s another way to touch the world around us.
A recent project where we reinvented the web presence of a compay offers a chance to re-explore this idea of being tactile. Passing business cards, having sales documentation, mailing lists, etc. are the mundane activities which have high energy but a very low rate of return. The experience is all about the touchpoint — being tactile and memorable — yet the behaviors do everything they can do keep touch from happening. What if we took those materials and removed them? What if we took the thing we want to sell and make it the action we did, instead of the action we talked to? What if communication and its behaviors were intentionally tactile, not passive? What would be mundane and that?
Would be the easy excuse to say that the usual posting scheme was disrupted because of the work on deck, but that’s not exactly the case. There was a bit of procrastination involved, which led to the travel/work on deck, which led to a “ah let’s just pick back up on Friday” bit. It might be ok to resume things as they were. After all, if you do great work, you’ll have great stories to tell and customers will experience their best. At least, that’s the theme for this week’s links:
Apple, Influence, and Ive via Hodinkee Magazine
Tech’s Two Philosophies via Stratechery
The Spectacular Power of the Big Lens via The Guardian
Nadella’s Microsoft via The Verge
Microsoft’s Edge Computing from Build ‘18 via ZDNet
Its about that time again… really need to think about better ways to introduce the week’s links of interest, reflection, and reorientation. In any case, one could imagine thoughts are clearer when the road to-be-traveled has both imagination and focus as pistons within its engine. Here’s hoping these links provide some of spark-user for you.
The First Principles of Product Management
You Need to Appreciate Beyoncé’s Attention to Detail via Medium
The Spy Who Came Home via The New Yorker
I Spent A Weekend With Cyborgs, and Now I Have an RFID Implant I Have No Idea What To Do With
Heads-Up: The Oral History of Iron Man’s Original HUD
The No-Collar Workforce
And from us:
Living in A Future Present
The reflection starts in using augmented memories. What was an an enjoyable time of food, drinks, and dancing is now nothing more than a hyperlink and several siloed conversations to be pulled upon until it fades from the collective consciousness, or until it’s made more permanent thru the positive or negative celebrity of another trope. This is life in this augmented age.
When looking at the technologies in use, we have a nearly-theological viewpoint of them: either we use them becuase they enable us to embrace a view of ourselves we otherwise couldn’t, or we don’t use them because to do so would portend some kind of denial of agency. Neither is untrue. In fact, both seem to be true at the same time. It merely depends on what might be our motivation at the time. As fleeting as such motivations are, we end up flopping between, or maybe gliding precariously to one end or the other. Never really knowng which end is true, until something changes our motivations through some transfer of value.
It is in this philosophical state to wonder about the devices and services we use. Are they merely augmenting senses which have fallen into dis-use? We don’t hear as well and so there are hearing aids. We don’t see as well, so comes corrective lenses in fashionable frames — this is important, we have a disability but want to remain on the side of reputation where that disability is a mark of respect, not of scorn. Or, perhaps we have orthopedics, orthodontics, or mark our workspace with ergonomic bumps and markers so that we ensure some level of the appropriate signaling, along with making sure we achieve some agreed to level of productivity or performance. These are merely augmentations to senses right?
Yet, it seems the wave of activity, or at least the increasingly loud tones of conversations, falls towards the technologies which speak to memory and perception. We don’t use the camera in order to see what we could not, we use it in order to signal that we were a part of something along with others, or to remember an artifact by context, or to imbue some matter of importance to another. We have listening devices to fall away into states of meditation whether to be productive or quiet ourselves — but do so against the framing of “these series of sounds will soothe and allow me to flow.” These are the parts of technologies which don’t augment so much as they reinforce. They reinforce our moods, our modes, and even our biases. Neither wrong nor right, they do hammer home a point — the moment isn’t enough, you’ve got to be able to retrieve it in order for its value to be taken in full.
While editing, there was a thought which arose from a current read:
The near-future of work is to be productive, with a knowledge of one state of wellness, in order to increase the value of and impacts of unique interested tools and behaviors
Productivity is theology of getting more out of a moment’s investment than what was put into it. The tools of productivity enable us to retreat towards what should have stood in memory, or enhance a particular set of senses for an omnipotent creation-ing. The way work seems to be going, we seem to at one point want to move from the frail methods and products of memory towards sensory-augmentation, and at the same time fear productivity as we’ve remembered it to be shaped by more than the KPIs of well-heeded management.
As Snap Spectacles find their way into use beyond eye protection and event capturing, there’s a sense that using them portends a different type of future. One which can just barely be grasped about during this present — yet its just far enough away to feel like something we might never reach. Our eyes will become more than input controls. Our behaviors will be more than responding to what we’ve seen. We just might have a future-present where it matters more that we use all of our senses, than we display modes that we even had them.
Another week in the books and the threads are aplenty. And maybe that’s just a sign of spring — lots of items coming to the surface after so many months of content finding its way against the gravity of other discussions.
Smartphones Are Bad for Some Teens, Not All via Nature
Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids’ Edition via The Verge
A Big Phone via Matt Gemmell
AR/VR Design Process by Morgan Fritz
Hit post and forgot to put the other goodies on this week’s thread
A few postings from us:
Identity and Instinctive Travels
Wearables, UI, and Forward-Reaching Activities
SmartTrip Apple Watch App Concept using Paste by 53
Move Fast and Shape Things
The other week, we looked back as to what’s been published so far, and there has really been a decent amount of content. There’s certainly a number of pieces where we are feeling our way to what kind of content is best for this platform. And at the same time, the linking of items creates avenues for attention perhaps not all that different from the other waves of conversation happening. There might be better ways to canvas the space that design and process begets. We’ll figure that out… but not because we will do what’s been done before.
What happens to fall inside or outside of the work to be done might be considered a distraction. As part of building a discipline of activity to define Avanceé and its market value, there’s is a bit of attention given at this stage to following instinct, not just process. Process is not pushed aside, but it is empowered by following the shades of what isn’t so easily defined.
A conversation about workspaces and cadence turns into a conversation on the nature of names, etymologies, and ancestry. Remarked during the conversation, is talking “about ancestry a distraction,” follows within this framing that work must follow some discipline and process. That is, there is work to be done because there’s a deadline which is accountable to it. And yet, the distraction and context-shift was allowed and encouraged. What could be found going down the route of looking at the history of a first name, its connections to colonization, and the affects of such a backward’s facing path on the conversant’s current work?
Anything? Nothing? Everything?
We don’t know what exists on the other side of these travels until we take the moments outside of them to explore, make notes, and then look for the opportunities to deliver something of tangible value — whether in that conversation or in future products.
Stripe talks about an internal product used to enable their company to connect to one another. Was making it a distraction? Probably. Did making it emphasize some things and diminish others as it relates to product, culture, and business? Probably. Was it the right thing to do — it’s likely, as they grow larger (over the 150 persons currently) this would become harder to manage and need to be replaced with a system designed from the outside for a larger company? Probably. And yet, what’s won by following their instinct here is a connective tissue between coworkers across departments which enables the best meat of their work to come forth. Doesn’t mean the internal tool is perfect, nor that the distraction was without several losses in attention towards other areas. It does mean the distraction revealed something in Stripe that was easier to define once it was travelled.
Developing a discipline around what might be a distraction is helpful in allowing you to make the right responses to it. Certainly, there are distractions which invite the wrong kind of friction to a team, project, or company. These should be avoided, or at least planned-for-response as they arise. But, some travels are less predictable, less able to be defined by anything more than being open to seeing old problems with different eyes. What comes from those travels can only be defined clearly once the road has been given some space to get in between your toes.
A few things on deck this week if Monday’s calendar is being honest with us. To jump a bit further into how to frame wearables, wellness, and activity into the most productive frames is part of what we’ve got on deck. Then also some investigation of a few apps which have come back onto the horizon for their intentionally-different-yet-applicable UI approaches. It is a decent Monday to start on these items, and at the same time, needing to push harder into making sure these activities are seen by those who’d like Avanceé to help them move forward.
Now that’s interesting. For some reason, posting to Twitter stopped happening a few days ago. It looks like cross-posting wasn’t turned on, but don’t remember turning it on as items were hitting Twitter auto-magically… 🤔
For items to hit both the @microblog timeline and Twitter is somewhat necessary (for now). Will need to investigate this before next week’s thoughts hit the stream.
Back again with a few links which have made something of influence here and there throughout the week. At the same time we share them, there’s also a shifting happening a bit behind the scenes — the links do have to lead somewhere you know.
The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World by Pew Research
Discipling Play: Digital Youth Culture as Capital at School via The University of Chicago Press Journals
How the Walkman Made Us Who We Are and Why We Need to Redesign Desires Beyond Tech
Algorithmic Impact Assessments via AI Now Institute
The Facebook Trials: It’s Not “Our” Data via Marginal Revolution
There were a number of items pushed here this week from us; one part of that starting tweets here, another part in keeping the long-form writing as a focus of what’s put forward. The long-form is the most in-depth of these.
Current vs Currents
If you come across items which would be interesting to read or share, follow Avanceé here on Micro.Blog or on Twitter (@avanceeagency).
Composing this as the start of yet another Excel class is about to begin. The framing is simple — to get a company of people who do various transformations and reporting with data to have the same floor — yet the feeling is not one where there has been much movement. An outsider teaching others how to use their tooling to do some aspect of their work feels like a bit of greaseing the wheel for a train which will never be moved forward. And yet, here again, there’s a sense of the current activity not exactly lining up with the currents of what it means to work.
This isn’t abnormal when some kind of paradigm shift is present. The current tools, methods, and perceptions which have led to a paradigm shift are certainly entrenched to continue life as it is. There’s a comfort and balance with understanding what might be able to work, what doesn’t work, and wrapping up those tools and methods around these perceptions. This is how work gets done. Right up until it becomes a limiter to the outcomes which made that work necessary.
The currents at play in the workspace/workplace include machine learning-infused tools, empathy and clarity, equity and equality, and a healthy does of boundaries/margin. We notice these things, but don’t always go about the work of changing how we work because of them. And this is a problem, at some point, the work either enables us to stay current, or moves us forward with the currents towards the next islands of opportunity and advancement. Rarely does the work enable both.
It is probably clear from the initial context this work sounds merely operational, not creative/production-focused. Yet, bending into just that perspective would not be too wise. Every space which has been touched by some aspect of connectivity or digitization is under the threat of the current work not allowing the current workers to flow with the current rate of change. We want to remain employed, yet gain the benefits of higher productivity per person. We want feelings of association and neighborhood-ness to broker what’s authentic, but also the constraints of safety, security, privacy, and agency. The currency of our age is changing, and its not really about keeping folks current as much as it is helping them utilize a suitable-enough oar so they could navigate where change might be directing them.
Avanceé responds to this by enabling those in this Excel class to not thing about “how do I do my job” but rather, “what are the things this tool enables my job to do better.” We have a focus on asking a better question of our tools, methods, and processes so that our perspective towards responding to change enables us to address the current needs, while also skating to where the puck will be. This is what it means to be “Avanceé” — being just outside of the box enough to see and create the next best responses. Is this something you and your team/organization could use help stepping through? If so, get in touch and let’s use those oars together.
Interesting Algorithmic Impact Assessments via AI Now Institute - via Benedict Evans’s Weekly Newsletter
The Algorithmic Impact Assessment (AIA) framework proposed in this report is designed to support affected communities and stakeholders as they seek to assess the claims made about these systems, and to determine where – or if – their use is acceptable.
Reading - there’s a good bit of insight towards cycling & public transport I’d not seen before (had convos however). Frictionless site design too.
National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Bikeway Design Guide
Totally late on this (as usual), but it looks like there’s a podcast client created by Micro.Blog’s inventor
Been thinking about doing a podcast alongside Avanceé (was looking at Anchor.fm) but this would be better for too many reasons. Not sure yet, but…
Spent the week developing a Twitter/Medium strategy for a group.
Sketching the blueprint was good for this moment; but the blueprint is only 25% of the journey. Getting folks to append/change their activities is the scripting of what’s next.
Sometimes, milestones and reflections are more for yourself than for others. But, its certainly interesting when we hear about other’s moments of reflection and contemplation and it creates the impetus to engage in similar moments for ourselves. Its on this framing this week’s links land.
Cameroonian Artist and Japanese Designer Collaboration for Stunning Kimono Line
Job Description by Luke Wroblewski’s Twitter
How Do We Build 21st Century Business Skills
Increasing An Organization’s UX Design Maturity: Our Not So Secret Sauce
Our contribution to this week’s learnings:
Cutting New Roads
Somewhere in the weeds, or maybe beyond the bushes with the hard bristles and leaves, is that thing you and your team have been looking for. This isn’t a prophecy saying that you are looking; nor is it an inevitability you will be there when the rest of your team finds it. This is just an acknowledgement that the space between current state and ideal state isn’t exactly a road which has been paved before. If this thing you are pursuing is indeed worth what you dream it is, then you will cut the road there - not follow it.
This is what makes innovation more or less difficult - and definitely not the normal course of affairs. In our humanity, we don’t like a certain type of friction. We like things to be easier. Shoot - Avanceé has done a decent job directing current and potential clients towards making work easier by implementing automated workflows in spaces. This isn’t abnormal to want for something great to come with a minimal amount of effort. However, its untrue to see simplicity and efficiency within the framing of easier. Simplicity and efficiency, that thing in which your ideal state is realized, is more like being on a road you are cutting anew.
In one of our prospective projects, cutting a new road looks like a new integration of software, a CNC milling machine, and an exponentially growing body of workers. Sure, there are companies which have managed this shift. And certainly some of those with some similar elements to this one. However, they aren’t this company. They aren’t this body of people. And certainly, they don’t have the shape of market this one has. So what happens here is a new road cut. There will be tools and methods pulled from similar frames. The redesign of consumer, user, business and technical frames will be different. And it should be. It will also be full of thorns. Because this road isn’t one they can see the end of by rising higher (one might argue that being higher in the org might actually blind them to the eventual destination).
So then what? Do you pull back towards what’s been comfortable? Or, do you embrace what’s on the other side of those weeds and thickets - pushing past the eventual cuts and blossoms to what’s on the other side of this forest? We think you will. We don’t just think so, but we will be there with you figuring out the shape of the road we are making and the path being left for others. Making work easier will happen. Making work valuable is part of the outcomes. Cutting that road is just a part of what it takes to go beyond where you are right now.
The way work looks going forward will require looking at a lot of this differently. That’s going to be a different road of its own also. And yet, those who see something different will cut it. Others will find those roads and invent their own spaces alongside it.
Image via Think Digital Travel’s Twitter of Gerd Leonhard’s latest talk.
Another week in the books, and while it is after the holiday, there’s nothing slow about the pace of reading and contemplation which has made itself suitable this week. Here are a few items which have crossed the paths of Avanceé’s workspace this week:
Non-Tech Businesses are Beginning to Use Artifical Intelligence at Scale via The Economist
Deutsche Bank’s Marcus Schenck on the Future of Banking via Business Insider
PropAI - Artifical Intelligence in Real Estate
Google Workers Urge CEO to Pull Out of Pentagon AI Project via NY Times
And a few from our desk:
Convo on Creating New Textiles