Engineering Strategy, Untold Stories, and a Magical Wristband

Making Sense:

I was sorry to miss the Google Firestarters event (did not go to SxSW) because I value and appreciate the importance of partnering with Experience Designers in my work. The highlights from the notes reflect my take as well well done, Neil.) And speaking of untold stories — with the publication of a new book on Steve Jobs we are regaled with more details about his work and relationships. Mr. Cook continues to impress me on multiple levels, and so does Fred Wilson. It is about the people.

  • Google Firestarters Austin – Engineering Strategy – The Event. Neil Perkin: the two disciplines will likely start start from a different place – planning from the lens of the brand, UX from the customer perspective, and what they can teach each other. […] Great planners, said Chloe, are inherently creative and great Experience Designers are inherently strategic, but it's how they work together (as opposed to working in parallel) inside the agency that is becoming increasingly important. […] it is far from binary, there is plenty of overlap, and planning and UX need each other more than ever. The intersection is where the magic happens, particularly now that most brands are primarily experienced through interfaces (in fact 'Brand is Interface'), product and message are integrated more than ever, and experiences are not separated into silos.
  • The untold story of Tim Cook’s friendship with Steve Jobs—and why Jobs wouldn’t let Cook try to save his life. Fast Company: "Steve cared," Cook continues. "He cared deeply about things. Yes, he was very passionate about things, and he wanted things to be perfect. And that was what was great about him. A lot of people mistook that passion for arrogance. He wasn’t a saint. I’m not saying that. None of us are. But it’s emphatically untrue that he wasn’t a great human being, and that is totally not understood. The Steve that I met in early ’98 was brash and confident and passionate and all of those things. But there was a soft side of him as well, and that soft side became a larger portion of him over the next 13 years.
  • Fred Wilson on USV stars (Twitter, Kickstarter), great VCs, blogging, our economy & the future. Jason Calacanis: A VC since 1986, Fred and Union Square Ventures have invested in countless stellar startups, such as Zynga, Etsy, Tumblr, Twitter, and Kickstarter. During his candid fireside chat with Jason, Fred reveals the common characteristics of good founders and good VCs (hint: care more about the company than the investment), why he still owns stock in Zynga, what makes Kickstarter special, why Tumblr sold to Yahoo!, USV’s current investment focus, startup ecosystems, the best entrepreneur on the planet, his own strengths & weaknesses, what he's learned from his kids, and so much more.

Making Do:

We see the world as we are — and constantly interpret our surrounding culture and circumstances through our lens and context. That is what humans do. Policies and systems however are still often an all-or-nothing proposition. Can we learn to deal with ambiguity better?

  • Tipping: polite gift or demeaning hand-out? Julian Baggini, AeonI was several days into my holiday and I realised that, contrary to my habit back home, I had not been tipping, since I understood that it was not the Italian way. But then I started to worry that my assumptions were out of date. So I asked the waiter straight up about the local custom. ‘People might add a Euro or two, but nothing more,’ he said. At first I was relieved, but then I thought, wouldn’t our waiter be used to travellers tipping according to their native habits? So I asked what he’d think if an American left just the odd Euro. ‘Tirchio’ was his reply: tight.
  • Why isn't Remote Work More Popular? Scott Berkun. Mishkin Berteig comments: The problem of written communication is that it is harder to get at assumptions. I too have worked for extended periods 100% remotely. I liked it personally, but I came to understand through those diverse experiences how deeply it affected my relationships with my putative team mates. I assumed when starting with remote work that it would allow for me to concentrate more (it did), that it would make me more productive (it did), and that this would all be a Good Thing. But the problem wasn’t ever with my personal productivity. The problem was with our collective productivity. This is an extremely difficult thing to measure so I can only claim this anecdotally.

Making It:

Big bets take time to figure out — and to sell through. First figure out why you do what you do and how you are going to be in the world, then tailor the story to each audience. The payoff begins when you don't give up.

  • Disney's $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband. Wired: All these vignettes playing out on the sound stage were a way of getting Disney’s board of directors to sign off on the $1 billion cost of deploying the full system. The dress rehearsal worked. People like CEO Bob Iger and Pixar board-member John Lasseter, who was new to Disney and on a path toward reinventing its animation studio, were led through a two-hour tour that unfurled according to a fastidious, continuously refined script. They loved it. What followed was two years of grinding work transforming a scripted prototype into a real-world performance, then another 18 months rolling it out in the park.
  • The Man behind MakerBot on finding the stories that build your brand. First Round: A startup's story needs to be a shapeshifter. You need a version that will convince people to give you money, another to persuade star talent to join your team, another for those first customers taking a chance on you. These stories live in different places and have different purposes. One may never be written down, one may only be emailed to select people, one may live at the top of your website in the form of a video. But they should all stem from the same core. In order to get any of these versions right, you need to start by identifying this central narrative, Pettis says. Why do you do what you do? Why does it solve an important problem? What change will it make possible? Why is your product the one to watch?