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With creating new things, beware the How overwhelming the What

Dave Owens at the Vanderbilt University business school agrees that everyone is creative, and he also notes that in many business, people who don't see themselves as creative professionals have major influence over how things are created. And that changes the what. So if we're planning a new product or process, we have to be self-conscious of what values and power structures we are serving. 

Ozy: A Design Expert on Maximizing Creativity in the Workplace, 2016-Mar-16 by Eugene S. Robinson

“My biggest insight was that you could look at a product as being the manifestation or outcome of a set of interpersonal and organizational ‘negotiations,’ or battles, over subjective decisions,” Owens says, looking much younger than his nearly 50 years. At Dell, “the operations people won most of the battles,” he says, leading to machines that were cheap, modular, efficiently produced and not much to look at. Contrast with Apple’s machines, “you could see that design and marketing had won quite a few more battles — their machines were expensive, hard to produce and beautiful.”

That realization led to certain recondite truths that stretched well beyond all of the laptop and tech making its way past him. Mostly, the ideas that how we build the building blocks affects what we build, and that we actually need the stuff we build to live. “Yeah, take away all the designed stuff and most of us wouldn’t last more than a month,” Owens says with a laugh.

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How to become more trustworthy, from Fast Company magazine

While it seems like being honest and reliable is enough to make us trustworthy it's actually not. People trust people who notice, understand and assist them without being asked. 

Fast Company: The Three Habits Of The Most Trustworthy Person In Your Office, 2016-Apr-1 by Karissa Thacker

It’s all too easy to get locked into patterns of perceiving and behaving that don’t build trust, leaving us unaware of them and even further from understanding what things we actually can do in order to build it. As a result, our own feelings toward others—how much and whether we trust them, and vice versa—remain a bit of a mystery.

Changing that can dramatically improve how well your team works together, and it starts by understanding what the most trusted people actually do in order to get that way. Here are three of the primary habits of those who command others' trust at work.

According to @KarissaThacker

They consider the signals they're sending Are you behaving in ways that send similar signals that others can rely on you?
They take time to understand the pressure others are under We tend to trust people who listen and pay attention to us more than those who don’t.
They help out unexpectedly Make the conscious effort to do something nice that you don’t have to do.

A Critique of the "Attention Economy"... maybe attention is not finite

As a marketer, I appreciated Tom Davenport and John Beck's The Attention Economy when it was first published in 2001. Recently Matthew Crawford has been writing about the "Attention Commons." Both are focused on how advertisers battle to capture attention. But maybe attention is something we manage ourselves. 

Here's to the idea that we nurture our attention span in such a way that we can become stronger and more aware of the things we care about. 

Pacific Standard: A Better Way of Talking About Attention Loss, 2016-Feb-23 by Caleb Caldwell

I would like to suggest, instead of an economics of attention, that we think about an ecology of attention. We've already discussed "attention-as-resource," an ecological framing of attention as a natural resource to husband and defend, rather like the rainforest, clean water, or breathable air. But to think of attention as a depletable resource is actually to think of it as a particular kind of private property, one that can be stolen from us, or be dealt out or cruelly withheld at will. It is to align attention almost completely with consumption.... 

I’m not offering a fully formed solution so much as a brief endorsement of a different way of describing and discussing attention: a lexicon that neither worships technology nor romanticizes nature. I want to move past a vocabulary of emancipation vs. enslavement. To think about attention through the language of ecology is to see it as a sound-wave that a bow draws from a violin: in constant flux, not just existing in its surroundings, but actually unable to be abstracted from the constituting conditions of the resin on the bow, the quality of the horsehair, the density of the wood, the moisture in the room’s air. Attention is contingent on shifting attachments between individuals, collectivities, histories, technological and material conditions. To husband our attention requires a commitment to digital and analog life at once because, in so many ways, we are each other’s attention.

And when we recognize this fully, we must feel the responsibility that comes from being sutured together through common acts of attention. Our neighbor, like our smartphone, is now always with us.


When Houston is transformed

Houston's continued population growth despite the oil bust is a source of amazement. Transformation happens. We plan, it happens, seldom the way we planned. The changes are hard to follow and comprehend, but the key is to keep trying. If we keep thinking that Houston is the same as it was, or is changing the way we intended, we'll definitely lose sight of the way it really is. 

Offcite: The Houston Transformation and the Hubris of I-10, 2016-Mar-9, an interview by Raj Mankad of Andrew Albers and Ernesto Alfaro

Our new mayor, Sylvester Turner, has recognized that. He has called attention to the history of our I-10 corridor. We had a problem. We said I-10 inadequately handled the traffic load it had. How did we solve it? The Texas Department of Transportation spent billions of dollars to create the widest highway in the world. And within 10 years of spending all that money, you have recreated the same problem. An even bigger traffic jam. The planning addressed the problem they had and not the problem of the future. You need to address future problems. Designers, traffic engineers, landscape architects, architects, public officials, and citizens who understand this can work together. We need to address the problems of today and the problems of tomorrow.

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Overgrown railroad trestles by Patrick Feller, nakrnsm on Flickr

To lead our teams to greatness, we have to spend more time showing them how to work together

My experience over the years is that when managing a team, selecting the right members is much less important than creating the right conditions so they can work. In volunteer projects, we often have no control over the participants. What a relief to find that how people are allowed to behave matters more than anything they bring to the table.  

Only Dead Fish: On High Performance Teams, 2016-Mar-5 by Neil Perkin

This lengthy New York Times piece on the lessons that Google has learned from its lengthy quest to find out what makes an exceptional team [found...]

Team composition, longevity, degree of hierarchy, and the mix of personality, background, skills of the team members all made no difference. 

Instead, further research revealed that the group norms ('the traditions, behavioural standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather') that the team operated to seemed to play an important role in how successful a team was. Analysis of over a hundred groups for more than a year showed that the right norms could raise a group’s collective intelligence, and the wrong ones have the opposite effect (even when individual intelligence was high).

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