Spreadsheets are boring yet useful

When a project has a lot of moving parts, sitting your butt down and making a spreadsheet can really help. Without one, it’s just too hard to keep track of WHAT needs to be done WHEN and by WHOM.

Your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be digital. If using a paper ledger or graph paper is a better fit for you, then go for it. Just be sure to use a pencil and not a pen because tasks evolve over the life of a project.

TAKE IT FURTHER

Project Management for Artists

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The Consequences Business

I was recently reminded of this quote from designer and educator, Allan Chochinov, from his 1000 Words on design.

“[Designers] think we are in the artifact business, but we are not; we’re in the consequence business.”

What attracted me to the field of design was the scalability and potential impact of that scalability. But as I got deeper into the field of design, it became clear to me that that scalability can also be terrifying. Because when a designer designs, it’s not just a one up. If that thing goes into production, distribution, and sales, then that things scales and makes an impact on the environment and culture. We have to be better about thinking that through. Because what we design has consequences.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Read Chochinov’s 1000 Words here

Search Inside Yourself: Mindfulness at Google

Chade Meng-Tan (Meng) was a software engineer and employee number 107 at Google when he founded the “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness program at the company. 

In this talk above, Meng offers a standard definition of Emotional Intelligence (EI), which can be achieved through mindfulness practice:

Emotional Intelligence: The ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)

Then Meng follows it up with his own, simpler definition:

Emotional Intelligence: a collection of emotional skills

Meng claims that developing EI happens when you practice mindfulness which will change your brain via neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity relies on the assumption that what we think, do, and pay attention to changes the structure and function of our brains. Meng claims we can change our brains in 6-7 weeks, 20 hours of practice. 

WHY change your brain? Meng offers an interesting analogy about the relationship between our emotions and our thoughts.

Think of a horse and rider. The horse is emotions and the rider is the thinking mind. With practice, the rider can steer the horse. Learn to influence where the horse goes. And eventually, master that control.

The first step to achieving emotional intelligence is to practice ATTENTION TRAINING. The goal here is to “bring the mind to a state that is calm and clear and to be able to do that on demand. If you have the power to calm the mind on demand, that space becomes reliably accessible. You get choice, power, and freedom.”

Meng suggests a simple practice for attention training: Focus on the breath for ten minutes. When your mind drifts away, bring it back.

The second step for achieving EI is SELF KNOWLEDGE AND MASTERY. Here, Meng claims that the focus is on clarity. Moving from seeing things in a low-resolution way to a higher resolution. Meng articulates subtle yet important shifts in mindset such as a shift from, “I am angry,” to “I am experiencing anger.” From there is even a more profound shift from, “I am experiencing anger” to “I am experiencing anger in my body.” When you experience pain in your body, Meng argues, then you can do something about it. You hurt your hand, for example, then you have choices: you can ice it, massage it, distract with ice cream (his joke).

The third step in Meng’s schema is to CREATE USEFUL MENTAL HABITS. One he recommends trying out is that whenever you walk into a room, without doing anything, wish for two people in that room to be happy. This is a habit of kindness. “Habit becomes personality. Personality becomes you. You become a kind person.” (again, neuroplasticity at work).

Note that Meng is sometimes critiqued for applying mindfulness to what can be viewed as a corporate leadership program. Do with that whatever you will. But hopefully, you can pull some useful gems from his work.

 

How (and why) to help team members articulate their goals

According to leadership experts, helping your team members articulate their goals is an effective way to build motivation and trust in your organization because it helps your team members feel seen and heard.

However, a lot of leaders don’t take the time or effort to do this. Perhaps it’s an oversight, perhaps they feel it will take away from the organization’s goals, or perhaps they just don’t know how.

If you are interested in helping your team members feel seen and heard, help them articulate their goals. Schedule a team meeting or a series of one-on-ones to create a space for active listening. If your team members need a framework to get started, here  is a framework inspired by Zig Ziglar – goals, benefits, obstacles, and people:

GOALS. Ask your team members to state their goals. Goals should be stated within the context of the project, the organization, or mission of the organization. Why are you working on this project? If it’s just for the paycheck, be honest about that. But if it’s to further a professional or personal goal, then say it loud. This is a great thing for all members of the team to know

BENEFITS. As a leader, ask your team members what benefits will be achieved by striving for and reaching their goals. If you feel like you need to explore alignment between team member goals and the organization, ask your team members to do that exploration and to connect those dots

OBSTACLES. Ask your team members to articulate what’s in their way. This is sometimes a hard conversation, but believe me, you want to know

PEOPLE. Ask your team members who they need buy-in from so that they have advocates for, and not obstacles to, reaching their goals.

If you take the time at the beginning of each project to check in with your team about their goals, then you will help them feel seen and heard, you will build motivation and trust among your team, and you will help individuals and your organization flourish.

 

 

Artist Spotlight: Joan Jett

After yesterday’s hearings, I need a good dose of Joan Jett.

Joan Jett was a pioneer in Rock & Roll. In 1970s Hollywood, she set out to form an all-girl rock band. As you can imagine, that idea was met with a lot of resistance.

But Jett survived and thrived and this month she’s got a documentary coming out that captures her story. I can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, there’s a lot of great coverage out there to read and listen to. This interview with Marc Maron is fantastic (it starts about 15 min, 50 seconds in) and this interview with the NYTs is sweet.

In these interviews, you’ll hear that Jett has this great combination of character traits.  She’s strong, yet humble. She has had crystal clear vision and integrity throughout her career. She’s authentic and she f*ckin rocks. Thanks, Joan. Much love and respect.

Customer Research

There’s a lot of advice for inventors on how to do customer research. Yet, so many inventors do it poorly. They send surveys too early. They talk to the wrong people. They ask the wrong questions. And in turn, they gather misleading data.

It’s better to do no customer research than to do bad customer research. Bad research will point you in the wrong direction. It will cause you to focus on the wrong things.

Better to trust your gut, build a quick, cheap, and flexible prototype, then test that.

TAKE IT FURTHER – learn from customer research masters

Steve Portigal

Jane Fulton Suri

Leaning into Criticism

I’m teaching a new and improved version of MakerLab to undergrads this fall. The biggest change I’ve brought to the course is weekly writing assignments. The assignments have multiple parts and have at least two components:

  1. Explore a big picture question about the maker movement
  2. Identify a maker from a particular genre and write about their work

The latter component is called “Maker Appreciation” and I’ll dedicate a post to that in future. Quick insight: it’s a great and rewarding exercise.

The former component really interests me…and scares me a little. So far, the big picture questions have been questions like, “Why the maker movement, why now?” or “What are makerspaces and why do they matter?” But for this week, we’re going to move way out of the comfort zone and read some critiques of the maker movement. Why? It’s important to explore the criticism. I mean, if you are in the middle of a theatrical run, you might want to hold off on reading reviews lest they negatively affect your performance. But in other areas of life, you want to understand and acknowledge criticism in real time.

So for an upcoming assignment (not this week, but the next), we are reading Evgeny Morozov’s New Yorker piece called Making It: pick up a spot welder and join the revolution and Leah Buechley’s 2014 talk called Thinking About Making.  I look forward to seeing where the discussion takes us.

Better Than You Found It

tees from parksproject.us
tees from parksproject.us

At home, at work, and school we benefit from sharing spaces, tools, and resources. However, sharing resources is challenging because the responsibility for them is distributed. Shared spaces get messy. Shared tools get broken. And no one person is on the line to clean or fix them.

So when you use a shared space, leave the space better than you found it. Do something extra. Change that light bulb that’s been out for too long. Make and hang that sign that needs to be in place. Sweep those stairs that need sweeping. And when you contribute, don’t be a silent contributor. Let the group know what you’ve contributed. Your generosity will inspire others to make their own contributions.

 

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check out these do-gooders: https://www.parksproject.us/

When we are afraid

When we are afraid we have two choices:

  1. We can try to ignore the fear and hope that it goes away
  2. We can lean into that fear with a friend and try to figure out how to move through it

If we ignore our fear, it doesn’t go away. In fact, it grows.

But if we lean into our fear, yes it will be hard and uncomfortable. But it will yeild better results.

 

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