Camille Fournier on becoming a “multiplier” — and why multipliers are more effective than managers.
There are times when we all wish we could clone ourselves so we could get more done at work. In a Velocity New York 2014 keynote, Camille Fournier, CTO at Rent the Runway, presented an alternative, practical solution, that she argued is far more effective (not to mention feasible): become a “multiplier” rather than a manager.
Technical skills are important, she said, but they’re not ultimately the bottlenecks you experience later in your career — eventually, time and focus become the main hurdles. To overcome these hurdles, Fournier argued that you need to take a step beyond managing and focusing on creating additive value, and focus on multiplying your value by increasing the effectiveness of the people working around you.
Mikey Dickerson on why he moved from Google to the West Wing, and where we need to be allocating our engineering resources.
In a keynote address at Velocity New York 2014, Mikey Dickerson described his journey from working for Google to working in the West Wing of the White House, leading the US Digital Services group. He told the story of how a three-day review turned into a nine-week “herculean effort” by a team working 17 hours per day, 7 days per week to get HealthCare.gov up and running. The challenges, he stressed, boiled down to a few big, though basic, things — building a monitoring system, creating a war room to provide development direction and organization, and establishing a sense of urgency to get the problems fixed. “This very formidable obstacle, when you pushed on it even a little bit, fell apart; it was made out of sand,” he said. “Nothing we did was that hard; it was labor intensive, but it was not hard.”
Max Firtman on the future of mobile and the importance of embracing change.
Companies and developers have plenty of mobile development challenges — OS platforms, the growing number of devices and screen sizes, and the myriad requirements of browsers, to name a few. Soon — or already — the Internet of Things is going to muddy the waters further. In a recent interview, Max Firtman, founder of ITMaster, stressed the importance of the growing ubiquitousness of IoT and the necessity that companies embrace the future:
”Maybe in 10 years, we’re going to see devices everywhere sending input information to apps that might be in the server, in the cloud — and those apps will carry some kind of intelligence, and will bring us back information on other devices that could be a smart watch, smart glass, a phone; we don’t know, yet, exactly what will be here. But there are a lot of challenges there for content owners or companies because you need to understand that you’re going to be everywhere.
Tim O'Reilly and Carl Bass discuss the future of making things, and Astro Teller on Google X's approach to solving big problems.
I recently lamented the lag in innovation in relation to the speed of technological advancements — do we really need a connected toaster that will sell itself if neglected? Subsequently, I had a conversation with Josh Clark that made me rethink that position; Clark pointed out that play is an important aspect of innovation, and that such whimsical creations as drum pants could ultimately lead to more profound innovations.
In the first segment of this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly and Autodesk CEO Carl Bass have a wide-ranging discussion about the future of making things. Bass notes that innovation tends to start by “looking at the rear window”:
“The first naïve response is to take a new technology and do the old thing with it. It takes a while until you can start reimagining things…the first thing that you need is this new tool set in software, hardware, and materials, but the more important thing — and the more difficult thing, obviously — is a new mind-set. How are you going to think about this problem differently? How are you going to reimagine what you can do? That’s the exciting part.”
In this episode, John Allspaw talks in-depth about blameless postmortems and creating a just culture.
When you’re dealing with complex systems, failure is going to happen; it’s a given. What we do after that failure, however, strongly influences whether or not that failure will happen again. The traditional response to failure is to seek out the person responsible and punish them accordingly — should they be fired? Retrained? Moved to a different position where they can’t cause such havoc again?
John Allspaw, SVP of technical operations at Etsy and co-chair of the O’Reilly Velocity Conference, argues that this “human error” approach is the equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face. He explains in a blog post that at Etsy, their approach it to “view mistakes, errors, slips, lapses, etc., with a perspective of learning.” To that end, Etsy practices “blameless postmortems” that focus more on the narrative of how something happened rather than who was behind it, and that remove punishment as an outcome of an investigation.
In separate interviews, authors Hugh Howey and Ramez Naam discuss science fiction and their views of the future.
Science fiction long has fueled the imaginations of scientists and inspired (or foreshadowed) technological advancement. We have only to look back at the works of Isaac Asimov, or even Kurt Vonnegut, and episodes of “Star Trek” or movies like “Minority Report” for science fiction technologies that are (or nearly are) coming into existence today.
In this podcast episode, author, scientist, and futurist Ramez Naam explains to O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum that science fiction had a direct influence on his current interests in human enhancement and telepathy. Naam grew up reading science fiction (“like a lot of geeks,” he says) and once he started reading scientific journals and papers, he started seeing the connections. Naam says, “I found out that a lot of science fiction ideas were becoming actually possible — that scientists were implanting electrodes in the brains of animals and getting them to move robot arms by thought, to help people who were paralyzed.”
Josh Clark and Tim O’Reilly on designing beyond screens, and beyond a single device.
As the Internet is increasingly embedded into our physical world, it’s important to start designing for physical and intentional interactions with interfaces to supplement the passive, data-gathering interactions — designing smart devices that service us in the background, but upon which we also can exert our will.
In this episode, Josh Clark (in an interview) and Tim O’Reilly (in a keynote) both address the importance of designing for contextual awareness and physical interaction. Clark stresses that we’re not facing a challenge of technology, but a challenge of imagination. O’Reilly argues that we’re not paying enough attention to the aspects of people and time in designing the Internet of Things, and that the entire system in which we operate is the user interface — as we design this new world, we must think about user needs first.
Technology is now outpacing innovation, fostering a culture of disposability.
I’ve noticed a number of faint signals recently pointing to a general shift in the speed of technology and the repercussions it’s having on the products we’re seeing come to market. This recent Tweet from Tom Scott got me really thinking about it:
The Internet of Things: never mind your phone, now your whole house can be obsolete after a couple of years!
— Tom Scott (@tomscott) April 4, 2014
Scott’s comment brought me back to a recent conversation I had with Princeton architecture student Alastair Stokes. I’d asked Stokes whether the technology challenges of designing a building to last 100+ years are more difficult today than they were in, say, 1900 — or if it’s as difficult, just different. He said the challenges might be more difficult today, but regardless, maybe technology is changing the solution: we shouldn’t try to design buildings today to last 100 years, but design them so they’ll last for, say, 20 years and then be replaced. Read more…
We must demystify the "magic" of technology to increase user understanding and improve user experience.
Editor’s note: we’re running a series of five excerpts from our forthcoming book Designing for Emerging Technologies, a compilation of works by industry experts in areas of user experience design related to genomics, robotics, the Internet of Things, and the Industrial Internet of Things.
In this excerpt from the chapter “New Responsibilities of the Design Discipline: A Critical Counterweight to the Coming Technologies?,” author and independent design consultant Martin Charlier argues that taking a human approach to technology is required not only to ensure a good user experience, but also to afford better user understanding of technology. This could mean enhancing the experience by building on familiarity; presenting tangible representations of invisible technology, such as RFID and NFC technology; or even by eschewing high-tech solutions altogether.
British science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic can make people uneasy. Consider for example the scare around mobile telephones and what effects their radio waves might have on the human body.
The phrase “humanizing emerging technologies” is about reducing the amount of mystery around how a technology works and about helping people retain a sense of control over their changing environments. It is about understanding the mental models people use to make sense of technology and making technology fit people, not the other way round. It can even go so far as to question the need to use a particular technology to achieve a certain result in the first place.
This role of using design can be part of commercial work, or of academic, experimental projects dealing with market-ready or applied technologies. Read more…