#muchbetter / The Animaniacs reboot we all desperately need.

Given the metric tons of shit we’re all dealing with right now, it’s nice to have some comedy back in our lives. Watch the trailer and you’ll see for yourself, the writing is just as sharp and smart as it was. And it proves that while satire might need a break, comedy—when done right—still works.

What’s that? You don’t like animation? Either learn to appreciate the format and have a laugh or go grow some grass from seeds you harvested one at a time.

#goodtimes / "The fed-up chef."

Even before they get to talking about food, I can tell I’d love Gaggan Anand and his restaurant by the same name.

The meal cost $400 and came with rules. No. 1: No using cellphones, except to document the dinner and the chefs preparing it. “Please do the Instagram, the Facebook, the Twitter; give me the fame, I need the fame,” said Gaggan Anand, whose restaurant bore the same name. Clad in black, with a booming voice that suited his hulking figure, he stalked between a vast kitchen island and an L-shaped table for 14. “Those of you with good cameras, if you can take a photo of me scratching my ass, you get a bottle of Champagne.

And more rules, perhaps the best saved for last.

Limits on trips to the bathroom. “The first hour is all belted in,” he said. “After that, we will not give toilet breaks”—the meal would last the usual five hours—“but if you have to, just go quickly and come back. Think of this as a nonsmoking flight with no Wi-Fi, no network, and it’s an Indian airline, so nothing works and it’s very turbulent. You might be crashing soon, so you’d better enjoy.

Gotta love a good sense of humor. Especially when you’re approaching a four hour long dinner.

#heyjoey / Gowalla is back!

Feels like there is rarely good news about the Internet these days. Maybe that’s why this morning’s news of the return of Gowalla was especially welcome.

Gowalla was a beloved iOS application. It was one of the first to encourage real-world exploration by rewarding users to register or check-into the place they were visiting. Places could be anything from a park to a public building to the corner watering hole. The quality of the design was second to none and featured an ever-expanding catalog of icons illustrated by Brian Brasher. A lot of work went into the brand that extended beyond the digital experience. It was warm, welcome, and made travel–of all kinds—more fun.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for a competing experience to appear in the form of Foursquare which paired business check-ins with coupons. It was ugly and lacked personality, but the value proposition of savings a dollar off a margarita was enough to attract more users. Gowalla was shut down in 2012.

This morning a tweet from an old Twitter account announced the return of Gowalla though with a different experience based on augmented reality. I’m just glad to have it back. It’s so great to see the Gowalla brand and its kangaroo back in the world.

#travel / Supersonic travel is making a comeback.

American aviation company Boom Supersonic unveiled a scaled prototype—called “Baby Boom”—of a supersonic aircraft earlier today. The larger vehicle is scheduled to be finished in 2025 with commercial flights taking place approximately four years later. Flights like Tokyo to Seattle, New York to London, and Montreal to Paris will take four hours on the new aircraft. In addition to this amazing news, Boom won a contract last month to design a future version of Air Force One.

#winwin / "My secret weapon for helping executives understand the value of design."

In my experience many of the problems encountered are due to pour alignment as a result of even worse communication. And I think we’ve all had to bear the brunt of the results more often than we care to recall.

To help improve both communication and alignment in product design and development, Phil Gilbert (GM of IBM Design) came up with “Playbacks” as a “place where the results of all the detailed operational decisions are shown and alignment is kept with a minimum of fuss.” They are a key in IBM Design Thinking. Playbacks have evolved a bit from their original scope to become a vital tool for alignment across teams and levels of leadership. To achieve success It should not be considered a tool but a fundamental practice in product management as it is done at IBM.

My friend and former colleague Colin Naver has presented many of Playbacks during his tenure at IBM. Recently he published an article on this practice and how it has helped his career in product management and design.


Why are we still playing games with hiring practices in design?

Last week I had a call with a potential employer that I thought had gone well. The role they are looking for is akin to an XO for the team at large. Someone to run the day-to-day details of the design program primarily through the director level. Almost exactly the job I had at USAA.

In addition, the directors were looking for a senior leader who had experience up-leveling designers and directors. So, I told the recruiter about previous times (again at USAA) when I had helped designers and a design leader get to the next level. The person seemed to be content with the stories I provided, and we moved on in the conversation.

A few days later, I received the rejection email. When I asked what it was about our call that the team didn’t like, I received this response:

The team was hoping to hear more specific examples around career growth and development, primarily as it related to more senior members of your team.

Now, I’m not sure how to interpret this, and I would love to have a direct conversation with the design leaders because if they wanted more stories, I could have provided more. Or, maybe they were looking for anecdotes about how I have coached many senior people in different career growth areas like thought leadership or skill development or relationship management. Hard to say, given the conversation I had with the recruiter—someone who is not part of the team who ultimately made the go/no-go decision.

And this is where I am left wondering why we are still using this broken system of depending on a single individual to play the telephone game to determine who is or is not a good fit for a team.

Many months ago, I interviewed for another design leadership position. The person asked about design transformation because the company’s senior leadership wanted to embrace design and bring it into other areas of the business. I recanted my experience at both IBM and USAA, where I was in unique positions to help teach design thinking to a wide array of businesses. Next, I was asked if either business had transformed, and I replied saying it was going to take more than a few years to completely transform either company considering their size and resistance to change. Can you guess what their take-away from that conversation was?

[Candidate] was unable to successfully advocate for design transformation at either of two prior employers and found that design was perennially marginalized.

In other words, “Sorry, Greg, but because you didn’t change IBM or USAA within two years, you just don’t have what it takes to be a VP of Design at a company of 300 people with a design team of twelve.”

And so it goes.

It’s well known that communications between individuals or teams break down due to a lack of alignment around language, and that results in poor interpretation of what was said. I can’t tell you how many times I have led workshops or exercises between teams to align on language as the first collaborative activity. We do this to avoid pour communication that eventually leads to poor information and false expectations.

So why then, in 2020, do we still rely on recruiters to play the game of telephone with job candidates? What is it about the job practices within human relations that our hiring processes are stuck in the 1960s? Why is it taking senior designers like Melissa Kark five months and 130 applications to get to three offers?

How many good, talented people have didn’t make the cut because the recruiter did not have the adequate language and the nuance to relate a candidate’s perspectives and experiences to the hiring team? Where is the genuine curiosity that would help uncover new and potentially intriguing insights that could inform the candidate’s viability? Especially if their “shape” is slightly different than what the team had in mind.

If there is any group at the Enterprise that can fix this, it’s design. And we are unique enough to get away with a break in protocol to execute different methods and experiences to find a much better process for both the “user” and the “business.” Hiring is so important (even more so now), and to continue leaving the process up to the status quo is holding back the maturity and progression of the industry at large.

#practical / The eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life.

On his way to his next venture, health and wellbeing columnist Oliver Burkman sums up years of writing and research.

What follows isn’t intended as an exhaustive summary. But these are the principles that surfaced again and again, and that now seem to me most useful for navigating times as baffling and stress-inducing as ours.

Some very useful and practical advice. You’re all going to want to read through this and likely save a copy to Pocket.