Something about falling leaves and shorter days must inspire sideways thinking because every article chosen for the October NOKlist is about taking a new perspective on an everyday topic, whether it’s approaching a specific project or reconsidering the way you work.
And since we also share our perspective on the issues presented, you get two new perspectives for the price of one.
For other deep thoughts, check out our Nuggets of Knowledge archive.
by Sean Blanda
As much as you want me to go into how amazing I think an underground forest on the Lower East Side of Manhattan would be, I shall resist. Instead I’m going to talk about how long-running projects are poorly understood, respected, and loved in the business, and especially marketing, worlds. That’s a pity.
Dan Barasch’s Lowline project may take up to a decade to come to fruition. For a project of that length of time, some days you have to just slog through it. Some days you have to change direction to adapt. Some days you just can’t wait to be done with it and on to something different, exciting, and new. But this work has true, long-lasting meaning, and can help you learn just as much about yourself as how to do the work. Years may go by, but you’ll have a much clearer picture of how you grew than if you’re constantly jumping from new project to new project.
For all you project marathoners out there, read this article (and bookmark it for when you need that boost of inspiration for the hard days).
by Mike Arauz
I’ve known for a long time that we’re building Mack Web a little differently. Although there are lots of days that are really, really challenging, I know that our willingness to experiment with and completely deconstruct traditional ways of working will not only shape us into a great company, but someday help other companies pave their paths without so many roadblocks.
Mack Web introduced holacracy into our ways of working and our culture more than 9 months ago. Since then we’ve been pulling pieces out, piloting (and sometimes pioneering) things back in, and shaping what has become an entirely custom operating system. A great deal of our inspiration for this has come from Mike Arauz, Aaron Dignan, and the extremely bright team formerly with Undercurrent.
As we’ve been stumbling over and upon things that are really helping our team work together better, we’ve realized that operating systems are not one size fits all. I highly recommend Mike’s most current post as it walks through many of the core principles that help teams and organizations excel and achieve the vision of the company. More importantly, Mike’s guidance on integrating a more self-managed system and way of working will allow your team to operate from a higher purpose and a place of meaning so that they can better enjoy the work they’re doing. Something that is very near and dear to my heart.
Take it for a read and see how much of this great stuff you can apply to your team. You won’t regret it.
Trying to view a product, landing page, website, etc., through the eyes of a user is essential, but unfortunately, can be difficult to accomplish when you’re in the role of the creator. You know the ins and outs of your product, landing page, website, etc., which makes it hard to put yourself in “user” shoes. This post by Anders Toxboe reveals a great way to put yourself in the shoes of a user and to make sure you’ve addressed their needs. Toxboe breaks the article into three challenges that are necessary to address:
- Sign-up challenge: seducing your users
- First time use challenge: falling in love with your product
- Ongoing engagement challenge: staying in love
Most importantly, (and why I feel this article is NOKlist worthy), is what Toxboe reiterates throughout the entire article: you must treat the user experience like a relationship. This means being honest and real with users, making sure your goals match their goals, and placing them at the center of your user experience.
When I first spotted the headline for this article, I was immediately intrigued because I’m weirdly drawn to things that sound slightly nihilistic (don’t worry; this isn’t), but more importantly, because it sounded like this article was about to challenge some sort of conventional wisdom.
That it does, which is why I choose it for this month’s NOKlist. (It’s never good to get too comfortable with preexisting societal ideals, right?) This article challenges our tendency to confuse effort with results. It debunks the idea that hard work is what matters and that, if at the end of the day, we feel worn out because we’ve crossed off tons of tasks on our to-do list, then we’ve surely succeeded.
And it’s not just ourselves that we hold to these ideals of hard work and cranking through, it’s others too. We like to see others working really hard for us and when we don’t see them putting in lots of time (even if people have delivered great results!), we’re bothered.
Because you’re so smart, I know you can already start to spot the problems with this way of thinking, which is so pervasive. (After I read this article, I became even more aware of the way we talk, think, and write about work.) This article details them, explains what matters more than effort or time spent at work (results!), and gives some advice on making sure you’re spending time on meaningful work and work that’s creatively fulfilling.
My favorite part:
“It’s dangerously easy to feel as though a 10-hour day spent plowing through your inbox, or catching up on calls, was much more worthwhile than two hours spent in deep concentration on hard thinking, followed by a leisurely afternoon off. Yet any writer, designer, or web developer will tell you it’s the two focused hours that pay most—both in terms of money and fulfillment.”
by Carmel Hagen
I am a twin. An identical twin.
While interesting genetically, this fact about my personhood doesn’t seem relevant to this article … until you consider this: my sister hates brainstorming.
I remember the exact moment I found out about this significant deviation from our base DNA. I stared at her, with my mouth gaping open, and wondered how all of a sudden my clone felt so foreign to me. It was also the first time I realized that dreaming up new ideas is considered by some to be a burden instead of a passion. Thus began my pursuit of why.
Carmel Hagen’s post indirectly sheds some light on why so many people may dread brainstorming sessions: the lack of constraints. On the surface, forcing boundaries on a free process seems to slap brainstorming in the face and give it a wedgie. But applying constraints (whether real or imaginary) can actually provide the starting point that many need for effective ideation vs. experiencing the mind-numbing terror of a blank slate, a wordless Word doc, or a stark white canvas.
For those of you about to embark on an upcoming brainstorming session, this post provides some examples of how to apply constraints to get the best ideas out of your team. Additional bonus for me: I realized my twin and I aren’t so different after all.