Google’s Got a Gambling Problem

Last year, I made a momentous decision. After 12 beautiful years, I broke up with Apple. Alright, it wasn’t a real breakup, I’m still typing this on my iPad, but I did I make the switch from the iPhone to the Google Pixel 2. And… (drum roll) … it was a great choice! The camera is stunning, I never run out of battery, and I don’t have to have any more extremely frustrating “conversations” with Siri.

But this article isn’t about which phone is the best (because lord knows we’ve got too many of those already). This article is about Google’s ecosystem – something that I wanted to learn more about by making the switch.

Twins.pngEmail Twins, Messaging Twins, Video Chat Twins, and Music Twins

Since moving to Google’s world, I’ve noticed something that seems to hide in plain sight: Google has two (or more) versions for a lot of their apps. Just took a look at all of the choices you have today:

The Power of Conflict — How Musk, Jobs, Disney, and Ray Dalio Fight Failure

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Have you ever noticed that pretty much every superhero has experienced some sort of terrible trauma before they transformed into someone extraordinary? Ironman was kidnapped. Batman saw his parents murdered. Ditto for Wonder Woman’s aunt and Spiderman’s uncle. This kind of transformational trauma seems to happen in the real world too. Some of the greatest innovators of all time faced major failure in their careers.

5 Dangerous Words – “Hey, Can You Help Me?”

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A Typical Day at the Office

  • 8:43am: Arrive at work.
  • 8:47am: Continue working on a prototype for a new feature.
  • 9:09am: I’m stuck. I ask a coworker for some quick feedback.
  • 9:51am: A tap on the shoulder. It’s a developer with a question on the feature he’s working on. I help him.
  • 10:06am: Present my designs to a group of team members. They make some great suggestions.
  • 10:45am: Stuck again. This time, it’s a question about Photoshop. I slack another designer. He answers.
  • 11:02am: An email from an account manager comes in with a new feature request. I respond.
  • 11:11am: My phone buzzes. It’s a slack from our lead tester. I head over to make sure everything’s pixel perfect.
  • 11:29am: Ready for a new design challenge, I meet with the product team. We discuss requirements.
  • 11:51am: I slack an account manager to set up an interview.
  • 12:07pm: Lunch.

If you’re keeping track at home, it’s only noon and I’ve already gotten help or given help to someone a total of 8 times. Joe Cocker’s “I get by with a little help from my friends” song might as well be playing in my headphones all day. And that’s how it should be at a collaborative organization.

Asking for help is something that happens every day. No matter what your role is, there’s always going to be something you need help with; and for people in the business of creating new things, this occurs a lot. We’re constantly searching for answers to questions that have never been asked and we tend to use tools that are ever-evolving and overly complicated (looking at you, Adobe).

On the surface, asking for help seems harmless. But lurking behind the scenes is a dangerous productivity killer. According to experiments conducted by David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Michigan, “mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” That’s 16 hours per person per week!

Evolving towards greatness — 3 habits to find the right path

SpaceX LandingPhoto by SpaceX via Unsplash

When you look for innovation inspiration, it’s natural to look at others that have been successful.  Netflix, Google, Disney, SpaceX, and more have all risen to the tops of their industries by producing innovation after innovation.  And while it’s exciting when Google announces that they’ve developed an assistant that can make phone calls to schedule appointments for you and pass as a real person, it can also be somewhat deflating.  Of course Google can do that. They have billions of dollars and 80,000 employees.  How could little ol’ me ever hope to do something like that?

Fortunately there’s hope. None of these companies started off with a billion dollars.  And even though they’re all in different industries, there’s one thing they all did from the very beginning.  They learned how to evolve. Rather than come up with one big “disruptive” idea over night, they found success through evolution.  By starting small and then taking one small step at a time, they got better and better.

It’s one thing, though, to commit to making small continuous change, but it’s another thing entirely to know what to change or how to change it.  Without any kind of direction, you’ll wind up in an endless spiral. Fortunately there are three tried-and-true methods for finding what to change: feedback, retrospectives, and research.  Through these methods you can ensure that your changes are taking you in the right direction, setting your organization on the path of true evolution.

The Biggest Factor in Brand Loyalty You’re Overlooking

Simba or Hamlet.pngLeft Photo by Hans Veth via Unsplash Right Photo by Phil Kalina via Flickr CC

Most organizations define their brand through “Brand Guidelines.” While these are a step in the right direction, they just aren’t enough to create a brand that people love. Just look at the name “Brand Guidelines.” Would you think that has anything to do with how team members interact within the organization? Nope. Does that name even really imply injecting emotion into your designs? Not really. The word “brand” itself has a connotation of an assumed visage, a mask. Most of the time, these guidelines are just seen as a marketing effort to make sure that the visual aspects of our designs and ads are consistent (Our color hex code is #2196F3, not #1E88E5. Can you please change the text to match that color?) This not only continues to perpetuate the myth that design is only about the visual elements, but also does nothing to help us create truly unforgettable experiences for our customers.

People don’t fall in love with brands because of their color scheme. People fall in love with brands because they think of brands as, well, people. When you meet a new person, you make all kinds of judgments about whether this person is going to be just a casual acquaintance or a friend for life. But more important than aesthetics is their personality.

The Biggest Problem with Agile Design (and how to fix it)

The Director and the Jedi.pngPhoto by Daniel Benavides via Flickr CC

I recently had the chance to watch The Director and the Jedi, an extraordinary documentary about the making of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and one thing was very clear from the film: Director Rian Johnson deserves a standing ovation.

While there might be some of you out there that feel like the film didn’t live up to the holy standards of The Empire Strikes Back (because it didn’t), it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a successful movie. (It’s the 10th highest grossing film of all time for crying out loud.) So putting aside criticisms of the film itself, Rian Johnson deserves a round of applause because of the sheer amount of effort that is required to pull off a film like Star Wars.

How Successful Innovators Design for Confrontation

As designers, innovators, and entrepreneurs, our mission is always to make people’s lives easier. Every workflow we design is aimed at reducing the amount of cognitive load our users’ experience, and every product we create is pitched the same way – “Hey the way you’re currently doing things is painful; here’s an easier way!” So when Steve Selzer, a Designer Manager at Airbnb, gave a talk suggesting that ‘making things easier’ isn’t always a good idea, I did a double take.

Kaizen — How One Little Word Can Change the World

The Lean Startup. Lean Manufacturing. Six Sigma. If you’re a student of entrepreneurship and organizational efficacy, you know there’s one principle that has been the key to success for thousands of companies — Kaizen. But if you’re like most people, you probably haven’t heard of Kaizen. That’s because Kaizen is actually a Japanese word that literally means “improvement,” but today most people use it to mean “continuous improvement.”

What the Biggest Marketing Stunt of 2018 Means for the Future of Design

Poker Table At SXSW.png Me – living the dream – playing poker in the Westworld “Park” at SXSW

Despite the fact that I attended South by Southwest for the talks on design and innovation, and despite the fact that (most of) those talks were truly amazing, when I returned home, the thing that I couldn’t wait to share with everyone was actually an immersive marketing experience for the popular HBO show, Westworld. And yes, after telling some friends and family this story they all thought that the conference didn’t have anything to do my job and that it was just one crazy party; but after giving it some thought, this marketing stunt might just have the biggest impact on my role as a designer.

How to Build Authentic Products

You hear lots of people talk about the importance of authenticity, but why is authenticity so critical for innovation? Well as it turns out, your users will treat their relationship to your innovation (and you, by extension) as they would any other personal relationship in their lives.  So, even though your innovation is most definitely not a person, your users will tend to think of it like one. They’ll think of it in terms of personality, and sometimes even gender!

As soon as we realize that our designs are being thought of as a personal relationship, authenticity becomes critical. We don’t like people in our personal life that are inauthentic, and our users won’t like products that are inauthentic. Your users are smart; they can tell when you’re being inauthentic.  Once they sense that you have a purpose other than what you purport it to be, they will lose their faith in you.