Larry McEnerney, Director of the University of Chicago’s Writing Program, gives a lecture on writing effectively. While the presentation is focused on academic writing, he provides great insight into how experts and professionals need to think about effective writing. There are many takeaways, but right up front, McEnerney hits on the first barrier to effective writing, “stop thinking about rules and start thinking about readers.” Other valuable insights are:
- “Experts use language in one set of patterns to do their thinking, but those very same experts read with a different pattern.” (@6:57)
- “more than anything else, from now on your writing needs to be valuable, because if it is not that nothing else matters” (@13:43)
- “What is professional writing? What is it? It’s not conveying your ideas to your readers, it’s changing their ideas. Nobody cares what ideas you have.” (@21:44)
The academic bent of the presentation is a small price you pay to better understand effective professional writing in general.
I think Ryan Singer concisely lists out the 4 questions that all Product Managers have to be skilled at answering. I would refine #4 to read, Supply-side value. What matters to my Bosses and teams? I think what matters to the teams we engage with gets lost and can impact the team’s commitment to outcomes the product manager is trying to achieve.
I have a habit of looking for the nugget of insight or the key pattern used when listening to interviews. In the YouTube clip from the Joe Rogan show, comedian and musician Reggie Watts simply described the relationship between UX and engineering. To quote Reggie Watts (@2:51 min into the clip),
It’s about what does it take to engineer a machine that becomes invisible to the experience. And that was, that kinda blew my mind. So whenever you are designing anything it’s like your designing the experience the engineering should get the f*ck out of the way.
For me, Reggie could have spiked the mic and walked off. So many people work and fail to articulate UX and the relationship to engineering. It was a simple but profound observation by Reggie, made while listening to a record on a $150K stereo system. Inspiration and insight surround us and they appear when we least expect it, even while watching a youtube clip on why records sound better.
Reggie Watts on Why Records Sound Better via the Joe Rogan.
Andy Grove one of my all time favorite business icons has a great quote in his book High Output Management. Writing about the consequences of and the rates of change enabled through globalization he says:
When products and services become largely indistinguishable from each other, all there is by the way of competitive advantage is time.
This quote makes me think about the time related components within a strategy and consider how they can be optimized prior products and services becoming equivalent.
One of my favorite poems, I find myself re-reading it on occasion.
By: William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Key lesson #1:
One of the most powerful things you can do for the people around you is provide clarity. Clarity empowers people, improves execution and allows for greater accountability. I always try to keep in mind the quote by Lewis Carroll “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”.
Key lesson #2:
We all need help along the way and my success can not be attributed to my efforts alone. I have succeeded because others helped when I needed it, sometimes without my knowledge. So having been a beneficiary of many investments of help throughout my career, I have an obligation to repay those investments by helping others when they need it.
My absolute favorite quote about the future:
The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.
Jeff Bezos in the December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune Magazine
Your margin is my opportunity.
Amazon’s willingness to operate on lean margins, with a customer focus, and a long term perspective creates a powerful competitive advantage. Mr. Bezos and Amazon may be drinking your milkshake next.
Matt Honan in January 2013 issue of Wired Magazine
Even the sharpest 4K set, with the thinnest of bezels and darkest of blacks, isn’t going to help you track down that episode of Breaking Bad you missed.
Even with great design and technology, a product still must solve the right problems.