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Can You Tweet Your Way to Impact?

Cal Newport writes about some recent research on the impact of social media followers/traffic in Can You Tweet Your Way to Impact? The tl;dr is that audience != impact:

In this narrow look at social media and science a more general lesson about this technology emerges. Maintaining an aggressive presence in these online spaces can increase the number of people who temporarily encounter you or your work. But these encounters are often ephemeral, rarely leading to more serious engagement. It’s exciting to receive increased attention in the present, but it may have little effect on your impact in the future.

I would say that this is true for me as well. Tweeting never got me much, even in the “olden days”. But I’ve made lots of real connections (and even got hired) because of this slow, steady blog.

Speaking of Cal, I just started on his latest book Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout and I’m really liking it so far. From the intro:

I want to instead propose an entirely new way for you, your small business, or your large employer to think about what it means to get things done. I want to rescue knowledge work from its increasingly untenable freneticism and rebuild it into something more sustainable and humane, enabling you to create things you’re proud of without requiring you to grind yourself down along the way.

Building Engineering

This is a really great post by Ben Werdmuller. On the surface it’s about Building Engineering, but it’s mostly about good leadership and how to build successful products. I very much agree with his conclusion:

The most interesting and successful organizations have an externally-focused human mission and an internal focus on treating their humans well. That’s the only way to build technology well: to empower the people who are doing it, with a focus on empathy and inclusion, and a mission that galvanizes its community to work together.

There’s some great advice throughout, so I recommend reading the whole thing!

The Consensus Fallacy and the Need for Alignment

Josephine Conneely shared some thoughts that might seem controversial in The Alignment Fallacy. The basic premise is that the need for full alignment within a team can sometimes hide some deeper problems within an organization:

The need for complete explicit agreements in organisations can reveal a culture which requires you to be on defense (a cover your a*s culture if you will). Alternatively, it can be driven by a culture which suffers from being too collaborative (it happens). Plans which require committee approval get delayed, often never quite leaving that committee discussion stage. Broad stakeholder alignment is a positive thing that should be strived for but there can be limits. High risk, high reward scenarios rarely get complete agreement up front. Instead, they require someone to step up and commit to pursuing that path.

I agree with this take in general, with some nuances I would add to the language. I see alignment as a communication outcome that should happen in any decision-making culture, whether it’s consensus-driven, command-and-control, collaborative, etc. I would say that the situation Josephine describes in the quote above is an issue with relying too heavily on a consensus decision-making style. Importantly, consensus doesn’t necessarily guarantee alignment. How many times have you walked out of a meeting where everyone agreed on a thing and then the next day you’re surprised because it feels like you agreed to a completely different thing?

So I would maybe tweak the language slightly and say the post is a warning against consensus cultures. Alignment is a separate step from the actual decision being made, and an important one. It aims to make sure everyone understands (1) what decision has been made, and (2) what the consequences/next steps of the decision are. That’s needed no matter what your decision-making culture is.

The meek inherit the earth

Austin Kleon has a really interesting post on the word “meek” in the Beatitudes. In short, “meek” doesn’t mean “weak”:

Meekness as a habit of calm attentiveness, stillness, freedom from the fretting worry of keeping control, a stillness that allows others to feel welcome around you, can appear as something very different from the shrinking back that the word so easily suggests. If anger is very much to do with the “pushing out and pushing away” element in our psyche, “meekness” in the sense of a welcoming stillness is the opposite of this.

That definition reminds me of my earlier post On kindness and decisiveness. I should’ve thrown a “meek” in there!

The shame of LinkedIn

I found the article I Asked Experts for Tips to Navigate LinkedIn’s Cringe Factor surprisingly helpful, not just for its advice but also because it articulates well why LinkedIn can feel so weird sometimes:

LinkedIn users are trapped in a culture of professionalism and all that comes with it. The person you are with your boss or a client is probably not your truest self. This setting makes posting — or even just creating and maintaining a profile — feel extra high-stakes and, in turn, contrived. On LinkedIn, there is no dancing like no one’s watching.

Also:

The goal for most people on LinkedIn is not to be a creator, it’s just to live to fight another day in the working world.

In other interesting LinkedIn news I was going to link to earlier, also see Facebook and X gave up on news. LinkedIn wants to fill the void:

Finding a home for news publishers in 2024 isn’t about finding a perfect fit, but rather finding one that’s close enough. The traffic fire-hose days of the 2010s aren’t coming back. And LinkedIn is not the secret to infinite page views. But it might be fertile ground to build an audience with manageable issues.

Building Brex 3.0, March 2024

I wouldn’t want to work in an environment like this because even though delivery is a fun part of building product, I find that for most PMs it’s so much more fulfilling (and you usually get better results!) when they are part of strategy and discovery as well. That said, I’m now long enough into this product journey to recognize that as long as you have a team of people who love execution and are excellent at it, this is a completely valid way to build a company:

We changed this model with Brex 3.0. We killed our planning process, and now have One Roadmap for the entire company. I [Brex CEO] am the ultimate editor of everything that ships. We release 4 times a year, and each release has no more than 3 big themes. This forces me to choose what truly matters, allowing us to make a large, company-affecting investment in the few things that are step-function changes to the customer experience, and drop everything else.

Basecamp works in a similar way, and it works for them. I do appreciate that both companies are honest about how they work, so PMs know what they’re in for and what’s expected of them. The frustration only sets in if PMs think they have some autonomy over their work, and then slowly find out about the “shadow roadmap” they weren’t aware of. Just bring it all into the light, I say.

Can AI therapists do better than the real thing?

My wife is a therapist, so the story Can AI therapists do better than the real thing? (oh hello, Betteridge’s law of headlines) piqued my interest, since we’ve had lots of conversations about this kind of thing.

The story starts off with some really interesting anecdotes about people forming “relationships” with their therapy chatbots, but it then turns towards some of the concerns and drawbacks, and how one client (not a fan of the use of “patient” in the article) ultimately dealt with the bot they created.

One example of the things that AI therapy bots can’t replace:

Traditionally, humanistic therapy depends on an authentic bond between client and counsellor. “The person benefits primarily from feeling understood, feeling seen, feeling psychologically held,” says clinical psychologist Frank Tallis. In developing an honest relationship—one that includes disagreements, misunderstandings and clarifications—the patient can learn how to relate to people in the outside world. “The beingness of the therapist and the beingness of the patient matter to each other,” Grosz says.

Oops, I did a Manager-README

I know the concept of a Manager-README (a document where you explain to your team some of the ways you like to work) can be controversial, so I’ve avoided it up to now. But this week I got curious and read up on the pitfalls and how to avoid them. Then I took a stab at an outline and it was actually really helpful—even just for myself—to clarify some of my own views on product work. It starts like this:

The purpose of this document is to summarize some of the values and principles I try to adhere to at work. But we are human and this is a relationship not a contract, so I see it as a way to kick-start how we work together, not the end result.

I also recognize that documents like these can be abused by managers, so this is not a way for me to excuse any bad behaviors. If you see me doing something that is not reflective of these values, please call me out so that I can improve.

I then go into talking about my leadership style, product philosophy, communication preferences, decision-making, and feedback loops. I would love to hear if this type of outline is helpful to anyone, and if you have any feedback!

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