When things go wrong

Things can go sideways in any company or organization, regardless of size or industry.

You don’t have to be evil or stupid for this to happen. Markets change constantly, and timing and luck have a lot to do with whether your product is successful over time.

Often, there are opportunities to course correct before the problem(s) become major. But seeing those opportunities (and acting on them) depends heavily on building good culture.

At a team level, if you are a manager, director, or executive cutting headcount or delivering a performance improvement plan (corporate lingo for “you’re not doing well and need to get it together”), it’s already too late.

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What comes next

Yesterday, the world changed.

In the midst of our continuously chaotic news cycle, word arrived that world wide web inventor and engineer Tim Berners-Lee had officially launched Solid (an open source project) and Inrupt (his new company w/co founder John Bruce).

Part of what makes the announcement significant is how intensely data privacy has been churning the internet and mobile web over the last year.

Google and Apple are reacting to newly enacted GDPR standards, Facebook is radically reshaping their developer ecosystem/platform due to a series of major data breaches, Twitter continues to struggle with bots, trolls, and doxxing, and LinkedIn has quietly been growing and likely hoping no one notices it was built on the same ground as its competitors.

Those changes are happening in a series of interconnected ecosystems collectively worth hundreds of billions of dollars…and the how, when, and where of data use underpins all of it.

But to understand why something like Solid is important, you have to first understand a picture that’s much bigger than the walled off gardens of each tech giant.

For over a decade, Berners-Lee has talked about the promise of the early web, and how our current set of technologies failed in executing that vision. Instead of a “one-way pipeline” where people are consumers, the intention is for Solid to foster a “read-write web where users can interact and innovate, collaborate and share.”

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When to show the OS

The messaging is always the same…

“Anything is possible.”

“It’s as easy as saying, Alexa, find me a job.”

“Connecting your world with the touch of a button.”

While consumer brands have used the “easy as 1, 2, 3” angle for decades, tech platforms in the last 15 years have extended that to nearly every aspect of daily life.

Their work has largely become about hiding the operating system, masking the actual work it takes to create and interact with both the physical and digital world - this is the mantra of tech giants like Apple, Facebook, and Google, and by extension the startups that dream of becoming them.

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You can't control an ecosystem

Last week marked my ninth year of being on Twitter, matching nearly a decade that I’ve worked in / around tech and The Web.

In that decade I’ve dug into a vast array of projects, including managing design + development, building a brand from scratch, researching/reporting on stories as a journalist, creating my own startups, and mentoring entrepreneurs.

While this has been an intense year, it has also reinforced a bunch of lessons from that time, many of which I’ve written about here on this blog. That includes things like taking the time to do work correctlydesigning a good creative processletting people chart their own course, and negotiating more than just salary.

When I named this site Ecosystems and Entrepreneurs in 2015, I was thinking a lot about how structure works…both good and bad.

2017 has turned out to be all about looking at structure and power, revealing what’s been hidden in some cases for hundreds of years. One of the overarching lessons right now is that you have to be willing to give up power in order to actually see change.

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On why belief matters, and how information is coded into experience

Every day I go for a walk and pick up trash.

Although there a lot of reasons for it, the two main ones are:

  1. It needs to be done — (a matter of faith / belief)
  2. There is information coded into the experience that I can’t otherwise get to

That first reason is quite simple to break down: I don’t believe that there should be trash on the streets. 

The second is a bit more complicated, and reaches into a bunch of things— like human centered design / experience design, empathy, entrepreneurship, and how we build ecosystems from an individual up to global level. 

There is an important relationship between the two, and it’s a relationship that’s largely about action, about testing what we believe and what we are most suited to work on in the world. 

In the startup ecosystem this is expressed via investors saying things like “we want founders who are obsessed with solving problems” or founders saying “I won’t rest until I’ve understood and solved this problem for my target customer / market.”

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