Some time ago I signed up for an online course about user growth. Overall it was underwhelming (so I’m not going to link to it), but there were a few exercises that challenged me to articulate my thoughts about products I’ve used and the company I work for. In particular, one of the assignments required me to “name a product either you’re working on, or a product you currently use, and explain why you feel it has achieved product/market fit.”
I chose to write about Front App1, a product that, earlier on in The Iron Yard’s growth, allowed a very small admissions team to manage email across a huge number of campuses. Below a full re-post of my homework assignment.
One of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had in my professional life is named Heather Hough. When I was just out of college, she took a big chance on me as an over-confident, inexperienced grad and opened doors of opportunity I wouldn’t have had the chance walk through otherwise.
She taught me many lessons, but one in particular has made a significant impact on my career. It is a concept she referred to as “managing up.”
In organizations, the word “management” almost always refers some level of top-down authority or hierarchical leadership, even in ‘flat’ company structures. Managing up is the initiative of first looking beyond your own work to understand its context in the broader business, then second, understanding responsibility of the person you report to, finding ways to contribute to their success.
Good employees do good work. Great employees do excellent work and find new, creative ways to make the business better. Future leaders seek to understand how their work and the work of their leader adds to the bottom line of the business and proactively helps equip their manager to deliver results.
Ideas like these can easily become somewhat ambiguous, easily-Tweetable business wisdom, but why is this true?
Months ago I somehow came across the webpage in the image above while researching publishing tools. After reading the person’s feature request—to be able to publish to blogs from Microsoft Word—I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Hilarious. The world of digital publishing has advanced so far that the idea of delivering content through Microsoft Word feels like the stone age.”
This is the fourteenth post in a series on productivity2. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
I can think of several times in my life where I’ve purchased something because I thought that having it would catalyze behavioral change. We’ve all been there in different ways—a new notebook will make us a more prolific writer, a new camera will make us a better photographer, and so-on.
This is the thirteenth post in a series on productivity3. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
In this series we’ve talked about distractions, focus, triage and more. One driver of all of behind unproductive behaviors in all of those areas is the idea that we need to “keep up” with what’s going on. Now, I do believe it’s valuable to build an understanding of our place in history and what goes on in our world (developing a worldview, if you will). More often than not, though, instead of proactively building knowledge, I find myself dealing with an ambiguous fear of “being behind.”
This is the twelfth post in a series on productivity4. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
In our historical moment, nothing is easier than scrolling through endless posts of the work that other people are doing. I said before that information has always been an available distraction, but it could be argued that we’ve never had easier access to such an immense amount of content. Living in such an environment tends to shift our default setting to consumption.
This is the eleventh post in a series on productivity5. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
One subtly difficult part of being productive is that even if you’re treating your body and mind well, have created a distraction-free environment and harnessed your focus, it can be hard to simply figure out what to do.
This is the tenth post in a series on productivity6. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
In the last post in this series, I discussed the necessity of removing distractions. Here’s an excerpt7:
Whether it’s an email notification or a habit of checking Twitter in the middle of a hard task that taxes your mind, each time we entertain a distraction it guts our productivity in a way that’s hard to perceive experientially. Quite literally, hours of focused work can slip away from us and we don’t notice (except for not feeling productive or wishing we’d accomplished more).
Removing distractions, though, is only half of the equation. Removing distractions creates a context for productivity, but beyond that, the act doesn’t produce anything. In other words, when the distractions are gone, it’s time to get to work.
Multi-tasking is a myth
One of the focus-killers I observe most often is multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is the idea that we can do more than one thing at once. What makes this concept difficult relative to productivity is that our experience in life proves that in many situations, we *can* perform more than one activity at the same time. From actions as simple as walking and talking on the phone to more complex performances like preparing the ingredients of a complicated meal ‘simultaneously’.
I recently wrote an article on The Iron Yard’s blog about hiring a creative director. You can read the full story, complete with background, but here are a few highlights:
Nathan’s work on the brand was great, but when I interviewed him about this experience, several statements and perspectives caught my attention:
…so that The Iron Yard will have a visually stable identity system…
One sign of a mature designer is value of things that don’t often get the spotlight. A ‘visually stable identity system’ doesn’t sound that exciting, but is one of the most important components of a brand.