Insights from Nebo

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November 8, 2010

Progressive Disclosure: A Design Principle Turned Project Management Tool

The Principle of Progressive Disclosure states that by presenting small, manageable amounts of information at a time instead of large buckets of information all at once, a designer can dramatically reduce the amount of confusion and frustration involved in using an interface. This principle has other benefits as well. Applied to project management, progressive disclosure means it's easier to get more done when you focus on the immediate next step, instead of focusing on everything that needs to happen over the course of a project.

When people are presented with an abundance of options, it creates an overwhelming feeling of anxiety: what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice. The interactive industry commonly applies this to website users (i.e. keep your design and calls to action simple), but the same thing happens to project managers.

When you're working on a project and you split your focus between what needs to happen now and everything that will need to happen ever, it's easy to be affected just like a confused, frustrated consumer. It's not that you shouldn't ever think about future deliverables, but they can often be a psychological distraction. A good project manager knows when to not bother thinking about them, lest they should become like the customer choosing between fifty products: paralyzed and all-together incapable of making a quick, accurate decision.

Managing a project starts with managing your own time. So, what can you do? One solution is to keep your task list limited. Put tomorrow's task list out of sight and don't add to today's list once you've created it. Focus on making progress, not on completing entire projects. This article from Behance and some words from a coworker recently drove these ideas home, and they've helped me be more productive.

What helps you be more productive? How do you handle your to-do list? We'd be interested in hearing your ideas, and, as always, feel free to drop a note in the comments or shoot us a tweet.

October 8, 2010

What's On Your Personal Mood Board?

Inspiration, as the cliché says, can spring from anywhere. However, how often do we vacate our usual books, blogs, and bits of pop culture to discover what inspirations lie beyond our sphere of influence?

As creatives, it is important that we act as sponges of the world, soaking up knowledge so that we may better reflect and interpret it. With that said, we should be a little adventurous in finding inspiration in order to refresh our thinking. Not only does researching and participating in something new provide sources of inspiration, but it improves our cognitive thinking by causing us to break our usual patterns.

Finding a new source of inspiration doesn’t have to be a chore, either. Just take little things in your life and use your imagination to come up with ways to skew the experience. Try reading a book from the children’s section of a book store while actually sitting in a chair in the children’s section. Be a fly on the wall at an elderly singles function. Maybe take a class in medieval cuisine or advance geo physics. Or, just take the time to do something you haven’t found the time to actually do. Whatever the case, opening yourself to new habits and experiences can only lead you to greater inspirations.

September 29, 2010

What You Can Learn From The Most Interesting Man In The World (Among Other Things)

 

When many companies first think of social media, they think only of what they can do directly through channels like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. But the truth is that while you can do some amazing things directly through any of these sites, the inspiration that your fans are looking for (that will get them to actually engage with you), often comes from elsewhere first.

Such is the case with Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World campaign. Sure, Dos Equis posts an update once every week or two on Facebook, and yeah, they have a treasure hunt competition going on. But, rest assured, neither of those are the reason they have 773,000 of some of the most active fans on Facebook.

The real and obvious reason is the tv commercials. Go ahead and check out their fan page. Every fan post (and there are a lot of them) is some play on the tag lines of the commercials. For example:

The line "stay thirsty my friends" has even generated it's own shorthand on the fan page: STMF.

This doesn't mean that you just have to be using TV, but that your social media campaign doesn't have to be driven by frequent status updates; the driving force behind it can come from elsewhere. Do something interesting offline, in a different medium, or on social media and you'll generate word of mouth. So, get to it! That hilarious, bold, edgy idea you've been sitting on is probably the key to your success on the social web.

September 24, 2010

During Harvest Season, You Work The Fields

A generation ago, my family were farmers. Farming can be a hard life, and my grandfather is the definition of tough. Not in a Clint Eastwood way; there were no mean looks or quick quips, instead my grandfather had what I refer to as "grit". He had the backbone and quiet fortitude to stick it out in tough times. He'd wake up at 4:00 am, even when he didn't feel like it.

Stephen Pressfield, in the book "The War of Art," referred to this as being a professional. He said the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional does his job even when he doesn't feel like it. Artists, like farmers, know the key to success is pushing through the difficult times even when it's the last thing in the world you want to do.

When it feels like the world is on your shoulders and you're at the breaking point. Just remember to keep it in perspective. Don't let being "busy" stress you out. Stay calm, keep your head down and work through it. During harvest season, you work the fields until you're done.

September 21, 2010

The Anna Karenina Principle of Business

The Anna Karenina principle was popularized by Jared Diamond. It comes from a line in the book Anna Karenina.

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own unique way."

This principle states that evolutionary success doesn't occur because of some particular positive trait, it is instead the absence of any serious negative traits that leads a species to thrive. If you were to apply this idea to business, it means a deficiency in any one core element will doom a company to extinction. However, a successful company somehow avoids each and every one of these potential failures as it grows and thrives.

The bigger question then becomes, what are the core traits that lead to business failure? In the case of domesticated animals, these traits are easy to identify (dietary needs, captive breeding, disposition, panic tendency, and social structure).

I propose the following, sure to be incomplete, list of positive traits required for a sustainable business:

  • Ability To Identify A Competitive Niche
  • Flexibility In Adopting Internal & External Innovation
  • Capability To Repeatedly Identify & Recruit Talent At Market Value
  • Ability To Sustain Periods of Frugality
  • Commitment To Organizational Learning

So what do you think? Did I leave anything off the list?