Designers have many superpowers, but one underrated one is that the work of design leads one to become more comfortable with uncertainty.

How does this impact the product development process?

Thread 👇
I learned this lesson almost immediately after receiving my first shiny new design assignment. This was also my first time working with a PM.

She asked me when my work would be done by. I had no experience with design scoping, so I said I'd get back to her.
I brought the question to some senior designers on my team.

"How long should a project like this take?"

A shrug. Then: "It'll take as long as it takes until it's good."
Since then, as I've grown in my career, I've been asked this question hundreds of times.

I usually give some variant of the same answer.

The PM or engineering manager will then look at me, baffled by my imprecisely disconcerting response.
But this is how creativity works. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in just three weeks. J.D. Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye in 10 years.

There is no recipe that guarantees something original and wonderful in a fixed amount of time.
Of course, it's natural to crave certainty. We have fixed budgets. We must plan and coordinate with others.

The idea that something might take months or years to get right is scary.
But here's the yin-to-the-yang superpower that designers also typically have: deep trust in the process.

Creative work should not be a 'wait and see' situation, like weather.
It should not feel like you're lost in a maze.
It should feel intentional, like mapping out new terrain.
The following steps never fail to calm me when a looming project seems overwhelming:

1) Break the project up into smaller pieces, and just tackle the first step.

For example, if you're designing a new app from scratch, start with the default home screen, or the marketing page.
2) Try N different takes on the idea.

Quantity is king. Challenge yourself to do 5, 10, 20 versions. Resist the urge to censor yourself at this stage.

Just get the ideas out.
3) Show your work to a handful of others as soon as possible. Ask for their honest feedback.

It's great if these folks are designers; it's even better if they're actual customers.

Resist the urge to impress. The goal here is simply: get feedback that helps you improve the work.
4) Iterate on your work based on the feedback. Repeat Step 3 again and again until you feel like your work is good.

"Good" means you have confidence it solves the customer problem you set out to solve, and you feel proud of how it turned out.
You can't predict how many revs are needed. But you can predict the timeline of the next rev. And you can invite the xfn team into the process.

There's comfort in knowing that, consistently applied, these steps = better work and more clarity on what's "good" at every iteration.
To recap: designers wield two underappreciated superpowers: comfort with ambiguity and trust in a rigorous process.

Help your team understand this, and there'll be much less friction in arguing about timelines.

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More from @joulee

28 Apr
"Some people are simplifiers. You're a complexifier."

This was a piece of feedback I received once from a colleague.

Yeah, it burned.

It felt like a shitty thing to say.

Thread 👇(1/11)
Why did I think that? Let's break down the ways:

1) Immediately I'm cast as different, part of the "other" group

2) Saying I'm a "complexifier" makes it sound like this sucky label is my permanent identity.

3) Geez this statement is broad. How about some examples?

I can't say why my colleague gave me feedback this way.

Were they trying to sound insightful? Smart? Superior?

Maybe they thought this kind of delivery would have the biggest impact?

Maybe they wanted to see me squirm?

Read 12 tweets
22 Apr
Companies are like people.

Not sprawling networks of people (though technically that's right)

Rather, thinking about a company as an individual makes many things easier to understand.

Pick the company to join like you'd pick who you'd want to hang out with every day.

Companies have personalities, just like people do. Some companies are flashy and dramatic. Others are staid and quiet. Some live in the future, constantly tossing out new inventions. Others are ruthlessly competitive.

Like with people, all strengths have shadow downsides. Apple's quality and cool comes from a secretive, top-down culture.

Zoom's focus on superior tech leaves it lacking when it comes to product features.

Read 13 tweets
15 Apr
Before The Making of a Manager came out, my publishers and I had a chat that left me deeply uncomfortable.

"Who are some business writers / leaders you admire?" they asked.

Easy. I rattled off a dozen names.

"Great, can you ask them to read your book and give a blurb?"

My initial reaction: 😬
I came up with a myriad of excuses for why I couldn't ask for a blurb.

They don't know me! It would be rude to ask.
They are important people and far too busy to read my book!
I don't have their e-mails.

My publishers cheerfully added some e-mails to the list, reminded me of how important blurbs were to establish the credibility of my book, and wished me well.

Read 10 tweets
8 Apr
One of the stories we used to tell in the early days of Facebook was how a small, two-engineer project came to dominate the entire photo sharing landscape in the late 2000s.

Thread 👇 1/10
Let's zoom back to 2005, when pre-mobile Internet photo sharing services were one upping each other on storage, features, and slickness.

Across Photobucket, Shutterfly, Flickr and Picasa, there were high-res uploads, preview navigation, theme tags, search by color, + more

Facebook Photos, built by a scant team over two months, was extremely bare-bones in comparison. It only supported low-res photos. No comments. No likes. It didn't even have a nice full-screen view.

There were no bells and whistles, save one...

Read 11 tweets
1 Apr
"You were at one company for nearly 14 years?!?!"

Yes, I'd say. Here's why:

1) I loved the people
2) I was continuously challenged and learning
3) The mission spoke to me
4) I felt deep loyalty

But there was another big reason that was hard for me to admit then...

The hard-to-admit reason was this: my sense of identity was deeply tied to my job.

I felt I *belonged* there.
I had a great career there.
I'd made many wonderful friends there.

And so, it was terrifying to imagine: who would I be if I *didn't* work there?

"My identity = My job" is a common thought pattern for folks (more likely founders or young) who...

1) have invested tons of time/capital/energy into the job
2) are ambitious
3) are recognized for their job
4) have mostly work friends
5) believe deeply in job's mission

Read 10 tweets
25 Mar
I've participated in too many conversations about the role of design / pm / eng to count.

Of course there are differences.

But every tech manager role, regardless of discipline, ends up converging at higher levels.

What does this mean for you as a manager?

Thread below 👇
If you climb the management ladder to the very top, guess what? You’re the CEO. And you manage *every* function.

So if your goal is to be CEO someday, or even VP or director within your discipline, you need to get out of your box and learn how other disciplines work.

The most thoughtful designs don’t get used if engineering doesn't build them.

The most sophisticated algorithms don’t help people if they can't be put into a clear product.

The tightest roadmap doesn’t get you customers if the experience isn’t good, or you can't sell it.

Read 10 tweets

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