Scott Berkun Profile picture
Author/Speaker. Books: How Design Makes The World, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker & The Year Without Pants (#remote).
Harwell Thrasher Profile picture kwanchen Profile picture Samantha Bailey Fast Profile picture Noah Fang Profile picture 5 added to My Authors
27 Apr
If requirements define the problem, how can a designer succeed if the problems they are supposed to solve are poorly defined or the wrong ones?
If the person writing requirements knows nothing about good design, why would anyone expect good design to be a possible outcome?

It's like someone who has never cooked writing a recipe.
Requirements:

- car that goes 1000mph
- lasts 1000 years
- cures cancer
- creates world peace
- makes selfish people generous for 10mile radius
- easy to use
Read 4 tweets
14 Apr
1. When people say "innovations happen faster today than ever before" ask:

Does this person know anything about the history of innovation?

It's an impressive sounding statement rarely challenged since we like to hear it. But it's misleading in several ways that I'll explain.
2. The pace of change is not the same as scale.

For example:

The shift from hauling water on your back to indoor plumbing is HUGE. The shift from iPhone 10 to 11 is SMALL.

Have there been shifts as transformative to your quality of life as plumbing recently? I doubt it.
3. We love Amazon for Prime delivery and consider it a breakthrough, but in 1900 Sears had the same business model: huge catalog + ship anywhere (thx to new railroads).

You could order an entire kit for a house and thousands of Americans did.
Read 9 tweets
13 Apr
1. The fallacy of "seat at the table" is often decisions are made before the table meets. I know this because much of my career was controlling tables.

The more people at any table, the more the real action goes elsewhere. Why? I'll tell you.
2. The design of a conversation about a big decision works best in the small. 3-6 people. Every leader calls on advisors, individually or together, to sort out what they're *really* going to do.

Look around. If your "table" has 10 or 20 people, you're not in that group.
3. Any meeting of 6+ people has performative elements. People can't speak as frankly. They can't respond as directly.

Yes ideas are raised and heard, but you won't get as much of the truth as 1-on-1 or in a small group.
Read 11 tweets
13 Apr
1. It feels terribly trivializing that with everything going on debates like this happen and a reminder of how tech is never neutral, because tech culture isn't either.

nytimes.com/2021/04/13/tec…
2. Of many puzzling things, is this tech group using low tech community practices.

"The IETF... measures consensus by asking factions to hum... assessed by volume/ferocity. Vigorous humming, even from only a few, could indicate... that consensus has not yet been reached."
3. “We have big fights with each other, but our intent is always to reach consensus,” said Vint Cerf

But whose consensus? What if they have no obligation to think about who isn't in the room? What is it a consensus of then?
Read 5 tweets
6 Apr
"Legitimate political change doesn’t come from one person, even a superpowered just person making decrees. Legitimate change comes from a broad base of popular support, things like that. We don’t know what a comic book about that would look like."

nytimes.com/2021/03/30/pod…
"[superheroes] can be problematic... how are they using their power?...is a story about reinforcing the status quo, or about overturning the status quo? And most popular superhero stories are always about maintaining the status quo." - Ted Chiang
"Superheroes, they supposedly stand for justice. They further the cause of justice. But they always stick to your very limited idea of what constitutes a crime, basically the government idea of what constitutes a crime." - Ted Chiang
Read 4 tweets
5 Apr
We are sadly going to see dumb regressions where we fail to learn the best lessons of remote work:

Why should a boss care about about naps, breaks, socializing, etc. if the employee does their job well? The answer is they shouldn't.

wsj.com/articles/youre…
Smart managers should always say:

"I will trust you to nap, take breaks, take time off for personal things, or other ideas you have, provided you do your job well."

Everyone wins. If trust is broken that's one thing, but not to even try makes for a foolish manager.
There is a paranoia in management around change.

So much is justified by "this is the way we've done it" which is among the worst arguments there is.

Our forced remote work experiment of 2020/21 is one of the greatest opportunities ever to question assumptions about work.
Read 5 tweets
31 Mar
1. The irony of being an expert:

You spend years studying, practicing, and developing deep skills to qualify for a job as an expert.

Then you discover work is often w/ people with none of your expertise but the power to ignore your field at a whim as if it didn't exist.
2. The joy of being an expert:

Your insights are needed in thousands of important places and situations and you are one of a small group of people who has the potential to make great things happen. The rewards from solving problems the way you can are rare in the working world.
3. The surprise of being an expert:

Is at first you think it's advanced knowledge that matters most, but you learn the real problem that holds progress back is mostly people who have never heard of your field or don't know the basics.
Read 5 tweets
20 Mar
The first principle of thinking about the future is to admit we are a foolish species. We do dumb things. We get distracted easily. We repeat history. We are tribal. We are wired for hunting/gathering, not for "civilization". If you don't start here you are part of the problem.
When people talk about the future they tend to imagine we are some other species that doesn't have our staggeringly dumb track record. It's an amazing phenomenon. It's almost like futurists have never studied history, much less the history of people talking about the future.
I really am all for progress, and finding ways to be optimistic, but it must be rooted in reality and an honest appraisal of human nature if there is any hope of achieving it.
Read 4 tweets
18 Mar
1. Many leaders in organizations set up designers to fail.

They hire designers without understanding their value and what must be done for them to succeed. The opportunity is a lie when the truth is designers are involved too late and with too little power to ever succeed.
2. Hiring designers only to ignore them might be the cruelest kind of design theater. It enables a CEO to say "we have a great UX team" while in reality, they reward unqualified PMs and engineers for doing most of the designing.
3. What is never said openly is projects *already* have designers who have not agreed to hand over power.

Without explicitly redistributing that power, leadership has failed. They either are incompetent for not recognizing it's their job to do this or for failing to do it.
Read 8 tweets
11 Mar
1. In the debate over the best communication tool, like Slack or email, what's missing is consideration of org culture. Tools rarely change culture, but culture always changes tools.

The trap is changing tools is less scary for managers than learning how to change culture.
2. Managers can't help but want tools that make their job easier. As much as they might say "this will help our team" unless they're doing user research to understand how their team actually works, they are heavily biased towards their own needs and experiences.
3. Often the worst abusers of "the spirit of the tool" are managers. Who writes the worst emails? Who clearly skims messages when replying? Who swoops in ignoring context to drop decision bombs and fly away? Managers.

Behavior modeling tells us what leaders do, others copy.
Read 6 tweets
5 Mar
If you think everyone loves your product, you haven't done enough user research yet.
When projects start don't just write goals, write non-goals too.

A non-goal is a scenario/profile that coworkers might be tempted to design for, but you want to make clear is out of scope early.

"goal: simple meal ordering"
"Non-goal: filtering for custom diets"
The idea of a non-goal isn't to be exhaustive. There are always infinite non-goals. Instead it's to put up a warning sign against temptation.

Party goal: "everyone has a good and memorable time"
Non goals: "missing cat, broken furniture, arrest warrants"
Read 4 tweets
22 Feb
1. It's easy to think being a star at a job will make for a good manager, but it's a fallacy. They are different roles. Good managers help everyone do better work, regardless of their talents - a very different skill from being a solo star.
2. Stars pride themselves on great solo work. Shifting to taking pride in how others work, removing roadblocks, coaching, encouraging... is often hardest for the greatest talents. They can't let go. They delegate poorly. Talent growth challenges their "supremacy."
3. More modest talents often make for better managers. They're attracted to leadership and team challenges, and don't mind having stars work for them. They recognize their value isn't personal greatness, but making others great. Or better. Or happier in their work.
Read 10 tweets
23 Sep 20
1. Interesting report on mask use in U.S.

On average 80% of Americans say they wear masks. But they observe only 51% of other people wearing them. Hmm.

I know it's based in cognitive bias, but surprised somehow to see it by such a wide margin.

covid-tracker.mckinsey.com/ppe Image
2. This was less surprising: urban vs. rural, except for the *wider gap* in self vs. other perception in rural areas - more pressure to claim wearing masks even if they don't? ImageImage
3.This was definitely a surprise: Men 84% to Women 77%.

Were women simply being more honest?

I'd be really surprised in reality if men on average wore masks more often than women did. Image
Read 4 tweets
21 Sep 20
1. Leaders should always credit people when mentioning their ideas. Even if that person is not in the conversation.

You win just for saying the idea at the right time.

If you're unsure where an idea came from, say so or ask. Pretending it's yours will come back to haunt you.
2. PMs & people who work across disciplines hear many ideas in many contexts and it's hard to track it all in your mind. That's OK. But own it.

If you want more good ideas to come to you, err on giving credit away rather than taking it. Once burned smart people will avoid you.
3. Ideas are often collaborations, or the application of an old thought in a new context. So who possess the idea? Again, err on the side of giving credit away. There's little to lose.

If you solve someone's problem, but with another person's idea, you still made it happen.
Read 7 tweets
16 Sep 20
1. A great innovation in business tech was announced on this day in 1959 - The Xerox 914.

It's hallmark was simplicity: unlike competitors, you simply placed your paper on glass and pressed a button.

How Chester Carlson invented it is a great story of risk and persistence. Image
2. Carlson worked at Bell Labs in the 1930s in the patent dept. He had 100s of ideas for different inventions, but focused on copying because typing with carbon paper was messy and frustrating.

The "cc:" line in email today is a reference to carbon copy. Image
3. Carlson was fired in 1933 (Great Depression). By 1936 he had a new job and went to night school to study law.

Too poor to buy books, he had to hand copy them from the library! Copying was his nemesis.

There he learned about Pál Selényi's (shown) work on electrostatic images. Image
Read 15 tweets
14 Sep 20
1. The product world has an odd relationship with "designing for humans". Often it's designing to sell rather than designing for actual use.

Take this clever "have a look" feature - it briefly raises toast so you can see how done it is.

Another design that solves this...
2. Is this one. By just making the toast visible you don't need a button or any extra engineering to raise the toast.

It *eliminates the need for interaction*, which is often a better experience.

But wait... what problem does all this solve? Somehow that question gets lost.
3. The implication is "making toast is unpredictable and I don't want it burned".

Really? Maybe a new toaster take a few attempts to calibrate. After that u just leave it at the right level.

These designs imply a problem u probably don't have but... helps sell the toaster!
Read 13 tweets
9 Sep 20
1. The breakthrough for people with ideas is the day they realize even the best idea does little on its own.

An idea often depends on a system for it to have value. That system could be an organization, a community or a technology. This is shocking because…
2. The mythology around ideas is that they are magical. That obtaining an idea is rare, but once you have it you've done the hard part. This is the *myth of epiphany* - most epiphany stories skip the real work that happened. Myths are fun after all!

scottberkun.com/2015/the-myth-…
3. We know Edison for the light bulb, but others did much of that. His real achievement was *the system*: the power grid, power plants, wiring, city regulations… a light bulb was useless otherwise.

A great designer thinks beyond ideas to the systems needed to makes ideas real.
Read 8 tweets
12 Aug 20
1. I'm fascinated by how the official design of something is often completely redesigned by the people doing the actual work.

Example: at doctor's office today I filled out forms explaining why I was there.

Reality: doc asked same questions and took notes, w/o reading the form.
2. The mismatch is that the *designer* has assumptions about the real world that they never check. Even after their design is in the world.

Architects are notorious for never visiting their buildings after they're finished. Also true for many kinds of design, tech & beyond.
3. The system or product works, but only because it's the front line workers, often uncredited, who are the glue holding it together.

I think of grocery store clerks teaching people how to use the self-checkout machines. Or the IT department training ppl how to use Google Docs.
Read 7 tweets
5 Aug 20
1. One of my big memories from design school was when the prof (Dan Boyarski) told us to start our big project not by sketching or brainstorming.

Instead he told us to leave the studio and GO WATCH PEOPLE. Watch ppl do whatever it was our design was supposed to make better.
2. It seemed somehow like a violation - what?! I can't just use my MIND? And he was like, no. Your mind sucks.

Even the best imaginations are ego prone. Are you designing for yourself or to solve a problem for someone? If it's the later, how can you NOT start by observing 1st?
3. Observation is the killer tool in the designer's toolbox. To go watch, to go listen, to keep your ego out of it for awhile and just study people.

That's where big insight's come from. It's cheap and potent and transformative. User researchers know this. They'll help you.
Read 6 tweets
15 Jun 20
1. The word design means something different for designers than for others. If asked “Do you want a better designed world?” most people will say yes! But few think of designers as people who can help.

How did design separate itself from people’s perception of the world?..
2. I agree with the sentiment here if design means the trivial.

But what about healthcare design? Voting system design? the design of budgets, laws and policies? The design of social media? The design of voting rights?

And the design of media that promotes better designs? Image
3. One problem is designers love specializing. We proudly divide ourselves: web designers, mobile designers, org designers, UX, IA, Service… and on it goes. This helps find jobs but doesn’t invite outsiders to seek our experience for use across society.
Read 7 tweets
11 Jun 20
1. This is Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984) one of the first African American female architects in the U.S. She was a pioneer, fighting through gender and racial barriers in architecture & the arts.

She played a key role in working against redlining through her creative talents. Image
2. Born to mixed race parents, they had to move from Virginia to DC in order to get married. He was a master builder, but lost work after the move, likely due to racism. He committed suicide in 1915.

She graduated from high school that same year, top of her class.
3. She earned two art degrees from Columbia University and then returned to Virginia. With no formal architecture training, she designed and built Azurest South, next to the VSU campus. She was soon appointed head of the art dept.

It's a rare work of the International style. Image
Read 7 tweets