Using endless latinate language

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London appeared on BBC Newsnight. At about the 5min mark the interviewer asked the Mayor to review three clips of other British politicians of various parties. It’s interesting to watch Johnson as he views these clips, his reaction is priceless.

More importantly his message about what was wrong with all three clips is a critical lesson. Simple language is more effective. In the words of Boris Johnson, using endless latinate words is a clue to the intent of the speaker and that intent isn’t positive.

Speak simply. Use plain English.

Mobile is eating the world

This is an update to Ben Evans previous work (started I think before he joined a16z).  It’s very interesting to see the data presented so starkly.  From a business standpoint it’s important to realize that the change has occurred.  Everything is mobile now, certainty in the developed world.  If you’re serious about that business process, new venture, new product or new improvement effort you had better be thinking about mobile pervasive connectivity.

Two Beatles in the class

Sir Ken Robinson is probably known by anyone who’s a fan of TED.  His talks at the TED conference are among the most popular, and for good reason.   In this short video he makes the point that “experts” cannot always identity talent, even great talent.  I think this is especially true if that talent doesn’t operate along traditional lines.

It’s about the data

A great overview on Daring Fireball of the recent decision by some retailers to turn off their existing NFC systems to prevent customers from using the new Apple Pay system

And the reason they don’t want to allow Apple Pay is because Apple Pay doesn’t give them any personal information about the customer. It’s not about security — Apple Pay is far more secure than any credit/debit card system in the U.S. It’s not about money — Apple’s tiny slice of the transaction comes from the banks, not the merchants. It’s about data.


Increasingly the business model of retailers is less about selling stuff and more about data collection and manipulation. The fact that retailers want to collect and use data on customers isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that the vast majority of customers aren’t aware of this.

First they came for the manufacturing jobs

First things first, there is literally a magazine for everything.    One more example of technology preparing to displace what was once considered a fairly “safe” job.  A job that seemed too complex for a machine to perform.  Bartending isn’t the only field these types of machines are gunning for either.  The lesson here, for everyone, is to think critically about what value is actually being provided.    Not to cause offense, but if you’re job involves mixing liquids into a glass you’ve got a problem.

None of this is to say that jobs like this will totally disappear.  Bar tending (although I should be clear, I don’t drink so have very little understanding of the actual bar process), it seems to me, a fun bar, should also include the human interaction with the bartender.  Part of the value is in the drink for sure, but a machine can produce that drink better in I’m guessing 99% of cases.  What the machine cannot do, yet, is provide the interaction, feedback a human can.

Don’t double down on a freak out

“Nothing good ever comes from doubling down on a customer freak-out”

— Mike Montero, Mule Design

One of my favorite podcasts is Let’s Make Mistakes. It’s ostensibly a podcast about design but I often find that the advice about how to deal with clients is applicable no mater the profession.

In episode 68 Don’t Adopt Client Freak-Outs, the hosts discuss how to react when a client becomes upset. Listening to this discussion for the first time really resonated with me. I think it’s invaluable advice for Project Managers or others acting in that role in any business.

Often when a customer is upset, or freaks out over an issue, the response is all too often to double down on the freak out. People think adopting the customers attitude shows sincerity, shows that “you get it”.

When a customer freaks out it’s often because of two things. First, the customer doesn’t know as much as you do about the process/product. You have a better understanding of when something is going wrong, more experience dealing with the myriad of project issues that come up. What may seem like a small bump in the road may look to the customer like a major issue.

Secondly, when a customer is simply nervous about how things are going because you’re not communicating with them in a way that they can digest and understand. This is critical. Every person is different, often you’ll deal with multiple stakeholders from the client on a project and will have to figure out how best to communicate with them in a way that avoids freak outs. I’m not a fan of multiple communication processes and in the cast of internal employees, generally, I believe they can (should?) be “forced” into a standard cultural norm for communication but we can’t expect the same of clients.

The job of the project manager, or anyone in a client facing position, is to project the calm professional demeanor of someone who’s been here before. It doesn’t mean patronizing the client, it means explaining where things sit, why it’s all going to be okay, why we’re doing what we’re doing. This is an opportunity to show the client that you are indeed in control of the situation.

When a client freaks out, it’s often a cry for help. The client is nervous about something, unsure of how to react to an event. Use those moments to provide context, guidance and information that will make the client a better client. Oh, and if you are screwing something up, just admit that and fix it, for implementation projects it is the destination, not the journey.