Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bitten by the layoff bug

The orders to my company had been slowing for quite a while, so now I'm a laid-off knowledge worker. So, this blog will - in addition to discussing corporate culture and design - deal with my new job hunt.

Any leads for an experienced researcher and designer with an almost-MBA? Here's a summary of my background on LinkedIn.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The use of stories to change corporate culture

I've worked at companies for 10+ years, and I know how important corporate culture is to the success of a business. Changing a culture for the better is no easy task, even when the execs understand that it needs to change. More recently, I've learned to appreciate the importance of the stories that associates tell about their company to explain and maintain a particular culture.

I agree that stories can be influential, but I'm afraid that this article attaches too much importance to the power of stories. The author has confused cause and effect. The company described in the article has some fundamental problems with its values. The company is experiencing turnover because of the way management treats people. If you want to keep people, treat 'em right in a consistent, visible way. If you do that the old stories will be replaced by new ones. Performing a few one-off good deeds in the hope that people will make up stories about them will just breed cynicism and contempt.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An analysis of design feedback: sources and handling

Here's a nice article by Francisco Inchauste about how to handle feedback from a designer's perspective. All designers get feedback from sources of every type, and are rarely in a position to simply say "no." Sometimes the designer's job seems to be more about handling this feedback diplomatically then doing design. Representative piece of advice:

  • "Don’t let your life turn into a "Kinko’s" where everything is expected to be turned around in a few hours and you are never able to spend the needed time to get it right."

Easier said than done, of course, but the article gives some guidance on how to prevent that from happening.

The categories of feedback givers and their motivations are right on the mark. I can generate personal examples of all of these categories, and it's nice that someone has thought about this hard enough to provide some perspective and some framing. This author has really Been There.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Digression: Best info source on Middle East

I get very encouraged whenever I read about people demanding more freedom for themselves from their government. The events unfolding in Iran are fascinating. Unfortunately, stories in the mainstream media don't go into much depth. That's why I rely on Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog for news about the Middle East.

Stephen Colbert took his show to Iraq because he thought the story had disappeared from the news media. It didn't disappear from Informed Comment. Great read, highly informative.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Research parks: best configuration?

Here are a couple of recent BusinessWeek articles on business parks and their role as drivers of economic growth. The first article touts Research Triangle Park as an attractive model for research parks. I live a few minutes away from RTP and attend MBA classes in the park.

The second article is skeptical of the idea of siting a research park in the woods, and argues that research parks need to be part of larger, urban communities. Ideas for new products and companies are hatched when tech workers can easily bump into each other.

Being in and around RTP, I can vouch for the fact that it's hard to find people who are interested in new products and are willing to talk business. The layout of the park, with company campuses hidden behind security gates and trees, doesn't lend itself to meeting and talking with people.

The idea of cities as optimal places for innovation and technology development is laid out in detail in a great book I read recently, Who's Your City, by Richard Florida. Florida shows how important geography is for economic development, and shows that cities are increasingly becoming centers of economic development. Nice read, and a good perspective when talking about siting new research parks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Project management - the class

I'm in a project management class for my MBA program. I like the discussions and case studies, and to hear people's perspectives on project work. I've being been doing projects for a while, so it's nice to have a framework on which to hang my observations of project life.

One of the things I've found is that I can now pretty easily sort people who have project management training from those who don't, and people with project experience from those who don't. It's not just the jargon, it's the knowledge of things like tradeoffs and how to work with customers. It's good to have knowledge of project methodology when you go into a project, and to know who shares the same background.