Breaking The Wheel

Soft Skills

A picture of a yin-yang, the embodiment of trade-offs

Guest Post: On The Subject of Trade-Offs

My friends at Black Shell Media were kinda enough to host another of my scribblings, this time on the ever-present and ever-important notion of trade-offs: how to think about them, traps to avoid when dealing with them, and why it’s so important to know yourself when faced with them. Click here to read on: On The Subject of Trade-Offs

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A screen grab from one of Justin's GDC17 sessions

GDC17 Feedback and Responses

GDC 2017 was my first GDC ever. So, I figured “Why not be an asshole about it?” and signed up to give two presentations. 6’ish months later I found myself at GDC, sweating bullets and shitting bricks. I should also mention that the longest presentation I’d ever given was about 10 minutes, and had signed up for a total of 90 minutes of speaking time. Anyhoo, both presentations went well and nobody died. And then, a month and half’ish later, my compiled speaker feedback arrived. It was largely positive. But, of course, there were a few people (4 in each session, based on the reviews) who took umbrage with ol’ Justy. And some of the negative comments bothered me. Not because people disagreed with me (that’s to be expected, after all) but because I couldn’t respond. But then I realized that not only could I respond (having a blog and[…]

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Informal Power featured image of a rusty gate

Informal Power, Or: Why It Always Pays To Be Polite

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines power as (among other definitions) “possession of control, authority, or influence over others”. Nothing terribly shocking there. But it’s worth digging into how power induces that influence. There’s the obvious, overt “Do this thing because I said to do the thing.” We’re all familiar with that one. But there’s also a different form of influence that comes not from influencing people, but circumstance. And on any given day, this informal power is far more likely to cause you grief.

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Black Shell Media Corporate Logo

New Guest Post: If You Want To Lead, Know Your Values

This week’s post…is hosted elsewhere. I wrote a guest post for my new friends at Black Shell Media. The post, “If You Want to Lead, Know Your Values”, is about a topic near and dear to my heart. Values matter to any organization, no matter the size. They matter from a company culture standpoint, certainly. But they also matter operationally and strategically. The most successful companies in the world have well-defined corporate values. But what are their values and, more importantly, how should you pick your own? Click this link to read on!

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A picture of a question mark, because customer interviews involve questions. Get it?

Customer Interviews: Conducting Effective One-On-Ones

Henry Ford once famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” More recently, Steve Jobs said “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” What these quotes are really getting at is the danger of interview-driven design. If you ask people what they want, they’ll just say “faster, better, cheaper.” And creating new products is YOUR job, not your customers’. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to tell you what products to make. Imagining completely new products is not their in their skillset.

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A picture of a kitty lying on a book

Monday Menagerie, October 17th Edition

In “Monday Menagerie” posts, I share the most interesting articles I’ve stumbled across in my roamings around the ol’ series of tubes. This week, the science backed reason negative people are killing you (literally), why engineers HATE open floor plans, and how an editor at the Atlantic keeps his email inbox at zero.

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A stack of pancakes

Friday Short Stack, September 30th Edition

Friday Short Stack posts are shorter, more bite-sized pieces – a little nugget of buttery knowledge before you head off for the weekend. Because everybody love pancakes! This week, it’s three of my favorite books for developing your “soft skills” – those esoteric abilities that help you work with (and in some cases around) people and their hang-ups, quirks, and egos. These are the three books that have provided me with the most utility, personally and professionally. If you find yourself struggling managing up, managing down, or just getting along, you could do worse than these weighty tomes.

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