Stop researching and start doing

Austin Kleon with some sage advice for anyone considering writing a book. It’s all good, but this is especially true:

  1. Stop researching, start writing.

“There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching,” says David McCollough. “There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing. When I began, I thought that the way one should work was to do all the research and then write the book. In time I began to understand that it’s when you start writing that you really find out what you don’t know and need to know.”

Students should take note of this. We lecture them, literally, about the need to research. We say it for good reason, because project ideas need some to be built on knowledge. But my experience is that students research and research and research and often don’t really know what to do with it and what to do next. So more research becomes a form of easily legitimised procrastination. Recognising when to just start designing is an important ability. You can always go back and research what you don’t know once you work out you actually find out what you do know.

And lest you think this is a problem that only writers and students have, plenty of large organisations fail to do anything without requiring more data. They’re often so drowning in data, requirements documents, processes, trying to nail everything down and avoid risk that they fail to come up with anything beyond what they already know.

Safety in games, from Shakespeare to Plato to Play Theory

Interesting piece from Jesper Juul on play with this note about Brian Sutton-Smith:

On two occasions I heard Brian Sutton-Smith claim that play provides a modicum of joy in our pain-filled lives. Although that wasn’t meant as a definition of play, it is interesting by reversing the order of events: we aren’t safe, and therefore we play. Rather, play is the animal deliberately pretending to be safe, while play lasts.

I find it fascinating and rather pleasing that such a universal and cross-species activity still defies definition.

Comcast Customer Receives Bill Addressed to ‘Super Bitch‘

In our book on service design and elsewhere, we often talk about how much people are at the heart of services.

Although branding folk like to speak of products having personalities, your car does not wake up with a hangover, and your iPhone does not hate its boss and act surly with its user all day.

Comcast’s employees insulting customers via address labels exactly illustrates the point. Whoever is in charge of customer experience at Comcast has a problem, but I bet it’s a problem created by management culture more broadly.

The Cheapest Generation

The Cheapest Generation is an interesting piece over at The Atlantic about “why millennials (Gen Yers) aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy.”

In short, the emotional appeal of owning a car or house that their parents had is no longer so strong. They prefer, instead, to have access to connectivity—everything from smartphones to car and bike sharing services.

Whilst some economists will panic because of the decline in selling big, physical things, the article points out that in places like Germany (where I live) home ownership has long been low and the German economy is the healthiest in Europe. People rent here for many years. To live in the same rented place for 30 years is not uncommon. This has a useful side-effect, which is to prevent the housing market from overheating so much that nobody can afford anything without heavily overextending on credit (c.f. Sydney) and we all know where that ended up.

I see a lot of the kind of “closed suburbs” in Germany that the article also mentions. Many people cycle here and, as a result, many services are nearby, which means families need either only one car or no car at all.

Services, not products. Access, not ownership. It’s the key to decoupling resource usage from economic growth.