Comments on Fast Company’s Design in Tech Report Press Coverage

I’ve learned a lot about how the press can turn a short telephone conversation into something sensationalistic, and slightly twist what I really said. But their business model requires getting attention — so I understand the WHY behind it all. What I didn’t expect was to find so many folks out there who rushed to turn it into a platform for how they see the world in contrast to an imagined (and diametric) position that I carried. THAT has been the most interesting learning for me.

When I read the clickbait-y headline I almost fell out of my chair 😱. But I immediately recognized and understood that Fast Company is a business — and their job is to generate interest in a topic to improve their business position.

Context: Most interviews that get written about you don’t have sign off from the interviewee (me) so you never what or how an article is going to come out. In the early 2000s I was misquoted by Wired and it felt a bit icky — so that’s why I started a blog in 2004 on WordPress. Because my blog let me speak in my own words, versus the interpretations by someone else.

What’s the takeaway?

It makes me remember that as a product-y person, I always do things for others with intentionality and to serve their needs. BUT when I’m trying to look further out into the future as an artist, I don’t do those things for anyone else — I do that kind of work only for myself. That’s the motivation behind the Design in Tech Reports and nothing else. And when I get to hear what people think about those freely shared views that emanate from conversations about the report — even if they’re only vaguely resembling my own — it’s a fantastic way to iterate on one’s thinking.

My thoughts certainly evolved during the storm’s progress. It hit a peak with Hartmut and Mike coming after me and there were three posts prior to that where I monitored what was emerging out there. I realize that there are more than a few folks who have preconceived notions about me that are inaccurate, but that’s completely expected because it’s impossible to have a personal connection with everyone out there. I realized this about a decade ago when I read a negative blog post about me where the author claimed to know me well … but I didn’t have the slightest idea who they were. But I appreciated their criticism because in every observation by a third party about you, you can always find something that rings true. And I love the opportunity to find new ways to learn. I’m a learner.

What I “said”

So back to what I would have said if I wrote the interview published about me:

Teamwork has long been more important than anything else to me. “Engineering-led,” or “Product-led,” or “Marketing-led,” or “Design-led” all imply to some degree the importance of a discipline’s performance over and above the performance of the entire team. I believe that when we place a focus on the customer’s needs and when we work as a team to satisfy their hopes and dreams, then everyone wins together.

👆What I would have wanted to be quoted as saying instead …

As for criticism around the supporting actor/actress paradigm, I can imagine there’s a better way to frame that one. But it’s 70% good enough and I’ll use it until I find one that fits better. It unfortunately implies to some people that design is taking a back seat to other folks on a team that’s in competition with each other as individuals or individual disciplines. I can totally see how that interpretation is possible, but it’s not at all what I mean.

I realize that some people see the word “support” as something negative — like being a doormat to someone else. I learned the word “support” differently and as something noble and essential to being a member of a team. There’s tremendous ambiguity in every word, and everyone’s individual projection of what they’re dealing with ends up in the meaning of what we read. As Spock on the old Star Trek series might have said, “Fascinating …” —JM

My messy desktop as I write this post, with a new book No Hard Feelings by the collaborator of Work Rules! Laszlo Bock. It’s all about how important emotions are at work — and as an HR geek I highly recommend it (and Laszlo’s book too).

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