The One You Feed is a show I often listen to on my hikes or while doing chores around the house. It starts with the parable of the two wolves. You know the one. They have great guests and it’s always an interesting conversation.
Let’s see if this mention goes back to my withkown site:
(Sorry about the misspelling.)
Conversations on depression have been flowing around the tech community for the last few months. It’s important, and many people have written about their experiences. There is some wonderful, helpful, and deeply personal insights out there.
In the mid-80’s I took my second tech job, at a company called Silicon Graphics, Inc.
SGI, before it officially contracted its name to “SGI”, was a fantastic place to grow and learn. It was intense and focused, and my modest technical know-how in Unix, TCP/IP Networking, and Computer Hardware matched well as the company grew its Unix workstation business and more customers connected computers to Internet Protocol networks. I was soon a main contact point for the most intractable problems from customers, and the Customer Support representative to new product introductions.
The focus and intensity made for arguments, some that probably would seem to outsiders as knock-down, drag-out fights. But a friend from those days put it well when he said, “We fight with each other, but we fight to make a great product.”
IIW uses the Open Space Technology process for self-organizing the conference. The importance of all of this is often unclear to the newcomer, but people come around, as they come to understand that there rules generate a conference that works much like the hallways and bars in traditional conferences. The whole thing becomes a great swirling stew of fascinating interlocking conversations, and real work comes out of it.
This starts with four principles:
1. Whoever comes are the right people. These people came to this session because they wanted to be here. The mix of opinions, ideas, and questions that result are exactly what we are hoping for.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. These sessions are generative. What happens is not always what you thought might happen, but that’s ok! Let go of your expectations and enjoy the flow of ideas.
3. Whenever it starts is the right time. Start on time, even if you are expecting more people. Someone may join mid-way through, and that’s ok.
4. Whenever it’s over it’s over. We give over the space to the next sessions on time. If you are still in the middle of a great conversation, move somewhere, or schedule a follow-up. If the conversation is over, or the part that interests you is done, then you may leave.
Plus, the important Law of Two Feet:
You have both Mobility and Responsibility! Move around if you like. if a conversation isn’t interesting, just move. It’s common that there is several interesting sessions at the same time slot — move around, sample and enjoy.
Book of Proceedings:
Every IIW generates a Book of Proceedings, containing the notes from every session. it’s important that someone at each session takes notes. There is a simple, standard format for the notes, to include the sessions number, location, convener, title and note-taker.
Internet Identity Workshop is my favorite conference. The topics covered, which span across Identity, Privacy, Community, and Security and more, continue to be relevant even after more than a decade. The “Open Spaces” format generates lively discussions across a range of topics, all created on the spot by the participants.
It’s also a conference full of friends who I’ve come to know over the years. I’ve already had a couple quick “catch-up” conversations and looking forward to more.
A key principle when thinking about a product is to understand, deeply, the needs of the user of the product. What job are they hiring it to do? Why – What are they trying to accomplish?
But this is difficult – and not just because it takes long hours and many cycles of iterative improvement. It’s not just that the things people tell us about what they want are wrong, or at best incomplete. It’s not just that it’s difficult to simultaneously have deep belief in your insight and also question every assumption.
It’s difficult because we get in our own way.
We have difficulty sorting out our own motivations, dealing with our own emotional responses, and knowing our own mind. So how can we really understand someone else? At the same time, we also tend to attribute motivations and meaning to the actions of other people —as if we know what they are thinking.
Look at your personal life. Have you ever been accused of some transgression that all turned out to be a misunderstanding? Now, be honest, have you ever made that sort of assumption about someone else, later to find out that you were wrong?
These emotional examples just highlight a more pervasive problem. Our minds tend to make a leap of meaning, a shortcut of sorts, to help us understand the world around us. We tell ourselves stories about things that happen around us that build our concept of how things work. This skill is useful. But we also tend to stick to stories that reinforce our ideas about the world. We resist, and explain away, anything new or different —especially if it challenges our core ideas.
“If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies behind it: the contrarian truth.”
– Peter Thiel, Zero to One
We can never perfectly understand the motivations, aspirations, emotions and thoughts of other people. We can probably never perfectly understand our own. But by working at it, we can grow and become better at it. We can see our own thoughts as just thoughts. We can turn them over, examine them, think about alternatives, and decide what to think.
This is the beginning. It’s not about having a formula for success, but rather a skill of being present and self-aware so that we can make better use of any idea, method, formula, or framework. It’s not about being perfect. Just notice that you are making assumptions or assigning motivation, and come back to self-awareness.
Be Present. Be Self-Aware. Innovate.
For the next few months, our work at Square Peg Ranch is featured on America’s Best Racing and Fox Sports. The first short video in the series was shown today during the horse racing coverage of the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, NJ. Joell and I watched at a local pizza place with some of our families.
You can watch an extended version of this first video on the America’s Best Racing Website.
In the video you’ll see several of our kids featured, plus Davis Finch, our Grantwriter who also keeps our horse and lesson records — tracking everything that goes on with the horses, including all training, exercise, injuries, medications and preventive care. (For more information about Square Peg Foundation and our work at Square Peg Ranch, check out our website, SquarePegFoundation.org or reach out directly to me.)
The team at Fox Sports and America’s Best Racing have done a really beautiful job on this video. They were a joy to work with and we’re eagerly looking forward to seeing the rest of the series!