Episode 39 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with Stephen P. Anderson. Stephen is a design leader focused on workforce learning and organizational development. He’s also the founder of The Mighty Minds Club, a new method-of-the-month club that aims “to help product teams work through difficult situations.” Stephen recently co-authored a book with Karl Fast called Figure It Out, which is about how we can transform information to increase understanding. Our conversation focused on this subject.

I’ve known Stephen for many years, mainly from our interactions in the design community, so I was intrigued to learn how he came to this topic:

I became bored with a lot of the tactical stuff and became interested more in strategy and business topics, became more interested in human behavior and psychology, and why won’t people do the things we want them to do? Why won’t people would click on the things that we want them to click? And so that led to my first book in around 2010 or so, which is called Seductive Interaction Design. And also around the same time I self-published the Mental Notes card deck, which a lot of people know me for as well.

So again, very much a focus on human behavior. So that was about 10 years ago. And over that time, one shift I’ve gone through was marked by probably a seminal talk for me, “From Paths to Sandboxes,” where I started shifting my thinking from shaping the path that I want people to follow to creating the sandbox or the conditions where people play and learn.

And so my mindset shifted from that of a transaction and getting something I want, to how do I create the conditions for us to learn and work together? And I think that ethos and that idea has affected everything I’ve done since. And in many ways, the new book, even though it’s about working with information as a resource, there’s that ethos or that idea behind it, which is how do we pause, slow down, and figure things out individually, but also collectively.

Organizing our information environments to increase understanding is central to my work. My desire to learn about how people do this is why I started the podcast, so I was thrilled to discuss the subject with Stephen. I wish our conversation could’ve been longer. I hope you get as much value from it as I did.

The Informed Life Episode 39: Stephen P. Anderson on Cognitive Environments