Episode 11 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with digital governance advocate Lisa Welchman. For the past 20 years, Lisa has helped organizations set up governance structures that allow them to manage their information flows more effectively. In our conversation, she explains the importance of creating mindful content models and governing frameworks:
A governing framework for me is about decision-making. Who gets to make decisions about standards. A content model is a standard for delivering content. Brand has a set of standards that are underneath it. IT has a set of standards. Right? So it’s decision-making about standards.
The objective is to help organizations operate with greater intention and more safely.
Lisa is also an accomplished musician, and in the interview she reveals connections between good digital governance and jazz:
the reason that I like jazz is because it has a structural frame underneath it. Right? And on top of it you can improvise. And that’s really, I think, what everybody’s trying to get to. Some people want to improvise a little bit, some people a lot. But organizations need that structured frame so that everyone just one understands what the patterns are and then if you get that right and you allow each entity inside the team to maximize what they do well within that frame, then you get the best of both worlds. You get a structured content model that is really well managed. You get people who love their jobs because they’re allowed to improvise and freestyle within that framework and do things that they love.
This episode is well worth your attention, especially if you work in an organization that must manage a lot of information. Stick around after our conversation for a special surprise from Lisa. Hope you enjoy the show!
The Informed Life Episode 11: Lisa Welchman on Governance
Episode 10 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with my friend, information architecture and user experience pioneer Peter Morville. Peter is one of the most thoughtful people I know about the subject of information management, and in this interview we discussed how we can be more mindful when living an informed life:
If we think about the questions around how we manage information, what tools do we use to manage information for our personal and professional interests, and then we try to apply metrics or evaluation, am I using these tools efficiently and effectively? Are these the right tools? It begs the question, the right tools to achieve what?… Are these tools and the way I’m managing information leading me in a positive direction where I’m learning and changing? I don’t think we asked these questions very often, but I think that if we want to sort of talk about the tools that we use to manage information, we have to be mindful of what is the purpose behind that.
Peter introduced me to Henry David Thoreau’s concept of the root-striker (“If you really want to solve the problem, you have to strike at the root”), an apt image for a discussion that centered on thinking deeply about the source of the challenges we face when living in an information-saturated culture. Overcoming these challenges requires that we acknowledge that the system isn’t set up to look after our interests:
The first step in protecting yourself from the information deluge is to understand and accept that nobody’s looking out for you, that you have to protect yourself, that it’s not all good. You’re not going to take any steps to protect yourself unless you feel that you have some something you want to protect yourself from.
He goes on to describe some of the practices that have allowed him to protect himself from some of the more noxious aspects of our “seductive information” culture, including meditation and taking sabbaticals from social media.
This interview made me reconsider the foundations of own personal information environment. I hope you get as much value from this conversation as I have.
The Informed Life Episode 10: Peter Morville
Episode 9 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with UX designer and educator Jessica Ivins. Jessica teaches at Center Centre, the UX design school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is a role that requires that she wear many hats:
I do everything from emptying the dishwasher, to writing curriculum, to reporting anything; any issue with the facilities that needs to be repaired… Lots and lots of work with the students, obviously: working with them one-on-one working with them in the group setting. So it’s really a lot of juggling and a lot of time management and priority management.
Her goal is one many of us can relate to: “to juggle all the things I need to juggle and do all the things I need to do without burning out and without working long hours.” And in 2018, she did it! How? Through a combination of tools and practices, including Basecamp, Google Docs, timeboxing, and by following David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.
This episode inaugurates a new look for the podcast’s website. Abiding by the “shitty first draft” principle, I launched the show in January using a very basic WordPress theme. As some astute listeners pointed out, this first theme had awkward issues, especially on mobile. Hopefully the new theme fixes that. Please let me know what you think.
The Informed Life Episode 9: Jessica Ivins
Episode 8 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with product designer Trip O’Dell. Before his career in tech, where he’s worked leading technology companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and Amazon, Trip was a teacher, introducing new technologies to students so they could tell stories in new ways. When he was a student himself, Trip was diagnosed with dyslexia, and in this episode we discuss how this allows him to think differently. We also talked about the ways he leverages technology to help him, including this nugget:
[I use] systems that separate but then I also have systems that bring together and synchronize. For instance, it’s really easy for me to lose things. That’s sort of the the dyslexic characteristic like where are we think in matrices we kind of also need to have everything out in front of us to be able to make those connections and a lot of software is built to just have you do one thing at a time. It’s built modally, right?
This idea that some systems are better for “separating” — concepts, ideas, etc. — while others are better for “bringing together” — is important. I, too, tend to jump between systems depending on whether I’m trying to analyze or synthesize something, but I hadn’t thought of it consciously like Trip has.
The Informed Life Episode 8: Trip O’Dell
Episode 7 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with story coach Donna Lichaw. You may be wondering what I mean by “story coach.” Well, Donna helps folks figure out what their story is so they can be more effective at work and in life in general:
when you know your own story and when you own your own story, and it’s one that fills your heart with joy and energy and it’s one that you feel confident in and it’s one that fuels you and moves you forward, people see that in you, and you’re more likely to make the impact that you want to make.
I was fascinated to hear how Donna goes about helping people do this — especially in the way she helps clients visualize their story while they’re describing it to her, even if they’re meeting remotely.
Hope you enjoy the show! And by the way, if you’re enjoying The Informed Life, please take a minute to rate it in Apple’s podcast directory. This helps other folks find the show. Thanks!
The Informed Life Episode 7: Donna Lichaw
Episode 6 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with Beck Tench, a Ph.D student at the University of Washington. This role requires that she deal with a lot of information, and in this show, we discuss how she makes sense of it all. This includes an overview of one of my favorite information management tools, Tinderbox.
Our conversation kicks off with the subject of Beck’s Ph.D. itself, which is both fascinating and highly relevant to leading an informed life:
I’m interested in how we can design spaces and technologies that facilitate contemplative practices or just contemplative experiences. And by contemplative, I mean essentially being present to life in that moment. Spaces that will help us be present, slow down and notice the world. But there’s also this flavor of being lovingly present as part of it. It’s not just hyper-focus and attention-driven. It is also considering compassion, basically.
I was thrilled to hear about Beck’s area of focus. We need more of this in the world.
The Informed Life Episode 6: Beck Tench
Episode 5 of the The Informed Life podcast features an interview with my friend Kevin M. Hoffman, author of the book Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers, and Everyone. After a long career as a designer, entrepreneur, and manager, Kevin is now focused on helping people in organizations hold better meetings.
In this episode, we talked about meetings and how Kevin organizes his information environments to manage lead conversion for his business. His description of the process sparked an image from our childhoods:
the metaphor that comes to mind is this… There was also this cartoon thing called School House Rock and the one that I remember — and I imagine a lot of people who know what Schoolhouse Rock is remember — is one about a bill. “I’m Just a Bill sitting here on Capitol Hill,” and how that bill goes on a journey to become a law.
Kevin goes on to describe the journey through which his leads become customers. This journey has information moving from a physical environment to a digital environment to another physical environment and finally to another digital environment. In all, it was a fun and fascinating conversation.
The Informed Life Episode 5: Kevin M. Hoffman
Episode 4 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with innovation consultant, author, and speaker Andrea Kates. Andrea has worked with a broad range of large organizations around the world to help them discover new lines of business by seeing things differently:
I perceive anomalies. Whereas within the four walls of a company, they don’t see these different pieces of information as anomalies, they just listen to information and put it all into the same sets of categories. Whereas a lot of times it’s the outsider or the guide of a growth process… I see anomalies. And it allows them to have a fresh set of eyes, quite frankly, and move in new directions.
Andrea trained as a choreographer, and brings to her consulting practice a kinesthetic/visual approach to information management that breaks norms — to the benefit of her clients.
I had a blast talking with Andrea; I hope you enjoy our conversation too!
The Informed Life Episode 4: Andrea Kates
Episode 3 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with designer Fabricio Teixeira. Alongside his partner Caio Braga, Fabricio publishes UX Collective, one of the most popular online publications about UX design. They’ve created an amazing system that makes it possible for just two people to manage a large publication. In this show, Fabricio describes the setup that makes UX Collective happen.
I was impressed by Fabricio’s drive to control what information comes to his attention and when:
Fabricio: Sometimes it’s not about too much information, but it’s about information trying to get to you too many times throughout the day, if that makes sense. I think five years ago I redesigned my phone experience to turn off all notifications except for one or two apps, removed the number of icons that I have on my home screen so there’s not a lot of visual clutter and information every time I unlock my phone. Removing all those red badges from the app icon, so there’s no anxiety or tapping them and opening them. So in a way, it’s almost like I designed my technology experience so that it doesn’t get in the way of the actual information I want to get access to, if that makes any sense.
Jorge: It sounds like you’re configuring your environment so that you can be more in control of your attention, right?
Fabricio: That’s right. Yeah, and that’s not only around technology. Of course, technology plays an important role there, but being mindful of my surroundings… I always try to keep the books from authors that I admire next to my desk. So I’m always surrounded by that feeling of… It’s hard to describe, but even my apartment walls are a hundred percent white; there’s no paintings or anything. My desk has as few objects as possible. As a designer, I’m making sure that I’m designing the space around me to avoid too much cognitive load throughout the day.
Jorge: The degree to which our environments and the busyness of the environment impinges upon your ability to be effective. Right?
Fabricio: It’s really hard to measure. It’s not a quantity, right? It’s hard to measure the return over investment over those things because ultimately it’s really qualitative. It’s really about feeling lighter at the end of the day. I guess that’s my KPI, ultimately.
I left this conversation inspired to simplify and automate as much of my information ecosystem as possible. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The Informed Life Episode 3: Fabricio Teixeira