27 July 2010

Bad Design - Bathroom Redux

I know, I know - I said I wasn't going to make a habit of taking photos of bad bathroom-related design, but apparently I just can't help myself. I double-super-promise this is really really really the last one I'll do (maybe).

Today's featured Bad Design is a very common paper towel dispenser which works (I use that word loosely) by exposing a small strip of paper towel which you're supposed to grab and pull to dispense the rest. You've all probably seen them... and probably had the same results I documented below:

I don't need to tell you that a person trying to pull out a towel generally has wet hands. Wet hands make wet paper... and instead of ending up with a full paper towel, we generally end up with two small corners of wet paper. I know I'm not the only one this happens to because the floor beneath these dispensers are always (A-L-W-A-Y-S) littered with scraps of paper towel corners.

From a design perspective, the problem here is that the dispenser's tension exceeds the strength of the wet paper towels. This makes it virtually impossible for a wet-handed person to pull a full sheet of paper towel and leads to litter & gnashing of teeth. But I bet the real problem is that when the designers tested the thing, their hands weren't wet.

So, the design lesson of the day is that when you're testing your design, you should make sure the test accurately represents operational conditions. If your users are going to have wet hands, your testers should too.

18 July 2010

Updated Reading List

Lately, I've had several requests for a list of recommended books. I figured posting the list here would probably make it accessible to the most people.

How to describe this list? These books shaped my professional development, captured my imagination and influenced the way I see the world. I've consistently recommended each one to people who are looking to make a difference and do things differently. I hope you find something interesting & helpful - as for where to start, they're all good. Start anywhere. Or drop me an email (or comment) and let me know what you're looking for, and maybe I can make a more personalized recommendation.

Happy Reading!

Alternative approaches to organizational structures & leadership
Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie
The Birth of the Chaordic Age, by Dee Hock
Losing My Virginity, by Richard Branson
Maverick, by Ricardo Semler
Reimagine, by Tom Peters
The Abilene Paradox, by Jerry Harvey
How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed In The Back, My Fingerprints Are On The Knife, by Jerry Harvey
Love and Profit, by James Autry
Up The Organization, by Robert Townsend

Military / Air Force issues
Boyd, by Coram
Pentagon Wars, by James Burton

Creativity, Marketing & Presentations
Ignore Everybody, by Hugh MacLeod (a book about creativity)
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds (want to give better presentations? Start here)
A Whole New Mind, by Dan Pink
Fascinate, by Sally Hogshead

Thoughts on Career Development & Transition
Crossing The Unknown Sea, by David Whyte
Radical Careering, by Sally Hogshead
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, by Dan Pink

Short Reads
ReWork, by Fried & Hansson
The Peter Principle, by Lawrence Peter
The Simplicity Cycle, by Dan Ward (Download for FREE!)

Long Reads
The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge
The Reflective Practitioner, by Donald Schon

13 July 2010

Lean Education

I'm in the middle of training to become a certified Black Belt in the AF's version of Lean. I'm actually enjoying the course quite a lot - the instructors are great, the material's interesting and despite the strong flavor of manufacturing, I'm learning stuff I can actually use.

I've got to admit this Lean / Six-Sigma / Theory of Constraints stuff makes a lot of sense - still no fan of the late Dr. Hammer & his Business Process Reengineering though. I'm still figuring out how to use this stuff in my more creative pursuits, but I definitely see a place for it in the contract management part of my life.

I guess that's all I wanted to say - the class is good, I'm learning useful stuff and enjoying it.

06 July 2010


Imagine how awesome you could be if the world didn't insist that you be mediocre.

Seriously, how much of the stuff we spend our time doing is done because someone else thinks it's important? Stuff that, even if it's done well, doesn't really make an impact? Stuff that gets in the way of doing the really high-impact, meaningful, leave-a-dent-in-the-universe stuff we dream of doing? Too much time, I tell you. Too much time.

The thing is, we all spend an awful lot of time doing an awful lot of stuff that doesn't really matter much... and that's awful. Time is precious, life is short and all that...

So, do you want to know a secret? It turns out, the world doesn't really insist on your mediocrity. I bet there's a way to really put your strengths to use, to do the Big Cool Stuff you're supposed to be doing... and a way to dodge the pointless timesucks that get in the way.

Step one is to try. Step two is to not give up. I'm pretty sure there is no step three...

01 July 2010


My recommendation for the day? Let your self be flawed.

Do some things badly. Fail to do other things entirely. But be absolutely awesome at what matters most.

Play to your strengths and put them to use as fully as you can. Don't worry about filling in every chink in your armor, shoring up every weakness and improving every shortcoming. The days are too short to do all that.

Do what you can do. Be great at what you can be great at. And don't spend too much time on all that other stuff.