HR is a reflection of a company’s culture

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”— Buddha

I just got off WeChat with my former company’s HR representative. I dread seeing anything from them, and though I am always polite, I’m sure they at the least think I am difficult, likely worse.

This time it’s about flight reimbursements which were part of my contract. Many were unable to receive this part of their offer, for one reason or another, and warned me not to expect it. I wasn’t concerned as I didn’t stress the financial side of our agreement, as I should have.

Of course the rules were never explicitly stated on how to get reimbursed, perhaps due to negligence, or perhaps a clever method to not have to pay. More likely a symptom of a bureaucratic system mired in fixed procedures, in which no single person is aware. Empathy is in short supply.

I realize my perception is overly negative.

This distrust came as a result of a deeply flawed on-boarding process which poisoned what could have been a normal working relationship. They became the adversary, not a collaborator. Imagine if all contact with HR was positive, professional, constructive, and helpful. That would set a different tone. Unfortunately that wasn’t the experience I had.

I also don’t work well with long restrictive rules, a major part of the company’s and China’s culture. I work best in a human centered approach that treats people with respect.

In the end I see this as a failure on my part, to not maintain an air of positivity when working within a strict bureaucracy, despite all the bad experiences. To let bad situations overly influence my thinking, and not be my usual easy-going self.

Positivity helps develop a mental capacity that allows us to adapt with ease during adversity, to develop a set of powerful mental traits that allow us to have faith, courage and a ‘letting it happen’ attitude to cope with the crap that comes our way.

Smile and don’t dwell on the negative.

Perhaps a read of The Power of Positive Thinking is in order.

System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. When you measure the same metrics, you’re likely to create the same outcomes. But if you can see past the metrics to the results, it’s possible to change the status quo.
Seth Godin

Applicable to more than just measuring performance of your business ….

Resident Visa Journey

My Taiwan ARC expired while I was in China this year (the misfortunes due to that adventure continue to mount), and with trips to Thailand and Canada, I couldn’t get to Taiwan for any length of time to renew it. So I’ve found myself flying in and out of here on Visa exempt stamps. Which is fine, but not having an ARC (Alien Resident Certificate) means also no health coverage. Taking advantage of Taiwan’s excellent health care system before I return to Prince Edward Island is a priority, as PEI is better known as the land of “wait a year or more for a simple check up”.

It’s been years since I’ve had to apply for any kind of Visa here in Taiwan and I had forgotten all the rules and regulations. I figured I would have to fly to Hong Kong but the TECO office website there has depreciated from awful to really awful, so I relied on the wisdom of the internet to fill me in on the process. To my delight I was informed that you can apply for a resident visa in Taiwan, and since I vaguely remember doing so in years past, I set off to Taipei today. I ignored others advice and didn’t call ahead, part of my general aversion to talking on the phone; email replies from the Taiwan government are about as rare as they are in PEI.

When I arrived the whole process was about as informal as you would expect here (bless you Taiwan), and the official helping me was as polite any you would meet.

I was planning on applying for residency based on my wife’s employment but unfortunately you cannot get said visa in Taiwan when you arrive on a different date than your spouse. These little details, which I’m sure make sense somehow, matter. You can however get a resident visa if you gain employment.

So I am off to Hong Kong (I had a ticket booked already), or perhaps I can delay the process until November to coincide with a marathon in Bangkok.

Sound design for restaurants

A collection of links for some reading I was doing last fall for my part in a service design project. Any serious study into how sound or music might effects customers in a restaurant environment might include some more serious reading included in music cognition reading list, this reading list from Brain Pickings, and from that list This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession is particularly accessible.

Starbucks teams with Spotify to let customers influence in-store playlists

The Influence of Background Music on the Behavior of Restaurant Patrons

How Music and Noise Affect Restaurant Sales and Customer Experience

The importance of Sound Design for Restaurants
Sound Solutions – restaurant development + design

Backgrounds: Sound Design Under the Radar

Store Atmospherics & The Art of Sound Design Marketing

Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us

Sound or Noise?

Sound Effects on Behavior

Silence, please. Psychologists are increasing awareness of the harmful effects noise has on cognition and health.

Where do ideas come from?

If I am having a good day, I’ll set out on my run with a few problems to solve. By the end of an hour I may have a solution to one, three, or none. Problem solving, or ideation, is a conscious effort. In my case it’s best done away from the office and my desk.

I always said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Every great idea came out of work. Everything. If you sit around and wait for a bolt of lightning to hit you in the skull, you may never get a good idea.

Camren’s Crazy Stickers

I’ve wanted to do this for awhile but time, schedule and my son Camren’s changing interests haven’t made the stars align. But a recent query from Camren as to exactly what I do for a living, and my failure to give an adequate explanation, gave me a push to spend some time this summer giving him some experience in some of the more accessible parts of my field. First up is creating some of the silly stickers that he and his friends like to send back and forth, then some UI work on an app., then a code warrior camp and finally he can help me with some usability testing. A sort of hands on look at product development/user experience.

All our work is created in Sketch and he has taken to the app. fairly well, especially considering that he is only 11. This is his superpower I think, if the task is enjoyable he will find a way to learn, usually via YouTube. He’s become a master of minecraft, various magic tricks, and other things this way. Just don’t ask him to memorize Chinese poems. Smart kid.

His first set of stickers are available now on the app. store.

The longest lived businesses in the world aren’t the ones that were biggest in their day. Many of them are family firms, or small to mid-sized enterprises content with steady evolvement of their niche. Content with enough.
Enough by DHH

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Khalil Gibran

Bluetooth Pairing UI Fail

Logitech K380 bluetooth keyboard pairing UI is likely difficult for but the most advanced users.

I gave this keyboard, a temporary replacement to my Apple wireless, to my wife to use with her iPad – it’s a neat keyboard in theory but I never was comfortable typing on it. She now seems pretty happy with it, at least compared to typing on glass.

But for normal people this keyboard, and Apple’s for that matter, presents a UI problem. My wife wants to connect the keyboard to the iPad – at first glance how does she accomplish this task? There is nothing in this picture that supports that task, that supports her mental model of connecting 2 devices together.

She knows it’s a bluetooth keyboard, so she looks through the settings app. on the iPad and finds Bluetooth settings within which shows which devices are connected. No luck there.

So she asks.

I tell her she has to pair the devices. There is no UI to support that label. Because I have previously learned the UI from numerous other bluetooth devices I come over try long pressing the bluetooth icon and eventually we are in action. Known of that is at all obvious or learnable without outside guidance. Most bluetooth devices, especially the Apple BT keyboard I have, which has you long press the power button (!), allow users to fail in this basic task.

If we look to minimalistic or very simple UI the task should be automatic, like with Apple’s new EarPods. If we are unable to accomplish that then we need more obvious UI that directs the user to task completion – like a button with a label that has connect/pair or an icon with a universally accepted connect/pair meaning. The bluetooth icon is slowly becoming that symbol but I bet most people would not recognize it as such in tests.

We are addicted to our phones not because we rely on them, but to the extent that we recruit them to a harmful project of self-avoidance. They do not mean to hurt us. But we may – and probably do – use them to injure ourselves. Addiction sounds horrible. But it is a hard name for a normal inclination: a habit of running away from the joys and terrors of self-knowledge.
How to Live More Wisely Around Our Phones

Co-designing with Camren

Camren and I last year out for dinner.

I’m trying various activities over July with my son and perhaps some of his friends to gradually gain some insight and experience in working with children. The ultimate goal is to work with kids to develop simple software that works for them.

I’ve been fortunate to run a number of usability test sessions with kids — most were successful and changed the course of the product I was working on.

Hopefully working with children earlier in the design process will give me greater insight to what their needs are before the first or final prototypes are made.

I think it’s going to be fun.

Jakob Nielsen: Mobile Usability Futures

For all of Jacob Neilson’s work I have read, and some of the first literature I read of his was early journal articles was some 19 years ago, I don’t remember having seen or heard him do a presentation. The above is a talk he gave at Google in 2013.

Canada Day in Taiwan

The kids are still enjoy getting their face painted.

This year being Canada’s 150th birthday I decided to forgo my usual stay at home social tendencies and went with family to Taipei to enjoy the birthday celebration held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan.

Unfortunately it rained.

While the rain cancelled most of the family friendly activities during the afternoon, it stop later and had we stayed we could have enjoyed more than our token Moosehead and listened to some live music in the park. But thats not really our thing.

Other than some Canadian-style treats, including an unconvincing poutine imitation that Sheryl lined up 30 minutes for, the highlight for me was listening to our national anthem. Don’t hear it enough.

Afterwards, we enjoyed some frozen yogurt, which was pleasantly sour, at the shopping center that sits atop and beside the bus station by the main train station. I forget the name of the shopping center, as there are so many. Before catching a bus back to Hsinchu we visited the theatre on the top floor to see if there was anything worth sticking around to see, there wasn’t, but I realized while there just how different the theaters are here than in Eastern Canada. Much better of the most part, and a far more encompassing experience. The Charlottetown moving going experience is sad by comparison.

We made it home just in time for the rain to stop.