My User Manual, 2019

A personal user manual I wrote up as part of a team exercise in a previous job - based on the “My User Manual” play developed by Atlassian.

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I’m excited to work in the Product Design team at Nine because I believe that a free, fair, and reliable press is a cornerstone of a just society, and that securing a sustainable future for journalism is a critical challenge for humanity. Working here gives me a way to directly contribute to solving wicked problems, which gives me a sense of purpose and hope.

Before joining the Product Design team at Fairfax Nine, I worked here as a UX / Design Researcher. Before that I was a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Vermont (2012-2014), a post-doctoral researcher at Rutgers University (2010-2012), and a grad researcher in socio-cultural anthropology and member of the Centre for Society, Technology, and Development at McGill University (2002-2010). In my academic career, I focused on political ecology and cultural politics, specifically by working on Indigenous rights, ethnic conflict, and land tenure in rural Kenya (if you really want to get nerdy, here’s where to find my PhD thesis).

My job title is “Product Designer” and my day to day is about service design and strategic design. Really, I see it as a way to practice engaged anthropology, but with more effective visual communication techniques.

The ingredients I need to make me a great Product Designer

Information. It’s the raw material for all of my work.

Fearless collaborators. We won’t invent the future if we’re afraid of it.

The keys to the city. The freedom to explore and investigate everywhere unlocks opportunities.

My super powers

What tools, apps and tech do I excel at?

Service design methods and techniques, including research (mixed-methods with a qualitative skew, for exploration and evaluation), facilitating collaboration (for synthesis, ideation, and decision-making), and prototyping (especially lower-fi conceptual and service prototypes).

Service mapping and modeling techniques like journey maps, service blueprints, ecosystem maps, which I’ll often use Lucidchart to digitize.

Information management to enable continuous learning, especially by the Product + Design teams. My favourite tools at the moment are Confluence (for documentation) and Airtable (for building and working with larger, more complex data sets), but Google Docs and Sheets also work for some things.

What are some of my superstar soft skills?

Listening. This is bread and butter for a researcher, and incredibly useful for anyone who wants to collaborate effectively with others. I wrote a short article about how active listening is a key difference between conversations and interviews.

Reframing questions and re-articulating ideas. Words are among the most powerful, most frequently used tools we have. It’s important to try to find all the best ones.

Facilitating collaboration and building consensus. This is the most challenging part of my job, but it’s worth the effort. Designing and facilitating effective collaboration and consensus-building activities pays off in alignment and shared vision.

How I like to work

What are my general office hours?

REDACTED – I’ll just keep this private for now…

How do I prefer to work on new ideas?

Transparently and collaboratively. Every concept, statement, question, prototype, and artefact is a hypothesis open to (constructive) critical evaluation, to help us learn. YMMV.

How do I respond to interruptions?

I welcome them, but I might need a moment to finish a thought. When I really need to concentrate, I like to find a quiet place to avoid interruptions. If you can’t find me, ping me on slack and I’ll get back to you when I can.

How I like to communicate and be communicated to

I’m intrigued by and actively learning about Radical Candor, and Non-Violent Communication. Constructive, compassionate critique seems a good direction to go.

How do I like to ask for input on ideas?

I often put ideas out into the world as statements (in words, in images, in other formats), so keep in mind what I wrote about how I prefer to work on new ideas . Assume it’s implied that I want input – and if you’re not sure (or not sure what kind of input I’m after), just ask. I’ll try to do better at explicitly asking for input and being clear about what I’m looking for.

What’s the best way to ask me for feedback?

I generally assume that if you’ve put something out there, you’re open to inputbecause everyone is exactly like me, right?. Don’t be surprised when I ask unsolicited questions; do use your judgement about whether and how to use the questions I ask and feedback I provide. If there’s anything you think I might be able to specifically help with, just ask. Also, I’m happy to listen if you just need to talk through something, even if it’s outside my usual expertise.

What’s the best way to give me feedback on something I’ve suggested?

Directly. I try not to be precious about my ideas (and if I’m being precious about my ideas, please tell me). Publicly or privately, verbally or in writing (or even a sketch or gif if you like). Do expect I’ll ask questions, and remember that I’m asking questions to help me understand your feedback, not to prove you wrong.

What’s my day-to-day communication style?

Somewhere between professor and pirate. I sometimes use words with too many syllables, and I often drop F-bombs. Sorry in advance.

How I learn

I consume a lot of information to stimulate learning – mostly writing (books, articles, blogs), sometimes video, rarely from podcasts, but often from music. And still, there’s too much content.

I write, sketch, and discuss to work through ideas, either alone or with others. I spend too much time on the Twitter, but I find it’s a useful forum for finding more things to read, watch, and listen to, and also to find people to discuss with.

I practice as much as possible, with intention. And I love to get constructive feedback that helps me learn and improve.

Editorial Note

In late 2018 or early 2019, my team used the “My User Manual” play to get to know one another and to set out our strengths and preferences so we could work better together. I may have been a bit too earnest with it.

If you made it this far down the page, thanks for reading.

Like with every post on this blog, consider this an invitation to join in thinking together, and maybe doing together. Why not get in touch with me on the Get in touch on the Fediverse to share your thoughts?

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All posts on this blog are by Scott Matter and licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0