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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Being polite, it is something that we all wish others to be towards us, and it is something that most (emphasis on most) people think they extend to others.  After all, by being polite, we are showing compassion for other people’s feelings, views, beliefs, the list goes on and on.  And on the flip side, people return the favor to us.

So is there ever a point in which you should toss politeness to the wind and just say what you have to say, regardless of someone or some peoples feeling, views, beliefs?  I like to fashion myself a polite person, I hold doors for strangers, I say thank you when someone does something for me, I try to speak kindly of folks.  However I am not perfect, I do not always extend the politeness branch to everyone in every situation.  With that being said, I believe there is a time and a place in which one should forgo being polite when it has a positive outcome on the greater good.

Here is an example to illustrate my thoughts.  You are a little league football coach and you have a team of ankle biters that are in the championship game.  It is the fourth quarter and you are down by 3 points and are on a final drive to clench the game.  There is 30 seconds on the clock, time for one more play.  Do you A) give the ball to your best friend’s boy who might be able to make the winning touchdown or B) let your star quarterback keep the ball and run it in?  By choosing A, you are being polite , you are willing to potentially sacrifice the game in order to give the ball to him.  By choosing B, you are not being polite to your best friend, but it is a sacrifice that you are willing to make to ensure victory.  What do you do?

I know that this is not a cut and dry example, there are a lot of variables at play, but you get my drift.  Sometimes being polite is not necessarily the right thing to do.  It is, of course, always situational and there is never a clear cut way of always doing it, but there are definitely times in which you must forgo being polite to acheive the greater good.

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According to good ol’ Uncle Albert Einstein, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is called insanity. So then why is it that some people continuously do the same things over and over again, as if they have not learned their lesson already?  I think that perhaps it is out of habit, or lack of focus, or maybe even fear.  Whatever the reason, if the end result is not changing, then try it a different way.

Here is a scenario.  There is a co-worker, let’s call him Bob for this illustration.  Bob is a fantastic team member, in fact, he is extremely talented at what he does.  Problem is (or is it a problem) Bob is a team player and would never be one to take the limelight.  He likes to work as a group, and likes to see the team succeed as a whole or fail as a whole (not really the latter, but understands that it is a team effort either way).  Bob has a task list a mile long, and knows that the release is coming up, so he is going to have to work overtime to get things done.  As luck would have it, he gets done ahead of schedule and decides to offer his help to his teammate John, who is falling behind.  John is working on a piece that is extremely important, it is a feature that has been requested by the VP.  Bob pitches in and help John out, actually realizing that John had not even started work on it and finishes it for him.  Everything gets done on time and is a success and the VP really likes his “new shiny feature”.  He praises John for a job well done, and instead of saying he could not take the credit for this one, he keeps his mouth shut and soaks it all in.

Bob is fuming, after all he is the one who completed the “shiny new feature”.  Bob being the nice guy, says nothing.  Bob is furious inside, and frustrated that John took all the credit.  Next time around, similar thing happens and Bob is left out again. Poor Bob :-(.

Lesson for Bob, if being the nice guy and not taking credit for the work he did is not working, speak up.  Take credit where credit is due or someone else is likely to steal your thunder.

Web 2.0 has been in full swing for some time now, O’Reily coined the term back in 2004 and in Internet years, that was like decades ago.  There is a lot to be said about web 2.0, from what it actually means to whether or not it is over.  Whatever your thoughts are on it, I am sure you can make a case for them to be valid.  However, call it what you want, there are definitely some re-occurring themes in web 2.0 companies.  From a design perspective, there is definitely a trend.  Bigger fonts, rounded corner, rounded corners on your logo fonts, the list goes on.  One might even venture to say that the design of web 2.0 is “cute”.

Cute is all fine and good, after all who does not like cute.  With that being said, like anything else, too much cuteness and it is no longer cute, it is bordering on gaudy or just over design.  At this point, you are probably asking yourself what in the world does this crackpot know about design, he cannot even draw a straight line.  Correct, I cannot, never claimed to be able to nor ever claimed to be a designer.  But I know something good when I see it, and I have seen enough things to know what is good and what is not (although good is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder).  For the sake of my argument, that eye is mine.

Any who, back to the story.  So instead of trying to one up the latest cute thing, just design and build something that solves a problem.  Don’t over complicate things and over design them, keep them simple and too the point.  Stop missing the forrest because you are too focused on the trees.  Take a step back and have a true understanding of what it is you are trying to build and build a solution that is simple to use and easy to understand.  If that solution winds up being “cute”, great, bonus for everyone.  Don’t let the cute factor drive the solution or you may end up designing yourself right out of a product.