An evening with Jonathon Colman

An evening with Jonathon Colman

Facebook Content Strategist Jonathon Colman is in the country for Webstock 2017. He was kind enough to visit the Auckland Content Strategy MeetUp while in Auckland and answer a few questions. 

It was far from a one-way conversation, though. He asked almost as many questions as he answered in an entertaining and interesting discussion about content, work, and wicked problems.

Sketch/Note - please excuse the poor scan: I won't be using coloured pencil again :)

The first questions of the evening were about struggle: how can we do our best work when managers and clients don't (or won't) understand how long things take to do? How can we do our best work with everything else we need to do?

Jonathon suggested be we be bold; to work on things that have impact; to aim to do our best work 95% of the time. He urged us to say no from time to time, and be open about what we want.

"Be open about what you want, your dreams, your next job, the types of problems you want to solve. By being open people will run to you; they'll want to work with you; we can all help each other."

This theme threaded its way through the evening from Content Strategy to critiquing each others work to analytics and unsolvable problems.

Two things Jonathon said stuck with me. The first was about how Facebook uses critique. That by providing context and defining the problem, a direct request for feedback results in solving problems before they get too big. He said that excellence in giving feedback was a performance-review level competency at Facebook. He recommended we read Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson (link below) for understanding how to have those tough conversations around feedback and criticism.

The second thing I found intriguing was around rewarding support. Reward the people who diminish the technical debt on your project; those that provide backup and maintenance on your builds. Those we hand our work over who have to live with our decisions need to know they're doing a good job looking after the platforms and components we built for them. While we often have "shout outs" in our Retrospective that include support people, I need to think about those who are further afield and in back in the past. 

Jonathon has a particular passion for wicked problems.

"Problems so big and hard to solve that even when you break them down to smaller chunks, those chunks remain unsolvable too!"

He felt it's important to work on these unsolvable problems because even tiny inroads against the whole immovable problem would make things better over time. He'll be talking about Wicked Problems at Webstock in Wellington later this month - and there's still time to buy tickets :)

A few takeaways

  • Be focused on solving problems
  • Be open about what you want
  • Do your best work 95% of the time
  • Be bold and make an impact
  • Keep learning



Jeff Gothelf – Almost Everything I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Lean UX

Jeff Gothelf – Almost Everything I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Lean UX

An Introduction to Evidence-Based Design