Listening is an often undervalued skill. Often you can do a better job of communicating what you want other to know by listening better to your audience. The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction is a very practical guide to understanding impediments to listening better, and improving your listening skills.
This is not a typical communications book full of techniques to help you convince others that you are listening. This book focuses on techniques to help you build a mindset to listen better. You'll learn how you think about interactions, and how that thinking affects how you respond.
This was a deceptively simple read. The book was easy to get through, but after you read each chapter you are left with a lot to think about. The book will leave you with insights that will help you to understand and improve your interactions with others. As you read, you'll understand both about how you listen, and why some interactions might bother you. With this information you can start figuring out how much you can change your approach to an interaction to get the most out of it.
In addition to stories, examples, and advice, each chapter ends with a few simple exercises to help you practice what the chapter discusses. In spite of the title, the explicit references to Zen philosophy and techniques are few. The importance of meditation as a way to help you learn to reduce distractions is a recurring theme. This is a very practical book with advice that you can start using immediately.
My one minor complaint about the book is that a brief discussion in the last chapter about the negative effects of online interactions seemed to be a missed opportunity. While it is good to keep challenges of various media in mind, it would have been a pleasant surprise to see a discussion of how the lessons in the book could be applied to make all interactions more effective. This does not take away the value of the book, and perhaps applying the techniques to other forms of communication can be an exercise for the reader. This is worth a read if you are interested in learning more about how you can listen and communicate better.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Sunday, August 25, 2013
I recently received a review copy of another book in Eric Reis's Lean series, UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design. In this book, with a lively, if somewhat irreverent, tone, Laura Klein guides you through the process of using UX as a gateway into finding a market and eventually, success. This book has pragmatic advice on what to do and how to do it now, and more importantly, what not to spend time on. Not just a concept book, this book discusses tools and detailed approaches. Klein addresses many of the concerns people might have about "skipping steps" in order to be lean, and explains the both the challenges and benefits of a lean approach to UX design. The author discusses how UX fits into an agile startup environment.
This book shares some of the irreverant tone of another book geared to people starting a business: The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field. The author's tone takes a bit of getting used to, but the advice is good, and actionable, and the style of the writing emphasizes the "just do it" theme of the book.
UX For Lean Startups has a slightly different audience than the earlier, similarly titled book Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience. Looking at the books, it's a bit unclear which one to read. As it happens, Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience is more about how to apply Lean Principles to UX design, with an eye toward migrating from a non-iterative UX process to a more iterative, lean, agile process. That book seemed to be geared more towards UX professionals, though anyone who touches UX could benefit from it. Lean UX for Startups addresses the needs of entrepreneurs and members of a startup who want to have a good UX, but can't waste a lot of time and effors on it. I'd reccommend that either individual get both books. But if you are building a startup, this one will give you the most actionable advice quickly.
You can benefit from reading both books. If you want to read one on UX, you might get more out of the Lean UX book. And Maybe read Lean Startup or perhaps the Pumpkin Plan. This book will add information so it is worth a read. The 4 books I mentioned would be a good addition to the library of anyone who is starting a business and wants to deliver value quickly.