TLF Gems Newsletter July 2022

Your monthly CX and insight newsletter from TLF Research

I talk to an actor of what he should be thinking rather than what he should be doing.

F.W. Murnau

Those of you who have been reading these newsletters for a while will know that there are a few drums I like to bang on a regular basis. Two that get a good airing this time are the idea that details are really important when it comes to the design of customer experiences, and that systems thinking is vital if you want to find ways to improve almost anything.

Those might almost seem like they're in opposition — one involves diving right down into the nitty-gritty, while the other is about stepping back to get a holistic view — but actually I think they're very complementary. The details matter because they are part of a complex system, that's why they can have such a profound effect on the experience.

Thanks for reading,


Here are 7 things we think are worth your time this month

It's Worse Than You Think

I really enjoyed this edition of Oliver Burkeman's newsletter arguing that we often make ourselves miserable not by being too pessimistic, but by being too optimistic. That to-do list of yours isn't just hard, it's impossible, and accepting that can be surprisingly freeing. "...we can't ever get free from the limited and vulnerable and uncertain situation in which we find ourselves. But when you grasp that you'll never get free from it, that's when you're finally free in it..."

Read: It's Worse Than You Think

The Power Of Prototyping

I'm a big fan of prototyping as a way to evaluate ideas, "sketch" new experiences in three dimensions, and get the opportunity to learn and adapt as early as possible in the design process. This is a great article from IDEO about the benefits. "...prototyping has been the best tool for shaking up entrenched thoughts about how teams should work together. It not only provides teams with an opportunity to test assumptions and generate radically new ideas, but it also helps spark alignment and build confidence across disparate stakeholders."

Read: The Power Of Prototyping

Productivity Is About Systems Not People

Excellent article, which ties in with Cal Newport's thinking about counteracting the "hyperactive hive mind". Productivity for knowledge workers is not really about individual time management, but about creating better systems for working together. "The pursuit of individual productivity is healthy and worthwhile. However, unless you work independently outside of an organization, the benefits of most 'tricks' will be limited. To make a real impact on performance, you have to work at the system level."

Read: Productivity Is About Systems Not People

How Fonts Make Us Feel

I'm always banging the drum for the importance of details in the customer experience. This interesting study from Monotype looks at how fonts can influence our emotions. "'...brands that take type for granted and employ a poorly chosen typeface risk alienating their customers, negatively impacting the bottom line.'”

Read: How Fonts Make Us Feel

Hostile Architecture

Interesting article about a new exhibition exploring the topic of "defensive design" or "hostile architecture" — designs which are intended to deter or prevent people and animals from doing certain things, like anti-pigeon spikes or benches which are impossible to sleep on. Interesting stuff, whatever your take on the ethics of it all, and there are clear lessons for customer and employee experience about the way the design of spaces can influence behaviour. "'What we see more recently are clever ways of using hostile architecture to change the way that a public space can be used. It makes you question how public the space really is.'"

Read: Hostile Architecture

Sabotaging Ourselves

In 1944 the OSS created a field manual for agents behind enemy lines who wanted to disrupt and sabotage enemy industry. As Dave Trott points out in this blog, the list of recommended actions for middle managers makes frighteningly familiar reading. Are we sabotaging ourselves? "'Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible, haggle over precise wording. Hold conferences when there is more important work to be done.'"

Read: Sabotaging Ourselves

Top Reads: The Personal MBA

This book was suggested to me by my colleague Chris. I have to admit I was pretty sceptical at first, but it really is a very good summary of many key principles of business. It won't give you an in-depth view of any one topic, fairly obviously, but it's a great starting point to understand areas where you may feel a bit rusty, or to point you towards popular models. "To improve your business skills, you don't need to learn everything there is to know—mastering the fundamentals can take you surprisingly far."

Top Reads: The Personal MBA

If you'd ever like to have a look at our list of past Top Reads, they're all catalogued here - enough reading to keep anyone going for a while!