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Make Life Easier with Consistent Patterns with Professor Bob Glushko

By March 18, 2024April 4th, 2024No Comments

Hey, I’m Lindsay, the host of Make Sense w/ Lindsay T., Lady Engineer®, a weekly podcast where my guests and I simplify complex topics at the intersection of people & technology. We analyze whatever hot mess is in the news, evaluate trending innovations through a human-first lens, and take deep dives on a need-to-know basis.

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“You should have me on your podcast,” he said. After all, he’s teaching a course called Sensemaking and Organizing and I host a podcast called Make Sense.

Challenge, gleefully, accepted!

In this episode of Make Sense, I am thrilled to be hosting Professor Bob Glushko, my research advisor while I studied at UC-Berkeley’s School of Information ’05-’07. For 3 of 4 semesters, we worked together performing research on designing service systems. Based on the title of his course and my podcast, I suppose the intellectual apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

A paper we published back then has been cited 100s of times, laying the foundation for today’s most formative design thinking and service design books.

Lindsay Tabas holding a book titled Subject to Change
That’s me holding the book Subject to Change by Adaptive Path. They cited our paper.

My big question to Bob:

Why hasn’t the technology industry been able to simplify the complex web of systems and data over the past 17 years since we worked together?

In this week’s episode of Make Sense, we also chat:

➡️ The immense data problems we’re facing, and which competing interests stand in the way of simplicity

➡️ The principles of Sensemaking and Organizing in a way kids can understand

➡️ What academia can learn from the massive data startups and tech giants collect

Reference the full show notes below.

Choice Quote

“We say to kids, ‘Don’t put all of your books in your backpack, it’ll be too heavy to carry.’

What do you do to solve that problem?

We need to teach them, ‘Let me sort my things into categories based on the things I need today.’

Practice these skills [with them] rather than giving vapid advice.”

– Bob Glushko, Professor, UC-Berkeley’s Cognitive Science Program

Apicture of Lindsay Tabas and a picture of Professor Bob Glushko with the title Mastering Organization How to become effective learners leaders and problem solvers

Buck the media hype cycle. Calm the fear-mongering. Laugh at the inanity of Tech CEO “hero culture.” Be the smartest person in your peer’s LinkedIn feed:

Key Takeaways with Professor Bob Glushko

For Make Sense regulars, I changed the format of this episode to ensure we have time to touch on a variety of topics with Bob. Therefore, I don’t have “Crystal Ball” predictions to share with you. Instead, I’m sharing some quick points:

  1. Making sense of the world around us is natural and crucial for problem-solving. It allows us to analyze situations by organizing information in meaningful ways.
  2. Leverage consistent patterns and avoid reinvention in problem-solving and design. Patterns promote comprehension, efficiency, simplicity, and better user experiences.
  3. Complex challenges in data standardization stand in the way of achieving unified information systems, keeping our everyday interactions with big companies fragmented and disjointed.
  4. Rushing towards a solution without thorough problem analysis leads to inefficiencies, suboptimal outcomes, and wasted resources.

Listen now on Apple, Spotify & YouTube

Show Notes

00:00 Introduction and Overview
03:18 The Importance of Sense Making and Organizing
11:09 The Role of Organizing in Problem Solving and Design
19:02 Applying Organizing Concepts in Everyday Life 35:09 Challenges in Data Standardization
39:10 The Complexity of Government Systems
42:11 The Consequences of Poorly Designed Systems
45:46 The Disconnect Between Academia and Industry
51:41 Overcoming Ego and Focusing on Problem Solving
53:34 Key Takeaways and Closing Remarks

Where to find Bob Glushko

Bob Glushko is an Adjust Professor at the University of California at Berkeley in the Cognitive Science Program, which he joined after fifteen years at the School of Information. Glushko received his PhD in 1979 at the University of California, San Diego with cognitive science pioneer David Rumelhart as his thesis advisor. Since then, he has followed a nontraditional, non-linear, and opportunistic career path in research, applied research, technology transfer, and consulting, as an entrepreneurial co-founder of three companies, as a board member for international standards organizations, and as a professor.

The Discipline of Organizing:
The Discipline of Organizing for Kids:

Where to find Lindsay Tabas


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