Gap Experiences, Betaworks, Leadership

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This week, the first official days of summer at the school where I work, I batched four tasks that I had been actively avoiding.  They all had one thing in common: they involved a single prolonged interaction with a website that, I knew from experience, was unpleasant.
I had to do what many parents have to do at this time of year — sign-up my kids for summer activities, sharing information and money with organizations that, day-to-day and offline, are terrific at what they do.  Day-to-day and offline, they engage my children, stretch them, encourage them, and help them practice all kinds of useful life skills. Online, where I intermittently have to engage with them, these same organizations push me away, frustrate me, make me feel demoralized, and sometimes even drive me to spend my money elsewhere.

The distance between their offline and online performance is staggering.  It makes me think about the importance of the gap experiences that exist between users and services, between users and products, between the internet and the world.

In our new book, Reshan Richards and I write about leaders that take responsibility for similar gap experiences and seek to improve them.  Such leaders — who dedicate resources to helping online interactions support, and even improve, face-to-face interactions — are adept at blending their leadership, in the same way that some teachers are adept at blending their instruction.  They enhance face-to-face experiences by being hellbent on building good internet experiences.

I cribbed that italicized phrase from Molly McHugh, who used it to describe Betaworks, a company that describes itself as “a start-up studio based in New York that make essential products that thoughtfully combine art and science.”

McHugh’s article, written for The Ringer, highlights some essential, replicable approaches used by Betaworks on their way to building and supporting beloved products like Instapaper, Chartbeat, and Dots.

[Betaworks] solved pain points (do you remember what searching for and making GIFs used to be like?), addressed technical issues platforms wouldn’t (Bitly fixed tweet links before Twitter would), and just made us happy (I know I’m not the only one who can lose a cool 30 minutes to Dots when I’m in the zone).

Any leader of the organizations whose websites drive me crazy would claim to be people who care about solving pain points, addressing technical issues, and making people happy.  The problem, it seems to me, is that they treat the online components of their businesses as second class experiences.  That’s not bad IT; it’s bad leadership.

Read McHugh’s complete article, which is fascinating for many more reasons than the ones listed above, here:


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