Signal Versus Artifact

After reading this article which is an excerpt from Gerald Weinbergs book, Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach, I was taken aback by the fact that it perfectly illustrated a phenomenon I have been noticed and have been referring to as Signal vs Artifact. Signal vs Artifact is the notion that when interacting with someone, we do not remember them for their specific actions (signals), but rather a derivative of the overall interaction(s) (artifact). The line that resonates the strongest with me is, “When such nontechnical psychologists observe our workshops, they are consistently befuddled by the dynamics of the teams as they solve technical problems.” I feel the term nontechnical psychologists could just as easily be replaced by nontechnical people. And even in his example, a team that is solving a problem.

I am not sure how to solve this problem on larger level, but some interim methods I have been playing with are: always replying to all in email, goodwill banter, including everyone in a decision, arguing for show, and banana bribes. While these actions sound silly, they are structured in such a way that my skills and passions are provided an abstraction layer that amplifies the artifact that will remain in others minds even when the signal is should be enough. I would like to say that I hate people that excessively reply all to an email, but by always replying to all a level of trust is engaged in that allows for a clear landing strip for your signals to set down upon. Some times office banter can be unhealthy if it is about excessive personal drama (poisonous artifact), by engaging in goodwill banter that is related to the industry or popular culture the persons who is being interrupted can have their train of thought can be derailed and placed on a different set of tracks (timing is everything and some people have too much momentum to be derailed). By including everyone in a decision the group consensus can be reached much faster and people will appreciate that you are keeping them in the loop despite the fact that it may have interrupted their work flow. People like passion and managers like to see a little arguing for show every now and again, this ensures that the highest level of quality will surface and passion is still present. Twice a week I bring bananas as a bribe, this is partially because I dont want to pay $1 down stairs at the cafe for a single banana and mostly because of the Burning Man principle of gifting altruistically. Now I have my own insecurities like anyone else, so I question if these solutions (tactics) are the best course of action from time to time.

But then I chalk it up to having to change the oil or grease a wheel and really just try to make the most of the time spent with the team I am working with on a altruistically human level. So even if the signal vs artifact hacking solutions are not the best, I figure it is a convenient excuse to engage in activities that lie within both edges of the gradient of things I think make the world a better-worst place.

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