Our tours of Menlo Innovations' factory floor have now gone virtual. We'll spend 90 minutes together sharing Menlo's history, values, culture and practices - and how we've transitioned to where we are today.


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May 2021 Menlo Bits


What it Means to be Human
A note from our CEO, Rich Sheridan

I often say in my talks that we humans have little to worry about machine learning, AI, big data and robotics replacing us. Because the things that make us the most human will never be replaced by computers and software... creativity, imagination, innovation and invention. There is a leadership caveat, though, that these traits are lost when we work in fear, because fear shuts down the part of our brain where these things are fostered.

In honor of the passing of Jim Henson, who died on May 16, 1990, here is his quote on imagination:

"As children, we live in a world of imagination, of fantasy, and for some of us that world of make-believe continues into adulthood. Certainly I've lived my whole life through my imagination. But the world of imagination is there for all of us—a sense of play, of pretending, of wonder. It's there with us as we live."

As we built our wonderful team at Menlo over the years, many would ask what we look for in people who join our team. Our simple answer: good kindergarten skills. I think Jim Henson would have liked that.

High-Tech Anthropology® Workshop: Discovery and Design (Virtual)
Learn about our unique approach to design thinking

How do you create software, products and systems that bring joy to the people you serve? Learn how Menlo's High-Tech Anthropologists®️ go out into the world, observe people in their native environment and use the lessons of the observations, interviews and pain points to design software that solves real world problems in ways that delight the users (rather than confuse them). Register now for our two-day High-Tech Anthropology®️ virtual workshop held June 9-10, 2021 and join us for an immersive, hands-on learning experience. We promise we won't bore you with a PowerPoint lecture. Ideal for product managers/owners and anyone who is interested in incorporating the ‘voice of the customer’ into the products they develop.

Limited seats available! Click here to learn more and register for the workshop!

The Power of Pairing... in the Classroom
Software isn't the only industry where pairing can be effective!

Every year, thousands of visitors come to Menlo Innovations to tour, visit, and learn about our Menlo Way of doing things. This has been true, even during the pandemic. During these highly interactive visits, how and why we pair our team members is often the part of our culture that gets the most attention and the most questions.

Invariably, visitors begin to ask us if we’ve heard of other organizations pairing in any other context. So what about pair teaching? Could that work in schools? Could teachers be more effective? Would students learn more and be more excited about being the classroom?

Our very own Ann Arbor Public Schools is running such an experiment. You can watch the video in our full blog post. Listen to the comments from both the teachers and the students. You will hear many of the same virtues we talk about in pairing, for example:

  • How each teacher has strengths and weaknesses and how pairing can produce stronger results because of those differences.
  • How the students enjoy the classroom experience more
  • How attention can be given to certain problems in a very different way
  • How laughter and camaraderie enhance the environment for learning

We encourage you to try your own pairing experiments and see what happens. We’d love to hear about your experiences!


Story Mapping Workshop
Coming Summer 2021!

One of the most helpful prioritization and alignment tools we use here at Menlo is the Story Map… but the tool doesn't solve the problems, the humans do. Keep an eye out for our Story Mapping workshop coming this summer! This four-hour workshop includes hands-on activities and will teach you the skills needed to create story maps and use them as a tool to facilitate discussions around prioritization in order to build team consensus and react to changes in project timelines and budget 

Get on the early bird list for a special discount! Email us at experience@menloinnovations.com


Think Again
By: Adam Grant

Recommended by:
Mollie Callahan, Senior High-Tech Anthropologist

Adam Grant’s latest book, Think Again, is a timely invitation for the world to loosen its grip on outmoded cognitive tools (including deeply ingrained assumptions, beliefs, and habits) in favor of the less comfortable, but infinitely more effective mental flexibility characteristic of scientific thinking. According to Grant, “Thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind. It means being actively open-minded,” which is harder than it sounds. 

In contrast to the overly confident, ultra-committed positions of preachers, politicians, and prosecutors, scientists acknowledge the limits of their understanding, doubt their own knowledge, are curious about their pockets of ignorance, and regularly update their views based on new information. When “rethinking” our own positions, this approach involves seeking out alternative viewpoints, soliciting critical feedback on our most precious ideas, and adjusting our mental models regularly. When encouraging “rethinking” in others, we should demonstrate “inverse charisma,” whereby the listener “instead of looking smart, makes their audience feel smart” by engaging them with a series of questions designed to help them articulate their own thoughts. In both cases, “confident humility” is the key to success.

Equal parts case study and recipe book for cultivating “rethinking” in our own lives, the lives of others, and in the communities and organizations we live and work in, Think Again, will resonate with wide ranging audiences, including entrepreneurs, leaders, parents and teachers to name a few. Menlo fans will also find strong resonances between Grant’s message and Menlonian values, such as “run the experiment,” saying “I don’t know” and the “make mistakes faster” approach inherent in our High-Tech Anthropology®️ process.

Get your own copy here!

Virtual Sit-Ins with Developers

Recently, when Menlonians find themselves on unpaired work they have been virtually sitting in with developers to not only get sense of connection, but to also overhear a small slice of what is occurring on a different project. With working from home due to the pandemic, versus the lively office environment we had before, there is plenty of opportunity for loneliness and Zoom fatigue to creep in. The pandemic has also made it challenging for newer employees to build relationships with other Menlonians, or get exposure to what Menlo's all about. Our hope with this experiment is that it gives those sitting in an opportunity to hear what would normally be background office chatter, while staying connected in something that doesn't feel like a meeting to build relationships with those they might not have interacted much with otherwise.

As this is still a new experiment, we're interested to see what both newer employees and developer pairs get out this, and hope it reinforces Menlo's culture of paired work. Interested in why pairing is so important to us? You can attend our Virtual Factory Tour to get a better understanding of our culture and values, or our Intro to Pairing and Test-Driven Development Workshop if you want to learn more about what effective paired programming looks like!

Menlo Bits

The Menlo Bits is Menlo's monthly newsletter, filled with all the latest in science and technology trends as well as what's been happening at Menlo.