Listening is hard. It takes effort, patience, and practice. All at once, you’re taking in a narrative, providing cues that you’re engaged (nodding, saying “um-hmm”), analyzing what’s taking place, mulling over cogent responses, and mentally filing away bits to return to later.

I spend a lot of my days interviewing people. Or rather, listening to people—coworkers, customers, and professional colleagues.

The products we use are the result of countless compromises and tradeoffs before we even experience them. Every engineering specification, and every design decision, stem from discussions we’re not privy to about form, time, effort, budget, and so many other considerations.

I’ve traveled a fair bit over the past few years for research projects and to speak at conferences. I strive for something akin to minimalism when packing, though not to the degree that I go without a few creature comforts.

In 2003, Philip Morris, parent company of Philip Morris Tobacco and Kraft foods, rebranded itself. The goal of the rebrand was to, in name only, distance Philip Morris’s tobacco holdings from their other, less negatively perceived company properties (like Oreo Cookies and Miller Beer). Thus a new, nonsensical name for...