Thursday, December 27, 2012

Minimize Regrets And Not Failures

While I ponder on 2012 and plan for 2013, I always keep the regret minimization framework (watch the short video clip above) in back of my mind. Of course luck plays a huge part in people's success, but we owe it a lot to Jeff Bezos. We probably wouldn't have seen and we most certainly would not have seen EC2. No one predicted anything about Amazon being a key cloud player. A few years back Twitter didn't exist and Facebook was limited to college kids. I do make plans but I have stopped predicting since I will most certainly get it wrong.

"Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." - Dwight Eisenhower

I use regret minimization framework not only as a long-term thinking tool but also to make decisions in short-term. It helps me assess, prioritize, and focus on right opportunities. While long-term thinking is a good thing, I strongly believe in setting short term goals, meeting them, and more importantly cherishing them. If you're not minimizing regret you're minimizing fear of failures. I don't fear failures, I celebrate them; they're a learning opportunity. As Bill Cosby put it, "In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."

All the best with your introspection and indispensable planning for 2013. Focus on the journey, the planning, and not the destination, the plan.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Objectively Inconsistent

During his recent visit to the office of 37 Signals, Jeff Bezos said, "to be consistently objective, one has to be objectively inconsistent." I find this perspective very refreshing that is applicable to all things and all disciplines in life beyond just product design. As a product designer you need to have a series of point of views (POV) that would be inconsistent when seen together but each POV at any given time will be consistently objective. This is what design thinking, especially prototyping is all about. It shifts a subjective conversation between people to an objective conversation about a design artifact.

As I have blogged before I see data scientists as design thinkers. Most data scientists that I know of have knowledge-curse. I would like them to be  consistently objective by going through the journey of analyzing data without any pre-conceived bias. The knowledge-curse makes people commit more mistakes. It also makes them defend their POV instead of looking for new information and have courage to challenge and change it. I am a big fan of work of Daniel Kahneman. I would argue that prototyping helps deal with what Kahneman describers as "cognitive sophistication."
The problem with this introspective approach is that the driving forces behind biases—the root causes of our irrationality—are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence.
This very cognitive sophistication works against people who cannot self-analyze themselves and be critical to their own POV. Prototyping brings in objectivity and external validation to eliminate this unconscious-driven irrationality. It's fascinating what happens when you put prototypes in the hands of users. They interact with it in unanticipated ways. These discoveries are not feasible if you hold on to single POV and defend it.

Let it go. Let the prototype speak your design—your product POV—and not your unconscious.

Photo courtesy: New Yorker