Month: October, 2018

Deviation From Expected

Someone sitting at a distance asks for the water bottle near me. I pick up the bottle and throw it at that person. Surprisingly, the cap is not screwed. Water splashes all over. When a bottle has its cap on, we usually expect it to be tightly screwed. When something deviates from the expected, unless there is an indication saying so, it creates trouble and confusion.


The same principle applies to systems and application design. For example, let us say that you have a development server where someone is running a production cron job. Since this is a development server, someone might take it down for experimentation. No one expects the non-availability of a development server to have untoward consequence.

Whenever you deviate from the expected, ensure you scream from the top of your voice so that no one misses it. Documentation, common conventions and putting in the right processes are some of the ways to mitigate this. The best is not to do it. Whatever you are doing, it always helps to ask, is this a deviation from the expected? If I am not part of the inner circle, would I expect it to be like this?


New Feature Efficacy

You have an established product, and you introduce a radically new/different feature. You are very enthusiastic, but the metrics show users are hardly using this.

There could be two reasons:
1. Users do not see a value.
2. Could be resistance to newness.



It is essential to zero in on the above to decide whether to put in more effort into the feature. If this is indeed resistance to newness, there might be multiple ways to nudge your users towards the feature gently.

A straightforward way to figure this out is to measure the stickiness of the feature. Of the small percentage of your users who do interact with the features, how many of them come back to it subsequently, i.e. once people are acquainted with the feature, do they come back to it later? If you see stickiness in this cohort, it is a good indicator that the feature is of value, you are doing a lousy job in educating your users and leading them to it. If not, it is time to cull the feature and invest that time and energy in something else.

Resolving Disagreements

When you disagree with something, either you do it because you think your idea is better or you want to keep your ego intact. Let us ignore the latter and focus on the former where the intention is to let the best idea win. When a group of people sit down and try to resolve disagreements, many a time, it goes nowhere. Sometimes you get this strange feeling of things going around in a circle. This is due to whataboutery and shifting goal posts. You start with an objective, as the discussion progresses, statements lead to counter statements and at the end, no one knows what they are trying to resolve.


One simple hack to keep discussions on track is to write things down. Project a shared document where you note the objective and the point of contention. Whenever matters go awry, point people to the shared document. This helps everyone involved to stay focused and not to shift goal post as the discussion progresses.

Irrespective of how rational and mature one is, when someone disagrees with something that one believes to be true, one tends to become defensive and shift goal post without truly being aware of it. Writing things down makes one aware of this and helps course correct.

My View

I was looking at Jimi wallets online. Someone peeked at my laptop and asked what is it? I explained it is a rugged waterproof wallet. The other person’s immediate reaction was – Why would anyone need this? This person has never faced the fury of rain while cycling outside.


Whenever I explain startups spending marketing dollars to acquire users even when they are not generating any profit, I get a dazed look from people coming from a traditional business background. It is difficult for them to grasp the concept of betting on explosive future growth at the expense of today.

Phil Knight, in his book Shoe Dog, writes a lot about how his bank was asking him to preserve capital when all he wanted to do was grow Nike at all costs during its fledgling years.

A lot of prolific US citizens opinionated that Trump had a naught chance at US presidency. The same goes for Brexit.

What is common in all these situations is a difficulty in viewing the world from a lens not tarred by our own experiences. Even if you want to do this, it is extremely difficult to implement because you do not know where to draw the line. Tomorrow, if someone tells you that she has invented the perpetual motion machine, what do you do? Do you dismiss it outright or be skeptical of this person’s claim?

In all these scenarios you have to do suspend your rational mind and view things from a radically incongruent perspective. It is easy to write this but extremely difficult to implement.