Why the heck is she doing that?

Good Will Hunting is the story of Will(Matt Damon), a janitor at MIT, who is an undiscovered maths savant. Will is an orphan who spends his spare time drinking with his buddies and getting into petty scuffles. Professor Lambeau(Stellan Skarsgård) discovers Will’s mathematical acumen and promises Will a fulfilling life. Professor Lambeau tries to get Will interested in working with him on hard math problems. Will resists his efforts, and Professor Lambeau cannot grasp why. Professor Lambeau approaches his psychologist friend Dr. Sean Maguire(Robin Williams) to help him get to Will.

Below is the explosive scene where Sean(the psychologist) explains to Professor Lambeau(maths professor) that Will’s life experiences make him behave the way he does.

Perspective dictates our actions and decisions. We do not act and decide based only on the data at hand. Our life experience plays a significant role in our actions and decisions. Perspective is how we color the information we have with our life experiences.

Two people might have the same information, but their life stories will compel them to make different decisions.

Someone who has made risky choices in the past and succeeded will tend to make more dangerous decisions. Someone who has made risky choices in the past and failed will lean towards conservative options.

We encounter situations in our lives where we cannot comprehend others’ actions. We think—what this person should be doing is obvious; even then, why is this person not doing that? 

Whenever we see someone acting differently than what we expect, the questions to ask are:

  1. Does this person have some information that I do not?
  2. How does this person’s life experience differ from mine?

Even though the above might sound obvious, this kind of structural thinking does not come naturally. Many just seeth at others acting weirdly without ever pondering why.

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Fade to back

In this post, I will walk you through the principles to keep in mind while designing processes.

The north star:

If you want someone to do something, make it easy for them to do it.

When someone wants to start the fitness journey, the standard advice is to start with an exercise regime that is easy to do.

If you do not want someone to do something, make it difficult for them to do it.

If someone wants to stop eating junk food, the standard advice is to clean their house of junk food.

Keep the above two principles in mind when you think of processes.


What a process should not do:

A process should not eliminate autonomy and introduce coupling between individuals or teams.

A process should not kill creativity by making it difficult to do things.

Good processes are those that are autonomous and become a habit. A process becomes a burden when you have to spend energy thinking about it and doing it. If it becomes an integral part of doing things, it no longer feels like a burden.


You want people to wear seat belts while driving; you create a process to enforce this. Let us go through some of the different ways to do this.

A way:

Everyone has to take approval before they get into their car. They go to someone and say I want to take my car out. That person accompanies them to their vehicle, makes sure they wear seat belt, and then hands over the car keys.

The above is an example of a bad process. It is restrictive and will slow you down. It eliminates autonomy—you are always dependent on someone else to do something. It kills creativity by introducing coupling—you are making it hard to do things.

Another way:

You emphasize the importance of seat belt. You create awareness about the dangers of not wearing seat belt. When someone gets into a car, an automated message prompts them to wear seat belt. If they do not wear seat belt, the message continues to beep. You put stickers on dashboards of cars, reminding people to wear seat belt. You mandate painting seat belts in glowing colors to avoid missing them while entering a vehicle. After doing all these, you have random checks on the road for people who do not wear seat belt.

The above has all the hallmarks of a good process. You are trying to convert wearing a seat belt into a habit.

Yet another way:

Device a mechanism so that the car does not start until one wears a seatbelt.

The above is the best way to institute a process. It is autonomous, easy to follow, habit building, and does not let anyone not do it.

A process becomes a burden when it is not part of the way of doing things. In the seat belt example, you start your car and drive some distance. You suddenly remember the dictum to wear seat belt. You look for a safe place to stop, wear your seat belt, and start again. When you go through this, the process mandating seat belt feels like a burden. Contrast this with starting your vehicle by wearing seat belt. If wearing the seat belt while starting a vehicle becomes a habit, it does not feel like a burden anymore. The act of wearing seat belt fades to back.

Best processes are the ones that fade to back.

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Photo by mohammad alizade on Unsplash