All posts by Richard

Book Notes: Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows, Diana Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary of Systems Principles

Systems

  • A system is more than the sum of its parts.
  • Many of the interconnections in systems operate through the flow of information.
  • The least obvious part of the system, its function or purpose, is often the most crucial determinant of the system’s behaviour.
  • System structure is the source of system behaviour. System behaviour reveals itself as a series of events over time.

Stocks, Flows, and Dynamic Equilibrium

  • A stock is the memory of the history of changing flows within the system.
  • If the sum of inflows exceeds the sum of outflows, the stock level will rise.
  • If the sum of outflows exceeds the sum of inflows, the stock level will fall.
  • If the sum of outflows equals the sum of inflows, the stock level will not change – it will be held in dynamic equilibrium.
  • A stock can be increased by decreasing its outflow rate as well as by increasing its inflow rate.
  • Stocks act as delays or buffers or shock absorbers in systems. Stocks allow inflows and outflows to be de-coupled and independent.

Feedback Loops

  • A feedback loop is a closed chain of causal connections from a stock, through a set of decisions or rules or physical laws or actions that are dependent on the level of the stock, and back again through a flow to change the stock.
  • Balancing feedback loops are equilibrating or goal-seeking structures in systems and are both sources of stability and sources of resistance to change.
  • Reinforcing feedback loops are self-enhancing, leading to exponential growth or to runaway collapses over time.
  • The information delivered by a feedback loop even nonphysical feedback-can affect only future behaviour; it can’t deliver a signal fast enough to correct behaviour that drove the current feedback.
  • A stock-maintaining balancing feedback loop must have its goal set appropriately to compensate for draining or inflowing processes that affect that stock. Otherwise, the feedback process will fall short of or exceed the target for the stock. Systems with similar feedback structures produce similar dynamic behaviours.

Shifting Dominance, Delays, and Oscillations

  • Complex behaviours of systems often arise as the relative strengths of feedback loops shift, causing first one loop and then another to dominate behaviour.
  • A delay in a balancing feedback loop makes a system likely to oscillate.
  • Changing the length of a delay may make a large change in the behaviour of a system.

Scenarios and Testing Models

  • System dynamics models explore possible futures and ask “what if” questions.
  • Model utility depends not on whether its driving scenarios are realistic (since no one can know that for sure), but on whether it responds with a realistic pattern of behaviour.

Constraints on Systems

  • In physical, exponentially growing systems, there must be at least one reinforcing loop driving the growth and at least one balancing loop constraining the growth, because no system can grow forever in a finite environment.
  • Nonrenewable resources are stock-limited.
  • Renewable resources are flow-limited.

Resilience, Self-Organization, and Hierarchy

  • There are always limits to resilience.
  • Systems need to be managed not only for productivity or stability, they also need to be managed for resilience.
  • Systems often have the property of self-organization the ability to structure themselves, to create new structure, to learn, diversify, and complexify.
  • Hierarchical systems evolve from the bottom up. The purpose of the upper layers of the hierarchy is to serve the purposes of the lower layers.

Source of System Surprises

  • Many relationships in systems are nonlinear.
  • There are no separate systems. The world is a continuum. Where to draw a boundary around a system depends the purpose of the discussion.
  • At any given time, the input that is most important to a system is the one that is most limiting.
  • Any physical entity with multiple inputs and outputs is surrounded by layers of limits.
  • There always will be limits to growth.
  • A quantity growing exponentially toward a limit reaches that limit in a surprisingly short time.
  • When there are long delays in feedback loops, some sort of foresight is essential.
  • The bounded rationality of each actor in a system may not lead to decisions that further the welfare of the system as a whole.

Mindsets and Models

  • Everything we think we know about the world is a model.
  • Our models do have a strong congruence with the world.
  • Our models fall far short of representing the real world fully.

Springing the System Traps

Policy Resistance

Trap: When various actors try to pull a system state toward various goals, the result can be policy resistance. Any new policy, especially if it’s effective, just pulls the system state farther from the goals of other actors and produces additional resistance, with a result that no one likes, but that everyone expends considerable effort in maintaining.

The Way Out: Let go. Bring in all the actors and use the energy formerly expended on resistance to seek out mutually satisfactory ways for all goals to be realized or redefinitions of larger and more important goals that everyone can pull toward together.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Trap: When there is a commonly shared resource, every user benefits directly from its use, but shares the costs of its abuse with everyone else. Therefore, there is very weak feedback from the condition of the resource to the decisions of the resource users. The consequence is overuse of the resource, eroding it until it becomes unavailable to anyone.

The Way Out: Educate and exhort the users, so they understand the consequences of abusing the resource. And also restore or strengthen the missing feedback link, either by privatizing the resource so each user feels the direct consequences of its abuse or (since many resources cannot be privatized) by regulating the access of all users to the resource.

Drift to Low Performance

Trap: Allowing performance standards to be influenced by past performance, especially if there is a negative bias in perceiving past performance. sets up a reinforcing feedback loop of eroding goals that sets a system drifting toward low performance.

The Way Out: Keep performance standards absolute. Even better, let standards be enhanced by the best actual performances instead of being discouraged by the worst. Set up a drift toward high performance!

Escalation

Trap: When the state of one stock is determined by trying to surpass the state of another stock and vice versa-then there is a reinforcing feed back loop carrying the system into an arms race, a wealth race, a smear campaign, escalating loudness, escalating violence. The escalation is expo nential and can lead to extremes surprisingly quickly. If nothing is done, the spiral will be stopped by someone’s collapse because exponential growth cannot go on forever.

The Way Out: The best way out of this trap is to avoid getting in it. If caught in an escalating system, one can refuse to compete (unilaterally disarm), thereby interrupting the reinforcing loop. Or one can negotiate a new system with balancing loops to control the escalation.

Success to the Successful

Trap: If the winners of a competition are systematically rewarded with the means to win again, a reinforcing feedback loop is created by which, if it is allowed to proceed uninhibited, the winners eventually take all, while the losers are eliminated.

The Way Out: Diversification, which allows those who are losing the competition to get out of that game and start another one; strict limitation on the fraction of the pie any one winner may win (antitrust laws); policies that level the playing field, removing some of the advantage of the strongest players or increasing the advantage of the weakest; policies that devise rewards for success that do not bias the next round of competition.

Shifting the Burden to the Intervenor

Trap: Shifting the burden, dependence, and addiction arise when a solu tion to a systemic problem reduces (or disguises) the symptoms, but does nothing to solve the underlying problem. Whether it is a substance that dulls one’s perception or a policy that hides the underlying trouble, the drug of choice interferes with the actions that could solve the real prob Jem.

If the intervention designed to correct the problem causes the self-main taining capacity of the original system to atrophy or erode, then a destruc live reinforcing feedback loop is set in motion. The system deteriorates; more and more of the solution is then required. The system will become more and more dependent on the intervention and less and less able to maintain its own desired state.

The Way Out: Again, the best way out of this trap is to avoid getting in. Beware of symptom-relieving or signal-denying policies or practices that don’t really address the problem. Take the focus off short-term relief and put it on long-term restructuring.

If you are the intervenor, work in such a way as to restore or enhance the system’s own ability to solve its problems, then remove yourself.

If you are the one with an unsupportable dependency, build your system’s own capabilities back up before removing the intervention. Do it right away. The longer you wait, the harder the withdrawal process will be.

Rule Beating

Trap: Rules to govern a system can lead to rule-beating-perverse behaviour that gives the appearance of obeying the rules or achieving the goals, but that actually distorts the system.

The Way Out: Design, or redesign, rules to release creativity not in the direction of beating the rules, but in the direction of achieving the purpose of the rules.

Seeking the Wrong Goal

Trap: System behavior is particularly sensitive to the goals of feedback loops. If the goals-the indicators of satisfaction of the rules-are defined inaccurately or incompletely, the system may obediently work to produce a result that is not really intended or wanted.

The Way Out: Specify indicators and goals that reflect the real welfare of the system. Be especially careful not to confuse effort with result or you will end up with a system that is producing effort, not result.

  1. Numbers: Constants and parameters such as subsidies, taxes, and standards
  2. Buffers: The sizes of stabilizing stocks relative to their flows
  3. Stock-and-Flow Structures: Physical systems and their nodes intersection
  4. Delays: The lengths of time relative to the rates of system changes
  5. Balancing Feedback Loops: The strength of the feedbacks relative to the impacts they are trying to correct
  6. Reinforcing Feedback Loops: The strength of the gain of driving loops
  7. Information Flows: The structure of who does and does not have access to information
  8. Rules: Incentives, punishments, constraints
  9. Self-Organization: The power to add, change, or evolve system structure
  10. Goals: The purpose of the system
  11. Paradigms: The mind-set out of which the system-its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters arises
  12. Transcending Paradigms

Guidelines for Living in a World of Systems

  1. Get the beat of the system.
  2. Expose your mental models to the light of day.
  3. Honour, respect, and distribute information.
  4. Use language with care and enrich it with systems concepts.
  5. Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.
  6. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
  7. Go for the good of the whole.
  8. Listen to the wisdom of the system.
  9. Locate responsibility within the system.
  10. Stay humble-stay a learner.
  11. Celebrate complexity.
  12. Expand time horizons.
  13. Defy the disciplines.
  14. Expand the boundary of caring.
  15. Don’t erode the goal of goodness.

Book Notes: Software Engineering at Google

Software Engineering at Google: Lessons Learned from Programming Over Time by Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck, Hyrum Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is Software Engineering?

  • “Software engineering” differs from “programming” in dimensionality: program ming is about producing code. Software engineering extends that to include the maintenance of that code for its useful life span.
  • There is a factor of at least 100,000 times between the life spans of short-lived code and long-lived code. It is silly to assume that the same best practices apply universally on both ends of that spectrum.
  • Software is sustainable when, for the expected life span of the code, we are capable of responding to changes in dependencies, technology, or product requirements. We may choose to not change things, but we need to be capable.
  • Hyrum’s Law: with a sufficient number of users of an API, it does not matter what you promise in the contract: all observable behaviors of your system will be depended on by somebody.
  • Every task your organization has to do repeatedly should be scalable (linear or better) in terms of human input. Policies are a wonderful tool for making processes scalable.
  • Process inefficiencies and other software-development tasks tend to scale up slowly. Be careful about boiled-frog problems.
  • Expertise pays off particularly well when combined with economies of scale. 
  • “Because I said so” is a terrible reason to do things.
  • Being data driven is a good start, but in reality, most decisions are based on a mix of data, assumption, precedent, and argument. It’s best when objective data makes up the majority of those inputs, but it can rarely be all of them.
  • Being data driven over time implies the need to change directions when the data changes (or when assumptions are dispelled). Mistakes or revised plans are inevitable.

Culture

How to Work Well on Teams?

  • Be aware of the trade-offs of working in isolation.
  • Acknowledge the amount of time that you and your team spend communicating and in interpersonal conflict. A small investment in understanding personalities and working styles of yourself and others can go a long way toward improving productivity. 
  • If you want to work effectively with a team or a large organization, be aware of your preferred working style and that of others.

Knowledge Sharing

  • Psychological safety is the foundation for fostering a knowledge-sharing environment.
  • Start small: ask questions and write things down. . Make it easy for people to get the help they need from both human experts and documented references.
  • At a systemic level, encourage and reward those who take time to teach and broaden their expertise beyond just themselves, their team, or their organization.
  • There is no silver bullet: empowering a knowledge-sharing culture requires a combination of multiple strategies, and the exact mix that works best for your organization will likely change over time.

Engineering for Equity

  • Bias is the default.
  • Diversity is necessary to design properly for a comprehensive user base. . Inclusivity is critical not just to improving the hiring pipeline for underrepresented groups, but to providing a truly supportive work environment for all people.
  • Product velocity must be evaluated against providing a product that is truly useful to all users. It’s better to slow down than to release a product that might cause harm to some users.

How to Lead a Team

  • Don’t “manage” in the traditional sense; focus on leadership, influence, and serv ing your team.
  • Delegate where possible; don’t DIY (Do It Yourself).
  • Pay particular attention to the focus, direction, and velocity of your team.

Leading at Scale

  • Always Be Deciding: Ambiguous problems have no magic answer; they’re all about finding the right trade-offs of the moment, and iterating.
  • Always Be Leaving: Your job, as a leader, is to build an organization that automatically solves a class of ambiguous problems over time without you needing to be present.
  • Always Be Scaling: Success generates more responsibility over time, and you must proactively manage the scaling of this work in order to protect your scarce resources of personal time, attention, and energy.

Measuring Engineering Productivity

  • Before measuring productivity, ask whether the result is actionable, regardless of whether the result is positive or negative. If you can’t do anything with the result, it is likely not worth measuring.
  • Select meaningful metrics using the GSM framework. A good metric is a reasonable proxy to the signal you’re trying to measure, and it is traceable back to your original goals.
  • Select metrics that cover all parts of productivity (QUANTS). By doing this, you ensure that you aren’t improving one aspect of productivity (like developer veloc ity) at the cost of another (like code quality).
  • Qualitative metrics are metrics, too! Consider having a survey mechanism for tracking longitudinal metrics about engineers’ beliefs. Qualitative metrics should also align with the quantitative metrics; if they do not, it is likely the quantitative metrics that are incorrect.
  • Aim to create recommendations that are built into the developer workflow and incentive structures. Even though it is sometimes necessary to recommend additional training or documentation, change is more likely to occur if it is built into the developer’s daily habits.

Processes

Style Guide and Rules

  • Rules and guidance should aim to support resilience to time and scaling.
  • Know the data so that rules can be adjusted.
  • Not everything should be a rule.
  • Consistency is key. Automate enforcement when possible.

Code Review

  • Code review has many benefits, including ensuring code correctness, comprehension, and consistency across a codebase.
  • Always check your assumptions through someone else; optimize for the reader.
  • Provide the opportunity for critical feedback while remaining professional.
  • Code review is important for knowledge sharing throughout an organization.
  • Automation is critical for scaling the process.
  • The code review itself provides a historical record.

Documentation

  • Documentation is hugely important over time and scale.
  • Documentation changes should leverage the existing developer workflow.
  • Keep documents focused on one purpose.
  • Write for your audience, not yourself.

Testing Overview

  • Automated testing is foundational to enabling software to change.
  • For tests to scale, they must be automated.
  • A balanced test suite is necessary for maintaining healthy test coverage.
  • “If you liked it, you should have put a test on it.” 
  • Changing the testing culture in organizations takes time.

Unit Testing

  • Strive for unchanging tests.
  • Test via public APIs.
  • Test state, not interactions.
  • Make your tests complete and concise.
  • Test behaviors, not methods.
  • Structure tests to emphasize behaviors.
  • Name tests after the behavior being tested.
  • Don’t put logic in tests.
  • Write clear failure messages.
  • Follow DAMP (Descriptive And Meaningful Phrases) over DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) when sharing code for tests.

Test Doubles

  • A real implementation should be preferred over a test double.
  • A fake is often the ideal solution if a real implementation can’t be used in a test.
  • Overuse of stubbing leads to tests that are unclear and brittle.
  • Interaction testing should be avoided when possible: it leads to tests that are brittle because it exposes implementation details of the system under test.

Larger Testing

  • Larger tests cover things unit tests cannot.
  • Large tests are composed of a System Under Test, Data, Action, and Verification.
  • A good design includes a test strategy that identifies risks and larger tests that mitigate them.
  • Extra effort must be made with larger tests to keep them from creating friction in the developer workflow.

Deprecation

  • Software systems have continuing maintenance costs that should be weighed against the costs of removing them.
  • Removing things is often more difficult than building them to begin with because existing users are often using the system beyond its original design.
  • Evolving a system in place is usually cheaper than replacing it with a new one, when turndown costs are included.
  • It is difficult to honestly evaluate the costs involved in deciding whether to deprecate: aside from the direct maintenance costs involved in keeping the old system around, there are ecosystem costs involved in having multiple similar systems to choose between and that might need to interoperate. The old system might implicitly be a drag on feature development for the new. These ecosystem costs are diffuse and difficult to measure. Deprecation and removal costs are often similarly diffuse.

Tools

Version Control and Branch Management

  • Use version control for any software development project larger than “toy project with only one developer that will never be updated.
  • There’s an inherent scaling problem when there are choices in “which version of this should I depend upon?”
  • One-Version Rules are surprisingly important for organizational efficiency. Removing choices in where to commit or what to depend upon can result in significant simplification.
  • In some languages, you might be able to spend some effort to dodge this with technical approaches like shading, separate compilation, linker hiding, and so on. The work to get those approaches working is entirely lost labor-your software engineers aren’t producing anything, they’re just working around technical debts.
  • Previous research (DORA/State of DevOps/Accelerate) has shown that trunk based development is a predictive factor in high-performing development organizations. Long-lived dev branches are not a good default plan.
  • Use whatever version control system makes sense for you. If your organization wants to prioritize separate repositories for separate projects, it’s still probably) wise for interrepository dependencies to be unpinned/”at head”/”trunk based.” There are an increasing number of VCS and build system facilities that allow you to have both small, fine-grained repositories as well as a consistent “virtual” head/trunk notion for the whole organization.

Code Search

  • Helping your developers understand code can be a big boost to engineering pro ductivity. At Google, the key tool for this is Code Search.
  • Code Search has additional value as a basis for other tools and as a central, standard place that all documentation and developer tools link to.
  • The huge size of the Google codebase made a custom tool-as opposed to, for example, grep or an IDE’s indexing-necessary.
  • As an interactive tool, Code Search must be fast, allowing a “question and answer” workflow. It is expected to have low latency in every respect: search, browsing, and indexing.
  • It will be widely used only if it is trusted, and will be trusted only if it indexes all code, gives all results, and gives the desired results first. However, earlier, less powerful, versions were both useful and used, as long as their limits were understood.

Build Systems and Build Philosophy

  • A fully featured build system is necessary to keep developers productive as an organization scales.
  • Power and flexibility come at a cost. Restricting the build system appropriately makes it easier on developers.
  • Build systems organized around artifacts tend to scale better and be more reliabl than build systems organized around tasks.
  • When defining artifacts and dependencies, it’s better to aim for fine-grained modules. Fine-grained modules are better able to take advantage of parallelism and incremental builds.
  • External dependencies should be versioned explicitly under source control. Relying on “latest” versions is a recipe for disaster and unreproducible builds.

Critique: Google’s Code Review Tool

  • Trust and communication are core to the code review process. A tool can enhance the experience, but it can’t replace them.
  • Tight integration with other tools is key to great code review experience.
  • Small workflow optimizations, like the addition of an explicit “attention set,” can increase clarity and reduce friction substantially.

Static Analysis

  • Focus on developer happiness. We have invested considerable effort in building feedback channels between analysis users and analysis writers in our tools, and aggressively tune analyses to reduce the number of false positives..
  • Make static analysis part of the core developer workflow. The main integration point for static analysis at Google is through code review, where analysis tools provide fixes and involve reviewers. However, we also integrate analyses at additional points (via compiler checks, gating code commits, in IDEs, and when browsing code).
  • Empower users to contribute. We can scale the work we do building and maintaining analysis tools and platforms by leveraging the expertise of domain experts. Developers are continuously adding new analyses and checks that make their lives easier and our codebase better.

Dependency Management

  • Prefer source control problems to dependency management problems: if you can get more code from your organization to have better transparency and coordination, those are important simplifications.
  • Adding a dependency isn’t free for a software engineering project, and the complexity in establishing an “ongoing” trust relationship is challenging. Importing dependencies into your organization needs to be done carefully, with an understanding of the ongoing support costs
  • A dependency is a contract: there is a give and take, and both providers and consumers have some rights and responsibilities in that contract. Providers should be clear about what they are trying to promise over time.
  • SemVer is a lossy-compression shorthand estimate for “How risky does a human think this change is? SemVer with a SAT-solver in a package manager takes those estimates and escalates them to function as absolutes. This can result in either overconstraint (dependency hell) or under constraint (versions that should work together that don’t).
  • By comparison, testing and CI provide actual evidence of whether a new set of versions work together.
  • Minimum-version update strategies in Sem Ver/package management are higher fidelity. This still relies on humans being able to assess incremental version risk accurately, but distinctly improves the chance that the link between API provider and consumer has been tested by an expert.
  • Unit testing, CI, and (cheap) compute resources have the potential to change our understanding and approach to dependency management. That phase-change requires a fundamental change in how the industry considers the problem of dependency management, and the responsibilities of providers and consumers both.
  • Providing a dependency isn’t free: “throw it over the wall and forget” can cost you reputation and become a challenge for compatibility. Supporting it with stability can limit your choices and pessimize internal usage. Supporting without stability can cost goodwill or expose you to risk of important external groups depending on something via Hyrum’s Law and messing up your “no stability” plan.

Large-Scale Changes

  • An LSC process makes it possible to rethink the immutability of certain technical decisions.
  • Traditional models of refactoring break at large scales.
  • Making LSCS means making a habit of making LSCs.

Continuous Integration

  • A CI system decides what tests to use, and when.
  • CI systems become progressively more necessary as your codebase ages and grows in scale.
  • CI should optimize quicker, more reliable tests on presubmit and slower, less deterministic tests on post-submit.
  • Accessible, actionable feedback allows a CI system to become more efficient.

Continuous Delivery

  • Velocity is a team sport: The optimal workflow for a large team that develops code collaboratively requires modularity of architecture and near-continuous integration.
  • Evaluate changes in isolation: Flag guard any features to be able to isolate problems early.
  • Make reality your benchmark: Use a staged rollout to address device diversity and the breadth of the userbase. Release qualification in a synthetic environment that isn’t similar to the production environment can lead to late surprises.
  • Ship only what gets used: Monitor the cost and value of any feature in the wild to know whether it’s still relevant and delivering sufficient user value.
  • Shift left: Enable faster, more data-driven decision making earlier on all changes through CI and continuous deployment.
  • Faster is safer: Ship early and often and in small batches to reduce the risk of each release and to minimize time to market.

Compute as a Service

  • Scale requires a common infrastructure for running workloads in production.
  • A compute solution can provide a standardized, stable abstraction and environment for software.
  • Software needs to be adapted to a distributed, managed compute environment.
  • The compute solution for an organization should be chosen thoughtfully to provide appropriate levels of abstraction.

Book Notes: Zero to One

Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are two types of progress –
Vertical progress – doing new things (technology = 0..1)
Horizontal progress – coping things that work (globalisation = 0..n)

Dogma form the dot-com burst:

  1. Make incremental advances
  2. Stay lean and flexible
  3. Improve on the competition
  4. Focus on product, not sales

The opposite are likely more correct:

  1. It is better to risk boldness than triviality
  2. A bad plan is better than no plan
  3. Competitive market destroy profits
  4. Sales matters just as much as product

What valuable company is nobody building?

A company can create a lot of value, but not be valuable in itself – how do you capture some of that value?

Perfect competition and monopolies – companies are closer to one than it may seem. Companies want to be monopolies and spin this in whichever way is useful for them – e.g. Google saying that they are a small fraction of the advertising market but in reality are nearly a monopoly of the online search advertising market. For start ups it might be finding the small niche to say that no one else is covering. Monopolies can afford to think about things which are not money, non-monopolies can’t afford to.

Competition is an ideology, but the more we compete the less we gain. Microsoft and Google were competing while Apple came along and supposed both of them.

Characteristics of a monopoly

  1. Proprietary technology
  2. Network effects
  3. Economies of scale
  4. Branding

Building a monopoly

  1. Start small and monopolise
  2. Scale up
  3. Don’t disrupt

How will the future be?

DefiniteIndefinite
OptimisticThe future is certain and good (US 50s/60s)The future is random but good (US post 1982)
Pessimistic The future is certain and bad (China)The future is random but bad (Europe)

Indefinite – promotes “a little bit of everything” and ends up with mediocrity
Definite – promotes certainty resulting in striving to be the best at one thing

  • Conventions – easy
  • Secrets – hard
  • Mysteries – impossible

Secrets are the things we need to find. Some secrets in the past have been sign posted e.g. the globe with missing countries or the periodic table with missing elements but right now the secrets are less obvious. There are two types of secrets

  • Nature – to find them someone must study aspects of the undiscovered world
  • People – things which people don’t know or that they are trying to hide

Foundational company concepts

  • Ownership – who legally owns a company’s equity?
  • Possession – who actually runs the company on a day-to-day basis?
  • Control – who formally governs the company’s affairs?

Sales is key and tends to be under appreciated, specially by “nerds”. How to sell?

CACTarget
Viral marketing$1Consumers
Marketing$100Small Business
Sales$10,000 Small Business
Complex sales$10 mBig Business or government

Key questions every business must answer

  1. Engineering – can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  2. Timing – is now the right time to start your particular business?
  3. Monopoly – are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. People – do you have the right team?
  5. Distribution – do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  6. Durability – will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
  7. Secret – have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Book Notes: Primed to Perform

Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation by by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The “total motivation factor” provides a way to measure the culture and can be used to correlate with other bussiness metrics e.g. customer satisfaction. This provides a way to measure the return on the investment of focusing on culture.

Employee satisfaction on performance are different. Even people with positive satisfaction might have low performance.

Why you do something is fundamentally important to your performance. Your why/motives can be:

Direct Motives (positive)

Play – when you are engaged because you enjoy the work. The work is it’s own reward. This is work as play not play as work (e.g. ping-pong or table tennis).

Purpose – Where you value the outcome of the activity. The purpose needs to be authentic, if it is not credible it won’t improve motivation.

Potential – This is a second order outcome which aligns with your values or beliefs. The work will eventually lead to something you believe to be important e.g. personal growth.

Indirect Motives (negative)

Emotional Pressure – such as disappointment, guilt or shame compel you to do something. The work is not longer the reason you are working. The result is your performance tends to suffer.

Economic Pressure – when you do an activity solely to win a reward or avoid punishment. The motive is separate to the work and identify. If money is the only reason you are performing an activity it will diminish performance, where as if you are working for other reasons money won’t be a problem.

Inertia – you do what you do simply because you did it yesterday. This leads to the worst performance of all.

The tension

Tactical performance – how well a person executes a plan. Every job requires specific action to be done a specific way. How well you execute the plan. Comes from strategy.
Adaptive performance – how well a person or organisation can diverge from the plan. Companies in VUCA environments need to adapt as the situation evolves. How well you diverge from the plan. Comes from culture.

Companies tend to optimise for tactical performance. Since adaptive is the opposite this optimisation tends to result in organisations killing the creativity adaptive performance requires.

Managers don’t kill creativity on purpose. Yet in the pursuit of productivity, efficiency and control – all worthy bussiness imperatives – they undermine creativity.

Distraction effect – economic pressure cause people to focus on the money, not on the task
Cancellation effect – where a persons motivation is reduced solely to doing the tactical work and the person no longer acts as a citizenship supporting others in the organisation
Cobra effect – where you incentivise something only to get more of what you wanted to stop

Citizenship – teach and help one another, spread new ideas and share innovations

Blame bias – people have a tendency to blame and blame rolls down hill. People tend to blame individuals for system problems. Not only does blame cause us to use indirect motivators, but it make us justify the choice. The antidote is to assume positive intent by the other person.

ToMo calculation: from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree

  1. I continue to work at my current job because the work itself is fun to do
  2. I continue to work at my current job because I believe this work has an important purpose
  3. I continue to work at my current job because this type of work will help me to reach my personal goals
  4. I continue to work at my current job because if I didn’t I would disappoint myself or people I care about
  5. I continue to work at my current job because without this job, I would be worried I couldn’t meet my financial objectives
  6. There is no go reason why I continue to work at my current job

ToMo = #1 X 10 + #2 X 5 + #3 X 1.66 – #4 X 1.66 – #5 X 5 – #6 X10

ToMo is a diagnostic tool, not a report card. This is just a factor, not a score.

Four leadership styles

  1. Quid pro quo – giving rewards and punishments. Designed to be a meritocracy but produces high emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia. This is the worst style in ToMo.
  2. Hands-off – only get involved when there is a problem. Designed to give the team space but this is in effective.
  3. Enthusiast – using direct and indirect motivation which ends up cancelling each other out.
  4. Fire starter – encouraging direct motivators and discouraging indirect.

Fire starters

  • Provides you with time, space and encouragement to experiment and learn
  • Makes it clear what it means to be performing well
  • Challenges you to solve problems yourself
  • Helps you see that your work is important and meaningful
  • Role models and expects you to live by positive, consistent values and a common sense of purpose
  • Puts the customer’s interest first
  • Actively links the work with your personal goals
  • Helps you to develop and focus your time on your strengths rather than your weaknesses
  • Provides you with more responsibility as your skills grow
  • Ensures targets and goals are fair and reasonable
  • Is fair, honest and transparent
  • Enables friendship at work
  • Ensures you are evaluated holistically
  • Makes it easy to get things done and ensures you don’t waste effort

Tactical vs adaptive growth

TacticalAdaptive
Increase the number of customers buying two of our products by 5%Find three new ways to describe how two of our products create value together
Reduce operating costs within this unit from 80% of revenue to 75%Find three new ways to make our process less complicated
Increase customer satisfaction from 75% to 80%Find four new ways to proactively address customer complaints on the first call

Ask in huddles:

  • What did we learn this week?
  • How did we progress against our purpose this week?
  • What do we need to learn next week?

Behavioural code

  1. How do we expect people to solve problems?
  2. How should people prioritise competing objectives?
  3. How should people deal with issues and decisions that fall in the “grey area”?
  4. How do you expect your leaders to lead and motivate?
  5. What symbols, practices or rituals are sacred?

Job design

  • Impact
    • Does the role allow you to see enough of the end-to-end experience to enable you to fully connect cause and effect for VUCA and your own adaptive performance?
  • Inspiration
    • Does the role give you ways to source new ideas and be inspired by different ways of doing the work?
  • Prioritisation and planning
    • Does your job give you enough insight to figure out which ideas should be tried quickly (hares), versus which should be driven through consensus (tortoises)?
  • Performing
    • Does the role clearly delineate where tactical performance is required and where adaptive performance is required?
    • Is the zone of adaptive performance (the playground) designed to solve for the VUCA of the role?
  • Reflection
    • Does the role give you time to reflect?
    • Does the role give you clarity into your performance and impact?

Manifesto for the fire watchers

  • What we do
    • We own the adaptive performance of our organisation
    • We increase adaptive performance by building cultures that inspire total motivation
  • How we do it
    • We own or influence the aspects of our culture that affect total motivation
    • We continuously iterate our culture through routine measurement and experimentation
    • We work in monthly performance cycles with two weeks of integrated design and two weeks of execution
    • We constantly study how mindset and motivation drive performance
    • We develop new knowledge and contribution to our craft
    • We organise ourselves to maximise our own adaptive performance and total motivation
  • How we choose
    • We prioritise creation integrated and consistent culture even if the design takes longer to create
    • We prioritise creating sustainable cultures versus cultures that require constant oversight
    • We prioritise fast execution provided we learn from mistakes
    • We prioritise learning over knowing
    • We prioritise grass roots change over big branded change programmes

Book Notes: Mastering Leadership

Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results by by Bob Anderson and William A. Adams (Goodreads Author)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book produces evidence that leadership effectiveness has a direct impact on bussiness results in the VUCA bussiness environment (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and disruption). Effective leadership is made up of the direction and meaning, engagement and accountability as well as focus and execution in a circle of improvement. To be an effective leader you have to master the outer game and inner game.

  • Outer Game
    • Leadership process
      • Allocation and utilisation of resources (people, time and money)
      • Business rhythm and management process of strategy, direction, execution, process, decision and decision making.
    • Leadership competencies
      • Outside game of leadership
      • Leadership competency research
  • Inner Game
    • Leadership consciousness
      • Inside game of leadership
        • Our meaning-making system
        • Out decision making system
        • Our values, beliefs and assumptions
        • Our level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence
        • Mental models to understand reality, think, act and create
      • Evolving consciousness

The Universal Model of Leadership

At the root is our identity, on the left relationships, right tasks, below being reactive and above being creative.

Reactive

The Complying dimension measures the extent to which self-worth and security are felt by complying with the expectations of others rather than acting on what s/he intends and wants.

  • Conservative – the extent to which thinking and acting is conservative, follows procedure, and lives within the prescribed rules of the organization with which s/he is associated.
  • Pleasing – the need to seek others’ support and approval in order to feel secure and worthwhile as a person. People with strong needs for approval tend to base their degree of self-worth on their ability to gain others’ favour and confirmation
  • Belonging – the need to conform, follow the rules, and meet the expectations of those in authority. It measures the extend to which s/he goes along to get along, thereby compressing the full extend of his/her creative power in culturally acceptable boxes.
  • Passive – the degree to which power is given away to others and to circumstances outside of his/her control. This shows the measure of believing that s/he is not the creator of his/her life experience, that his/her efforts do not make much difference, and that s/he lacks the power to create the future s/he wants.

The Protecting dimension measures the belief that the leader can protect him/herself and establish a sense of worth through withdrawal and remaining distant, hidden, aloof, cynical, superior and/or rational.

  • Arrogance – the tendency to project a large ego – behaviour that is experienced as superior, egotistic and self-cantered.
  • Critical – to take a critical, questioning and somewhat cynical attitude
  • Distance – a sense of personal worth and security through withdrawal, being superior and remaining aloof, emotionally distant and above it all.

The Controlling dimension measure the sense of self worth through task accomplishment and personal achievement.

  • Perfect – the need to attain flawless results and perform to extremely high standards in order to feel secure and worthwhile as a person. Worth and security are equated with being perfect, performing constantly at heroic levels and succeeding beyond all expectations.
  • Driven – are the individuals worth and security tied to accomplishing a great deal through hard work. It measures the need to perform at a very high level in order to feel worthwhile as a person. A good work ethic is a strength of this style, provided that there is balance helping others achieve with his/her own achievement.
  • Ambition – the level to which there is a need to get ahead, move up in the organisation and be better than others. This is a powerful motivator, and can be positive (furthering progress) or negative (becoming overly self centred and competitive).
  • Autocratic – the tendency to be forceful, aggressive and controlling. It measures the extend to which s/he equated self-worth with security to being powerful, in control, strong, dominant, invulnerable, or on top. Worth is measured through comparison; that is having more income, achieving a higher position, being seen as a most/more valuable contributor, gaining credit, or being promoted.

Creative

The Relating dimension measures the capability to relate to others in a way that brings out the best in people, groups, and organizations.

  • Caring Connection – the interest in and ability to form warm, caring relationships with people.
  • Fosters Team Play – the ability to foster high performance teamwork among team members who report to him/her, across the organization and within teams in which s/he participates.
  • Collaborator – the extent to which the leader engages others in a manner that allows the parties involved to discover common ground.
  • Mentoring & Developing – the ability to develop others through mentoring and maintaining growth-enhancing relationships
  • Interpersonal Intelligence – the effectiveness of listening, engages in conflict and controversy, deals with the feelings of others, and manages his/her own feelings.

The Self-Awareness dimension measures the orientation to ongoing professional and personal development, as well as the degree to which inner self-awareness is expressed through high integrity leadership.

  • Selfless Leader – the pursuit of service over self-interest, where the need for credit and personal ambition is far less important than creating results that serve a common good.
  • Balance – to keep a healthy balance between business and family, activity and reflection, work and leisure, the tendency to be self-renewing and handle the stress of life without losing the self.
  • Composure – the ability, in the midst of conflict and high-tension situations, to remain composed and centred and to maintain a calm, focused perspective.
  • Personal Learner – demonstration of a strong and active interest in learning and personal and professional growth. To actively and reflectively pursues growing in self-awareness, wisdom, knowledge, and insight.

The Authenticity dimension measures the capability to relate to others in an authentic, courageous, and high integrity manner.

  • Integrity – how well the leader adheres to the set of values and principles that s/he espouses; that is, how well s/he can be trusted to “walk the talk.”
  • Courageous Authenticity – willingness to take tough stands, bring up the “undiscussables” (risky issues the group avoids discussing), and openly deal with difficult relationship problems.

The Systems Awareness dimension measures the awareness of the whole system improvement, productivity, and community welfare.

  • Community Concern – the service orientation. The extent to which s/he links his/her legacy to service of community and global welfare.
  • Sustainable Productivity – the ability to achieve results in a way that maintains or enhances the overall long-term effectiveness of the organization. How well human/technical resources are balanced to sustain long-term high performance.
  • Systems Thinker – the degree to think and act from a whole system perspective as well as the extent to which decisions are made in light of the long-term health of the whole system.

The Achieving dimension measures the extent to which the leader offers visionary, authentic, and high achievement leadership.

  • Strategic Focus – the extent to think and plan rigorously and strategically to ensure that the organization will thrive in the near and long term.
  • Purposeful & Visionary – clearly communicates and models commitment to personal purpose and vision.
  • Achieves Results – the goal-directed, track record of goal achievement and high performance.
  • Decisiveness – the ability to make decisions on time and the comfort moving forward in uncertainty.

The six systems of organisation effectiveness

Leadership tension between safety (moving up, approval) in a reactive mind set and purpose (vision and contribution) in the creative mindset.

The reactive system sees problems as threats, which produce fear and a reaction. In this environment there is always an oscillation in results over time – when there is a threat it is extinguished with a result until a new threat comes along. The fear is based on internal assumptions and beliefs.

In the creative system purpose and vision drive passion which results in action. This cycle does not result in the oscillation of the reactive system and continues to improve over time.

Book Notes: Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you get just 1% better each day you will be ~38 times better by the end of the year, if you get just 1% worse you reduce by 97% over a year. Some examples of positive and negative compounds.

Positive Compounding

  • Productivity compounds. Accomplishing one extra task is a small feat on any given day, but it counts for a lot over an entire career. The effect of automating an old task or mastering a new skill can be even greater. The more tasks you can handle without thinking, the more your brain is free to focus on other areas.
  • Knowledge compounds. Learning one new idea won’t make you a genius, but a commitment to lifelong learning can be transformative. Furthermore, each book you read not only teaches you something new but also opens up different ways of thinking about old ideas. As Warren Buffett says, “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”
  • Relationships compound. People reflect your behaviour back to you. The more you help others, the more others want to help you. Being a little bit nicer in each interaction can result in a network of broad and strong connections over time

Negative Compounding

  • Stress compounds. The frustration of a traffic jam. The weight of parenting responsibilities. The worry of making ends meet. The strain of slightly high blood pressure. By themselves, these common causes of stress are manageable. But when they persist for years, little stresses compound into serious health issues.
  • Negative thoughts compound. The more you think of yourself as worthless, stupid, or ugly, the more. you condition yourself to interpret life that way. You get trapped in a thought loop. The same is true for how you think about others. Once you fall into the habit of seeing people as angry, unjust, or selfish. you see those kind of people everywhere.
  • Outrage compounds. Riots, protests, and mass movements are rarely the result of a single event. Instead, a long series of microaggressions and daily aggravations slowly multiply until one event tips the scales and outrage spreads like wildfire.

Small changes often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any com pounding process are delayed. You need to be patient.

Forget about goals – focus on systems

Many people and companies have the same goal, however it is the system which decides if they will succeed or not. As an example:

  • Winners and loser have the same goal
  • Achieving a goal is only a momentary change
  • Goals restrict your happiness
  • Goals are at odds with long-term progress

There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change.

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become (aka the identity).

  • Your identity emerges out of your habits.
  • Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
  • Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
  • The real reason habits matter is not because they can get you better results (although they can do that), but because they can change your beliefs about yourself.
  • A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to be come automatic.
  • The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.
  • Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.
  • The Four Laws of Behaviour Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are
    1. Make it obvious
      • With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it.
      • Once our habits become automatic, we stop paying attention to what we are doing.
      • The process of behaviour change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.
      • Pointing-and-Calling raises your level of awareness from a non-conscious habit to a more conscious level by verbalizing your actions.
      • The Habits Scorecard is a simple exercise you can use to become more aware of your behaviour.
      • The two most common cues are time and location.
      • Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location.
        • The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
      • Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a current habit.
        • The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
      • Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behaviour over time.
      • Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out.
      • Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.
      • Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behaviour. The context becomes the cue.
      • It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.
      • The inversion of the 1st Law of Behaviour Change is make it invisible.
        • Once a habit is formed, it is unlikely to be forgotten.
        • People with high self-control tend to spend less time in tempting situations. It’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.
        • One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
        • Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.
    2. Make it attractive
      • The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to be come habit-forming.
      • Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. When dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act. It is the anticipation of a reward (not the fulfilment of it) that gets us to take action.
      • The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.
      • Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
      • The culture we live in determines which behaviours are attractive to us.
      • We tend to adopt habits that are praised and approved of by our culture because we have a strong desire to fit in and belong to the tribe.
      • We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).
      • One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where
        1. your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour and
        2. you already have something in common with the group
      • The normal behaviour of the tribe often overpowers the desired behaviour of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.
      • If a behaviour can get us approval, respect, and praise, we find it attractive.
      • The inversion of the 2nd Law of Behaviour Change is make it unattractive
        • Every behaviour has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.
        • Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires.
        • The cause of your habits is actually the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling.
        • Highlight the benefits of avoiding a bad habit to make it seem unattractive.
        • Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.
    3. Make it easy
      • The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning.
      • Focus on taking action, not being in motion.
      • Habit formation is the process by which a behaviour becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.
      • The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.
      • Human behaviour follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.
      • Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.
      • Reduce the friction associated with good behaviours. When friction is low, habits are easy.
      • Increase the friction associated with bad behaviours. When friction is high, habits are difficult.
      • Prime your environment to make future actions easier.
      • Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behaviour for minutes or hours afterward.
      • Many habits occur at decisive moments-choices that are like a fork in the road and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.
      • The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
      • The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.
      • Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.
      • The inversion of the 3rd Law of Behaviour Change is make it difficult.
        • A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behaviour in the future.
        • The ultimate way to lock in future behaviour is to automate your habits.
        • Onetime choices-like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan-are single actions that automate your future habits and deliver increasing returns over time.
        • Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behaviour.
    4. Make it satisfying.
      • We are more likely to repeat a behaviour when the experience is satisfying.
      • The human brain evolved to prioritize immediate rewards over delayed rewards.
      • The Cardinal Rule of Behaviour Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.
      • To get a habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful even if it’s in a small way.
      • The first three laws of behaviour change increase the odds that a behaviour will be performed this time. The fourth law of behaviour change make it satisfying-increases the odds that a behaviour will be repeated next time.
      • One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.
      • A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit-like marking an X on a calendar.
      • Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.
      • Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.
      • Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
      • Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.
      • The inversion of the 4th Law of Behaviour Change is make it unsatisfying.
        • We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.
        • An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.
        • A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behaviour. It makes the costs of violating your promises public and painful.
        • Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.

Tips for success

  • The secret to maximizing your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition.
  • Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.
  • Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favourable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavourable circumstances.
  • Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities.
  • Choose the habits that best suit you. Play a game that favours your strengths. If you can’t find a game that favours you, create one.
  • Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.
  • The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.
  • The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying. We get bored.
  • Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.
  • Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

The down side of habits

  • The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.
  • Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery
  • Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.
  • The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.

Book Notes: Hooked

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Habits

  • For some businesses, forming habits is a critical component to success, but not every business requires habitual user engagement.
  • When successful, forming strong user habits can have several business benefits including: higher customer lifetime value (CLTV), greater pricing flexibility, supercharged growth, and a sharper competitive edge.
  • Habits cannot form outside the Habit Zone, where the behaviour occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility.
  • Habit-forming products often start as nice-to haves (vitamins) but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves (painkillers).
  • Habit-forming products alleviate users discomfort by relieving a pronounced itch.
  • Designing habit-forming products is a form of manipulation. Product builders would benefit from a bit of introspection before attempting to hook users to make sure they are building healthy habits, not unhealthy addictions.

If you are building a habit-forming product, write down the answers to these questions:

  • What habits does your business model require?
  • What problem are users turning to your product to solve?
  • How do users currently solve that problem and why does it need a solution?
  • How frequently do you expect users to engage with your product once they are habituated?
  • What user behaviour do you want to make into a habit?

Trigger

  • Triggers cue the user to take action and are the first step in the Hooked Model.
  • Triggers come in two types-external and internal.
  • External triggers tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment.
  • Internal triggers tell the user what to do next through associations stored in the user’s memory.
  • Negative emotions frequently serve as internal triggers.
  • To build a habit-forming product, makers need to attach the use of their solution to a frequently felt internal trigger and know how to leverage external triggers to drive the user to action.

Questions

  • Who is your product’s user?
  • What is the user doing right before your in tended habit?
  • Come up with three internal triggers that could cue your user to action. Use the 5 Whys.
  • Which internal trigger does your user experience most frequently?
  • Finish this brief narrative using the most frequent internal trigger and the habit you are designing: “Every time the user (internal trigger), he/she (first action of intended habit).”
  • Refer back to the question about what the user is doing right before the first action of the habit. What might be places and times to send an external trigger?
  • How can you couple an external trigger as closely as possible to when the user’s internal trigger fires?
  • Think of currently impossible ways to trigger your user. You could find that your crazy ideas spur some new approaches that may not be so nutty after all. In a few years new technologies will create all sorts of currently unimaginable triggering opportunities.

Action

  • The action is the simplest behaviour in anticipation of reward.
  • As described by Dr. B. J. Fogg’s Behaviour Model:
    • For any behaviour to occur, a trigger must be present at the same time as the user has sufficient ability and motivation to take action.
    • To increase the desired behaviour, ensure a clear trigger is present; next, increase ability by making the action easier to do; finally, align with the right motivator.
    • Every behaviour is driven by one of three Core Motivators: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain; seeking hope and avoiding fear; seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.
    • Ability is influenced by the six factors of time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, and non-routineness. Ability is dependent on users and their context at that moment.
  • Heuristics are cognitive shortcuts we take to take quick decisions. Product designers can utilize many of the hundreds of heuristics to in crease the likelihood of their desired action.

Questions

  • Walk through the path your users would take to use your product or service, beginning from the time they feel their internal trigger to the point where they receive their expected outcome. How many steps does it take before users obtain the reward they came for? How does this process compare with the simplicity of some of the examples described in this chapter? How does it compare with competing products and services?
  • Which resources are limiting your users’ ability to accomplish the tasks that will become habits?
    • Time
    • Brain cycles (too confusing)
    • Social deviance (outside the norm)
    • Physical effort
    • Non-routine (too new)
  • Brainstorm three testable ways to make in tended tasks easier to complete.
  • Consider how you might apply heuristics to make habit-forming actions more likely.

Variable Reward

  • Variable reward is the third phase of the Hooked Model, and there are three types of variable re wards: the tribe, the hunt, and the self.
  • Rewards of the tribe is the search for social rewards fuelled by connectedness with other people.
  • Rewards of the hunt is the search for material resources and information.
  • Rewards of the self is the search for intrinsic re wards of mastery, competence, and completion.
  • When our autonomy is threatened, we feel con strained by our lack of choices and often rebel against doing a behaviour. Psychologists refer to this as reactance. Maintaining a sense of user autonomy and trust is a requirement for sustained engagement.
  • Experiences with finite variability become increasingly predictable with use and lose their appeal over time. Experiences that maintain user interest by sustaining variability with use exhibit infinite variability.
  • Variable rewards must satisfy users’ needs while leaving them wanting to reengage with the product.

Questions

  • Speak with five of your customers in an open ended interview to identify what they find enjoyable or encouraging about using your product. Are there any moments of delight or surprise? Is there anything they find particularly satisfying about using the product?
  • Review the steps your customer takes to use your product or service habitually. What outcome (reward) alleviates the user’s pain? Is the reward fulfilling, yet leaves the user wanting more?
  • Brainstorm three ways your product might heighten users’ search for variable rewards using:
    1. rewards of the tribe-gratification from others.
    2. rewards of the hunt-material goods, money, or information.
    3. rewards of the self-mastery, completion, competency, or consistency.

Investment

  • The investment phase is the fourth step in the Hooked Model.
    • Unlike the action phase, which delivers immediate gratification, the investment phase concerns the anticipation of rewards in the future.
  • Investments in a product create preferences because of our tendency to overvalue our work, be consistent with past behaviours, and avoid cognitive dissonance.
  • Investment comes after the variable reward phase, when users are primed to reciprocate.
  • Investments increase the likelihood of use returning by improving the service the more it is used. They enable the accrual of stored value in the form of content, data, followers, reputation, or skill.
  • Investments increase the likelihood of users passing through the Hook again by loading the next trigger to start the cycle all over again.

Questions

  • • Review your flow. What “bit of work” are your users doing to increase their likelihood of re turning?
  • Brainstorm three ways to add small investments into your product to:
    • Load the next trigger.
    • Store value as data, content, followers, reputation, and skill.
  • Identify how long it takes for a “loaded trigger” to reengage your users. How can you reduce the delay to shorten time spent cycling through the Hook?

Ethics

  • Facilitators use their own product and believe it can materially improve people’s lives. They have the highest chance of success because they most closely understand the needs of their users.
  • Peddlers believe their product can materially improve people’s lives but do not use it themselves. They must beware of the hubris and inauthenticity that comes from building solutions for people they do not understand first-hand.
  • Entertainers use their product but do not believe it can improve people’s lives. They can be successful, but without making the lives of others better in some way, the entertainer’s products often lack staying power.
  • Dealers neither use the product nor believe it can improve people’s lives. They have the lowest chance of finding long-term success and often find themselves in morally precarious positions.

Book Notes: How to Get from Where you Are to Where You Want to Be

How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be: The 25 Principles of Success by Jack Canfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book presents the following 25 principles

  1. Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life
    • You have to give up all your excuses.
    • Event + Response = Outcome, blaming an event for a lack of outcome is a pointless waste of energy so the only things you can do is change your response.
    • You have to give up blaming and complaining.
    • People only complain about things they can do something about (e.g. never gravity) – situations you complain about are, by their very nature, situations you can change. People don’t because it involves risk – of being wrong, failure, confrontation which could leave you unemployed, alone, ridiculed or judged by others.
  2. Be Clear Why You’re Here
    • What is the why behind everything you do?
  3. Decide What You Want
    • Decide what you want.
    • Having a big vision is as easy as a small one – so think big.
    • Don’t copy anyone else’s vision and don’t let them change yours.
  4. Believe It’s Possible
    • It will only happen if you believe it is possible
  5. Believe in Yourself
    • You have to give up “I can’t”
  6. Become an Inverse Paranoid
    • Believe that the world is out there to help you. See the opportunities.
  7. Unleash the Power of Goal-Setting
    • Be very clear on the goal and review it regularly
  8. Chunk It Down
    • Break the goal down into tasks and tackle the toughest first.
  9. Success Leaves Clues
    • Learn from people who have already succeeded in what you want to do
  10. Release the Brakes
    • Unlearn the things which have stopped you doing things.
  11. See What You Want, Get What You See
    • Visualise the future, make it vivid.
  12. Act As If
    • Act as if you are already where you want to be e.g. the 5 year party where you celebrate your future successes as if they had already happened.
  13. Take Action
    • Talk is cheap, only with action can you succeed.
  14. Experience Your Fear and Take Action Anyway
    • Everything which is worth doing is a risk, you have to acknowledge that and do it
  15. Ask! Ask! Ask!
    • Many people reject themselves, rather than are rejected by others. You need to ask and see what happens rather than not asking because you think you already know the answer.
  16. Reject Rejection
    • There will be rejection, but that is fine just say “next”
  17. Use Feedback to Your Advantage
    • With feedback people tend to cave in and quit, get mad at the source of the feedback or ignore the feedback.
    • Ask “On a scale of 0-10 how would you rate our relationship/product/service?” “What would we need to do to make it a 10?”
  18. Commit to Constant and Never-Ending Improvement
    • The margin for greatness is small, so continuous small improvements will make a big impact
  19. Practice Persistence
    • To do something which is tough needs persistence – you need to keep going that one more lamp post
  20. Practice the Rule of Five
    • If you do 5 things every day you will eventually reach your goal – as if you keep swinging eventually the biggest tree will fall
  21. Surround Yourself with Successful People
    • Some say you are the average of the people you have around you – so surround yourself with the best people and you’ll get better yourself.
  22. Clean Up Your Messes and Your Incompletes
    • Complete things, a few things complete are better than lots of things partially done
  23. Develop Four New Success Habits a Year
    • Evaluate your bad habits – like:
      • Procrastinating
      • Paying bills at the last minute
      • Not delivering on promised documents and services in a timely way
      • Letting receivables get overdue
      • Arriving late for meetings and appointments
      • Forgetting someone’s name within seconds of being introduced
      • Talking over others’ comments, instead of listening
      • Answering the telephone during family time or spouse time
      • Handling the mail more than once
      • Working late
      • Choosing work over time with your children
      • Having fast-food meals more than 2 days a week
    • Focus on changing one habit every quarter.
  24. Stay Focused on Your Core Genius
    • Identify your core and delegate completely everything which does not align with that
  25. Start Now!… Just Do It!

Book notes: Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People

Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People: Over 325 Ready-To-Use Words and Phrases For Working With Challenging Personalities by Renée Evenson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

  • Starting phrases with “I” is less accusatory than “you”
  • Phrase of understanding – show that you realise that others might have another opinion
  • Phrase of apology – this shows you are taking responsibility to resolve the situation
  • Phrase of compromise – to show flexibility as compromise will be the best result
  • Phrase of resolution – to make sure that everyone agrees with the outcome to move on
  • Phrase of reconciliation – show that the relation and value that working together means
  1. Thing first – don’t just jump in
  2. Gain a better understanding – learn more about the situation of the other person
  3. Define the problem – this might not be what you expected it to be
  4. Offer your best solution – work towards an agreeable compromise solution
  5. Agree on resolution – getting agreement on the solution

Boss issues:

  • Abusive
  • Controlling
  • Egotistical
  • Incompetent
  • Inconsistent
  • Micromanaging
  • Noncommunicative
  • Passive
  • Reactive
  • Unethical

Book Notes: Upstream

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upstream presents a good overview of systems thinking.

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets

The barriers

  • Problem blindness – there is no problem
  • A lack of Ownership – no one feels it is their problem to fix
  • Tunnelling – I don’t want to deal with this problem right now

Questions

  1. How will you unite the right people? bring together the right people & data to understand
  2. How will you change the system? how to change the system without negative impacts
  3. Where can you find a point of leverage? understand the problem. Saving money is not the goal.
  4. How will you get early warning of the problem? using data but be careful of false positives
  5. How will you know you’re succeeding? how could the metrics be games without actual improvement
  6. How will you avoid doing harm? close the feedback loop, be careful of over confidence
  7. Who will pay for what does not happen? align incentives so people/budget holder care