Designing in the Era of the Algorithms

I came across this video by Josh Clark where he talks about the challenges and opportunities of designing stuff (products/services) in the era of algorithms.

This is a must watch video if you are currently engaged in developing a product or service which uses machine learning or artificial intelligence. He points out some very interesting places where you could potentially go wrong. Watch, listen, understand and avoid these mistakes.

Hope you like the video and learnt something important.

When Your Biggest Strength becomes Your Biggest Weakness

Premise: 

Once advice that almost everyone agrees to, when it comes to defining our strategy (personal, professional or organisational) is that we need to

“Play to your strengths”.

If you are a business that has already seen some amount of success, the chance is that you know what your core strength is.

So, you build on it. You continue to invest in your strength to get even better at it.

You continue to invest until you are the best-in-class on this topic in the whole wide world.

This strategy works really well, until it doesn’t.

The  irony is that most of us still want believe that continuing to invest in our strength is the best investment. So, we double up our investment. But, it still doesn’t work. 

And when it doesn’t work anymore, this erstwhile engine of growth & competitive advantage becomes our biggest liability and weakness.

The fact is that this will happen – sooner or later.

Why? 

In all likelihood, the world has moved on. You might still be the best in the world at this one thing, that is your strength. But the problem is that the market doesn’t need or value this strength of your’s.

Unfortunately, you haven’t invested in building strength in anything else either. So, you scramble. Some, are fortunate enough to still have enough time and the culture that supports the transformation, but most fail, falter and die.

Solution: 

The only way to avoid this situation and at the same time, fully capitalise on the “Play to your strength” strategy, is to follow a dual strategy:

  • Continue to invest in and build on your current strengths (65%)
  • Continue to explore what new skills or capabilities that you might need in the future and invest in building them (35%)

The exploration and investment in new skills is critical in order for the organisation not to get blindsided when the market shifts. Also, the point to be noted is that we need to invest in building multiple skills or capabilities for the future and when the time comes one of these will become our core strength and propel our growth.

Conclusion: 

Playing to our strengths is a great strategy until it is not. As organisational leaders, we need to be constantly in the “sense and respond”, where we are looking at potential areas which might have the potential to become our core strength and propel the next level of growth.

 

Great Customer Experience is not Just the Responsibility of the Brands

Yesterday, I went to a unisex salon for a grooming session. I was attended by a young stylist. I started to engage him in a conversation. I asked his name (Sohail) and the place from where he came from (Chandigarh).  I asked him about how long he was in Bangalore, how did he end up here in Bangalore. He said how his uncle had come to Bangalore in search of work and he got him a job at this salon (owned by someone in Delhi). Apart from the salary he was drawing, he also had a paid accommodation provided by the salon.

Then he asked me about how I ended up here in Bangalore, how long have I been here and where do I stay. We shared a few laughs about how almost everyone we meet in Bangalore is not from here but is from somewhere else.

We then spoke about his dreams (he wants to save enough money to own a salon in his home town and travel the country). We then spoke about dreams in general. He offered me some tea, which I graciously accepted and enjoyed. While we were having this side conversation, he had finished my grooming session and it was time to part ways.

He asked me when would I be back and requested that I book an appointment beforehand and specifically ask for him by name to do my grooming. He also thanked me for taking interest in him and talking to him. He said that not many people take interest in people like him.

I came back home and did not think much of the conversation.

Of late, I have been thinking and reading a lot about customer experience. One thing that stood apart for me in my reading, especially after my experience at the salon was how one sided our conversations regarding customer experiences are.

We are only thinking about what can brands do to improve their customers experience with the brand. In doing this, we forget that in any given situation, there are two sets of people involved – the customer and the brand.

While all brands should definitely work towards improving the experience they provide to their customers, it is not the be all and end off customer experience. It is in their best interest to do so.

The question is what role do we play as customers or consumers in how we experience the engagement with the brands. Do we want to be passive and demanding that the brands go all out to improve our experience or can we do something that can improve our experience irrespective of what the brands are doing on this.

We as consumers can take it upon ourselves to have a great experience in every interaction we have with any given brand. We just need to understand that every experience is powered by humans (at least till now) and if we take a little bit of interest in them, they will take a lot more interest in us.

Some things that we all can do as customers to ensure that we have great experiences in our interactions with our favourite brands could be:

  • Give respect: Treating people with respect (whether it is the stylist at a salon, a retail assistant in a mall or a customer service assistant in a call centre) has a direct impact on the interaction we have with them.
  • Take Interest: Being genuinely interested in the people who are serving or interacting with us enables us to have a much richer interaction. All it takes is for us to ask some questions so we get to know them a little bit. For example, do we know the name of the person we are interacting with, where are they from, what are they doing here, what are their aspirations, etc.
  • Smile: We will be surprised when we look at ourselves in any given interaction with brands. Most of us never smile when we are interacting with people (or brands). Just smiling increases our chance of having a good interaction.

When I sit down and think about all the time that I’ve had good experiences in the past, I can always trace it back to having had a good conversation with the people engaged with me. I remember having interesting conversations with air hostesses, cab drivers, retail assistants and clerks, bank tellers, call center employees, customer service representatives at service centers, receptionists and auto-mechanics.

Every single time I’ve had these conversations, I remember going back with a good experience.

Given that this the case, the question then is the following:

  • Why are w(m)e not doing this more often?
  • Why aren’t more of us doing this more often?
  • Why aren’t brands encouraging this behaviour?”

I think it is time that we as consumers also take charge of our experiences.

The Art Of Making Progress

Making progress is about knowing what you have and making the most of it…

Making progress is about moving in the direction that we want to move, irrespective of the circumstances..

Making progress is about knowing when to stop, step back and re-think about where you are going..

Making progress is about keeping our heads down and keeping at it..

Making progress is about knowing what we can’t influence and what we can and influencing what we can influence.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to change things that are often out of our control, instead of taking action on the things we can influence and impact.

We only begin to make progress when we stop trying to control the outcome and do the work…

This post is inspired by Bernadette Jiwa’s post:

The Art Of Making Progress

 

Are You An Amateur or a Professional?

Today, I read a post by Shane Parrish on his Farnam Street blog and couldnt resist sharing this with you. He tries to explain why some people are ultra successful and some are not, despite having similar knowledge or experience.

He goes on to share that one of the defining aspect that can explain this difference – Mindset.

How we see ourselves matters Click To Tweet

If we consider ourselves professionals, our chances of success goes up significantly. So, what makes one an amateur or a professional. Below is his take on the difference between amateurs and professionals.

Most of us are just amateurs.

Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning.

Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process.

Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence.

Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.

Amateurs value isolated performance. Think about the receiver who catches the ball once on a difficult throw. Professionals value consistency. Can I catch the ball in the same situation 9 times out of 10?

Amateurs give up at the first sign of trouble and assume they’re failures. Professionals see failure as part of the path to growth and mastery.

Amateurs don’t have any idea what improves the odds of achieving good outcomes. Professionals do.

Amateurs show up to practice to have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens in games.

Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak.

Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice.

Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on getting the best outcome.

Amateurs focus on first-level thinking. Professionals focus on second-level thinking.

Amateurs think good outcomes are the result of their brilliance. Professionals understand when outcomes are the result of luck.

Amateurs focus on the short term. Professionals focus on the long term.

Amateurs focus on tearing other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better.

Amateurs make decisions in committees so there is no one person responsible if things go wrong. Professionals make decisions as individuals and accept responsibility.

Amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility.

Amateurs show up inconsistently. Professionals show up every day.

There are a host of other differences, but they can effectively be boiled down to two things: fear and reality.

Amateurs believe that the world should work the way they want it to. Professionals realize that they have to work with the world as they find it. Amateurs are scared — scared to be vulnerable and honest with themselves. Professionals feel like they are capable of handling almost anything.

Questions we need to ask is the following:

In which area of our lives are we acting like a professional and where do we act as amateurs? Which areas of our lives do need to become a professional in?

Here is the original blog:

The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

This is one blog that I recommend everyone of us to read and follow. IF you do nothing but read everything that is written on this blog, you will end up much smarter than you start with.