Tom The Architect

Technology and other Interesting Stuff

Tyler Cowen Interviews Daniel Kahneman

Economist Tyler Cowen interviews Daniel Kahneman (well worth a listen) renowned psychologist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences. I first learned about Daniel Kahneman when I read his 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow (NY Times book review), detailing his research and experiments demonstrating the impact of intuitive thinking and cognitive bias on our behavior.

In his conversation with Tyler he demonstrated the deep consideration he has given to a wide range of topics and his comfort with not knowing all of the answers.  Here are some great quotes from the interview:

Referring to a paper on happiness he authored with Alan Krueger:

Altogether, I don’t think that people maximize happiness in that sense. And that’s one of the reasons that I actually left the field of happiness, in that I was very interested in maximizing experience, but this doesn’t seem to be what people want to do. They actually want to maximize their satisfaction with themselves and with their lives. And that leads in completely different directions than the maximization of happiness.

On happiness feeling good:

Yeah, happiness feels good in the moment. But it’s in the moment. What you’re left with are your memories. And that’s a very striking thing — that memories stay with you, and the reality of life is gone in an instant. So memory has a disproportionate weight because it’s with us. It stays with us. It’s the only thing we get to keep.

On investing in memories:

We certainly invest heavily, heavily in memories. Vacations for many people are investment in the formation and maintenance of memories. There is a lot of investment. Whether it’s too much or too little, it probably depends a lot on people’s amount of consumption of memory that people engage in.

I, for one, am certainly biased. But I do not consume my memories a lot. And I almost never go back to photographs, not deliberately. If I stumble on something, it will move me. But the idea of going back to relive a vacation — that’s not what I do, so I have little empathy for this.

and my favorite on improving the quality of judgement:

My advice is divide and conquer. That is, there is one thing that we know that improves the quality of judgment, I think. And this is to delay intuition…..

So I think delaying intuition is a very good idea. Delaying intuition until the facts are in, at hand, and looking at dimensions of the problem separately and independently is a better use of information….

I don’t think CEOs encounter many problems where they have intuitive expertise. They haven’t had the opportunity to acquire it, so they better slow down.

Break the decision up. It’s not so much a matter of time because you don’t want people to get paralyzed by analysis. But it’s a matter of planning how you’re going to make the decision, and making it in stages, and not acting without an intuitive certainty that you are doing the right thing. But just delay it until all the information is available.

 

 

The relationship of UX to engineering

I have a habit of looking for the nugget of insight or the key pattern used when listening to interviews. In the YouTube clip from the Joe Rogan show, comedian and musician Reggie Watts simply described the relationship between UX and engineering.  To quote Reggie Watts (@2:51 min into the clip),

It’s about what does it take to engineer a machine that becomes invisible to the experience. And that was, that kinda blew my mind. So whenever you are designing anything it’s like your designing the experience the engineering should get the f*ck out of the way.

For me, Reggie could have spiked the mic and walked off.  So many people work and fail to articulate UX and the relationship to engineering. It was a simple but profound observation by Reggie, made while listening to a record on a $150K stereo system. Inspiration and insight surround us and they appear when we least expect it, even while watching a youtube clip on why records sound better.

Reggie Watts on Why Records Sound Better via the Joe Rogan.

5 Links Friday August 14 2015

Team Genuis: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations” by Richard Karlgaard and Michael Malone.  The latest Scientific perspective on high performing team, his Microsoft example is very interesting. And the Hypothesis used to
His presentation at Google


“Since software is about learning, and we rarely, if ever, do the same project twice, we are always estimating the unknown.”  Johanna Rothman author of “Predicting the Unpredictable: Pragmatic Approaches to Estimating Cost or Schedule”


Science Heroes: An amazing analysis on the impact of innovation that has benefited us all.


Freakonomics Failure is your Friend Stephen Dubner interviews Steve Levitt his coAuthor on “Think Like a Freak“, Allan McDonald from Morton Thiokol Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project and Gary Klien a cognitive psychologist about Go fever. You can read the transcript or listen via YouTube.


Architecture Stuff:

Making Architecture Matter: A brief but great presentation by Martin Fowler of ThoughtWorks about Software Architecture and a reference to his design stamina hypothesis.

The Leprechauns of Software Engineering by Laurent Bossavit looks to be an interesting read dealing with Folklore in software development that is widely believed to be fact. I will add it to the pile to read or at least a quick scan.

A good resource with articles explaining SAP CIF. I wanted to brush up on CIF a bit.

5 Imperatives for Developing Information Superiority

In the Strategy& the authors write:

Developing an information superiority capability requires following five imperatives:

  1. treating information as a strategic asset
  2. having centralized governance
  3. building an information culture
  4. taking the right cyber security posture
  5. designing and delivering an integrated ICT infrastructure

Information and Decision superiority in modern markets is critical. Companies cannot hide from this reality, failure to achieve and maintain both Information and Decision superiority will make it  increasingly difficult for companies to win in the market place.

Another Andy Grove quote

Andy Grove one of my all time favorite business icons has a great quote in his book High Output Management. Writing about the consequences of and the rates of change enabled through globalization he says:

When products and services become largely indistinguishable from each other, all there is by the way of competitive advantage is time.

This quote makes me think about the time related components within a strategy and consider how they can be optimized prior products and services becoming equivalent.

My 10 Standard Operating Principles

Teams operate best when they have perfect clarity and focus. This can be challenging to almost impossible at times, but one thing I have learned is we all need a common set of operating principles to fall back on when clarity and focus are in short supply. These basic principles  are intended to help an individual or team to keep moving. The list provides basic tools to help create clarity or to allow for action to be taken without fear of a mistake.  I have found that 7 out of 10 principles generally work for any team and only need minor adjustment or 2 or 3 additional principles.  I am also constantly looking for ways to refine the principles to make them more clear and actionable without being specific instructions.  So here they are in no particular order:

  1. 2 in the box.  Escalate until you have someone with shared responsibility or accountability. Batons get passed not dropped.
  2. Lead with a straw man. No one likes to be put on the spot, give them something to work with or to save face with if they are not prepared.
  3. A problem has a cause and a solution bring both.
  4. Decisions are made better with data.
  5. People understand what they know.  Give examples using what they know.
  6. Outcomes first, then focus on the means and the credit.
  7. Your communicating enough when you feel like you are bothering people.
  8. UNODIR (Unless Otherwise Directed) Take measured action, adjust and communicate.
  9. Draw a picture.  A picture is worth 10 meetings (at least), even one hand drawn in pencil and scanned.
  10. Here Be Dragons.  There are many risks, challenges and issues mark them for others.

These 10 aren’t perfect but they can only get better.

Unconquered

One of my favorite poems, I find myself re-reading it on occasion.

Invictus
By: William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Three Interesting Things about Me

  1. I have done every terrible job on a construction site, and know firsthand the value of a working trash pump.
  2. I wrote my first BASIC program in the 5th grade and was the only 11 year old in programming class full of adults.
  3. I could eat pizza everyday of my life, It is my favorite food.

2 lessons I learned that were critical in my career

Key lesson #1:
One of the most powerful things you can do for the people around you is provide clarity. Clarity empowers people, improves execution and allows for greater accountability. I always try to keep in mind the quote by Lewis Carroll “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. 
 
Key lesson #2:
We all need help along the way and my success can not be attributed to my efforts alone. I have succeeded because others helped when I needed it, sometimes without my knowledge. So having been a beneficiary of many investments of help throughout my career, I have an obligation to repay those investments by helping others when they need it. 

 

The future

My absolute favorite quote about the future:

The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

William Gibson