Showing posts with label options. Show all posts
Showing posts with label options. Show all posts

December 30, 2018

Alternatives Are More Valuable Than Criticism

So one lesson of life that I have learned is about criticism. 

It's easy to criticize, but tough to come up with real solutions. 

Criticizing someone else, does not usually provoke a good response. 

UNLESS, you can provide a bona fide better alternative in a loving way. 

It's important to solve problems and not just create new ones. 

Criticizing without an alternative just causes anxiety and frustration in the other person. 

But when you says something isn't right and why, and provide a better alternative, now the other person can see concretely what you are talking about, and they know they have options and that you are trying to help. 

No one wants to be told they are no good or their choices are no good. 

But people don't mind and perhaps may even embrace being told that there is even something better for them out there.

Don't criticize, instead give alternatives that are good for the other person. 

That's real love without being a jerk. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 19, 2017

What Do You Do With Fear?

Thought this was a really good perspective on fear.

"You have two options:

Forget Everything And Run

Or

Face Everything And Rise"

It the old fight or flight!

- Running may be good when you can avoid a devastating fight and get yourself and your loved one to safety.

- But sometimes you don't have that option and you have to "fight the good fight" and overcome the devils you face. 

Everyone is afraid of something(s) and/or somebodies. 

If someone isn't afraid then they are brain dead!

Strengthen yourselves, ready yourselves, and pray. 

What do you fear and how will you face it? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 6, 2013

Go Simple!

Two interesting recent articles discuss the importance of building in simplicity to product design to make things more useful to people.

Contrary to popular belief, simple is not easy. Mat Mohan in Wired Magazine (Feb. 2013) says that "simplicity is about subtraction," and "subtraction is the hardest math in product design."

Two of the best recent examples of simplicity through subtraction is what Apple was able to achieve with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes, and what Google did through its "sparse search page."

Unfortunately, too many companies think that "quality is associated with more," instead of less, and so they pack on options, menus, and buttons until their darn devices are virtually useless. 

Similarly, an article in the Wall Street Journal (29 March 2013) advocates that "simplicity is the solution," and rails against the delays, frustration, and confusion caused by complexity. 

How many gadgets can't we use, how many instructions can't we follow, and how many forms can't we decipher--because of complexity?

The WSJ gives examples of 800,000 apps in the Apple store, 240+ choices on the menu for the Cheesecake Factory (I'd like to try each and every one), and 135 mascaras, 437 lotions, and 1,992 fragrances at the Sephora website.

With all this complexity, it's no wonder then that so many people suffer from migraines and other ailments these days. 

I remember my father telling me that you should never give consumers too many choices, because people just won't know what to choose.  Instead, if you simply give them a few good choices, then you'll make the sale.

Unfortunately, too many technologists and engineers develop ridiculously complex products, and too many lawyers, legislators, and regulators insist on and prepare long and complex documents that people aren't able to read and cannot readily understand. 

For example, in 2010, the tax code was almost 72,000 pages long, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is about 2,700 pages, and the typical credit card contract now runs to 20,000 words.  

Even the brightest among us, and those with a lot of time on their hands, would be challenged to keep up with this. 

While rewriting and tax code is a welcome topic of discussion these days, it befuddles the mind why most of the time, we simply add on new laws, rules, regulations, amendments, and exclusions, rather than just fix it--plain and simple. 

But that's sort of the point, it's easier for organizations to just throw more stuff out there and put the onus on the end-users to figure it out--so what is it then that we pay these people for? 

The plain language movement has gotten traction in recent years to try and improve communications and make things simpler and easier to understand. 

Using Apple as an example again (yes, when it comes to design--they are that good), it is amazing how their products do not even come with operating instructions--unlike the big confusing manuals in minuscule print and numerous languages that used to accompany most electronic products.  And that's the point with Apple--you don't need instructions--the products are so simple and intuitive--just the way they are supposed to be, thank you Apple!

The journal offers three ways to make products simpler: 

- Empathy--have a genuine feel for other people's needs and expectations.

- Distill--reduce products to their essence, getting rid of the unneeded bells and whistles. 

- Clarify--make things easier to understand and use.

These are really the foundations for User-Centric Enterprise Architecture, which seeks to create useful and usable planning products and governance services--the point is to provide a simple and clear roadmap for the organization, not a Rorschach test for guessing the plan, model, and picture du-jour. 

Keeping it simple is hard work--because you just can't throw crap out there and expect people to make sense of it--but rather you have to roll up your sleeves and provide something that actually makes sense, is easy to use, and makes people's lives better and not a living product-design hell. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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January 8, 2012

A Race To The Future

This last week, we learned of the new defense policy that shifts the U.S. from a full two war capability to a "win-spoil" plan, where we have the ability to fight one war, but still disrupt the military aspirations of another adversary elsewhere.
While we would all like to have unconstrained capabilities for both "guns and butter", budget realities do not permit limitless spending on anything or anytime.
The Wall Street Journal (7-8 January 2012) had an interesting editorial that cautioned against reduced military spending and latched on specifically to focusing too much on the Asia-Pacific region and somehow neglecting other danger spots around the globe.
Basically, the author says it is dangerous for us to put all our proverbial eggs in one basket. As he writes, this single-focus approach or "strategic monism" is predicated on our ability to accurately predict where the trouble spots will be and what defensive and offensive capabilities we will need to counter them.
In contrast, the author promotes an approach that is more multifaceted and based on "strategic pluralism," where we prepare ourselves for any number of different threat scenarios, with a broad array of capabilities to handle whatever may come.
What is compelling about this argument is that generally we are not very good at forecasting the future, and the author points out that "the U.S. has suffered a significant surprise once a decade since 1940" including Pearl Harbor (1941), North Korea's invasion of the South (1950), the Soviet testing of the Hydrogen bomb (1953), the Soviet resupply of Egypt in the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Iranian Shah's fall from power (1979), the Soviet Union collapse (1991), and the terrorist attacks of 9-11 (2001).
Similarly, Fortune Magazine (16 January 2012) calls out "the dangers inherent in...long-term forecasting" and points how almost comically "the 1899 U.S. patent chief declares that anything that can be invented has been."
The Fortune article goes on to say that a number of the experts interviewed for their Guide To The Future issue stated that "cyberterrorism, resource shortages, and political instability around the world are all inevitable."
In short, the potential for any number of catastrophes is no more relevant now in the 21st century, than at any other time in history, despite all our technological advances and maybe because of it.
In fact, Bloomberg Businessweek (19-25 December 2012) actually rates on a scale of low to high various threats, many of which are a direct result of our technology advancement and the possibility that we are not able to control these. From low to high risk--there is climate change, synthetic biology, nuclear apocalypse, nanotechnology weaponry, the unknown, and machine super intelligence. Note, the second highest risk is "unknown risks," since they consider "the biggest threat may yet be unknown."
So while risks abound and we acknowledge that we cannot predict them all or forecast their probability or impact accurately, we need to be very well prepared for all eventualities.
But unfortunately, being prepared, maintaining lots of options, and overall strategic pluralism does not come cheaply.
In fact, when faced with weapons of mass destruction, threats to our homeland, and human rights abuses is there any amount of money that is really enough to prepare, protect, and defend?
There is no choice but to take the threats--both known and unknown seriously--and to devote substantial resources across all platforms to countering these. We cannot afford to be caught off-guard or prepared to fight the wrong fight.
Our adversaries and potential adversaries are not standing still--in fact, they are gaining momentum, so how much can we afford to recoil?
We are caught between the sins of the past in terms of a sizable and threatening national deficit and an unpredictable future with no shortage of dangers.
While everyone has their pet projects, we've got to stop fighting each other (I believe they call this pork barrel politics) and start pulling for the greater good or else we all risk ending up on the spit ourselves.
There is no option but to press firmly on the accelerator of scientific and technological advancement and break the deficit bounds that are strangling us and leap far ahead of those who would do us harm.
(All opinions my own)
(Source Photo: here)

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April 24, 2011

Brain Sharing is Eye Opening

This is a neat video and idea from GOOD called "Brain Sharing" by Lincoln Schatz.

The idea...what if we could plug in to someone else's brain and see the world the way they do (for a period of time) or as they say in the video "swap CPUs"?

(This is a little reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek, where species are plugged into the Collective and become sort of one ultimate race or similarly in the movie the Matrix, where people are plugged into a master computer program that runs their world--although here it's not an ominous context.)

But back to the point--what a powerful concept.

Rather than see things the way we see them, and think that's the way it is, period; instead we temporarily plug into someone else's brain (bionic implants away!) and whoa, we have the opportunity to see the world the way others see it and process the world the way they do--that is eye opening!

All of a sudden, things are not quite so simple. It's not black and white, as they say, but lots of shades of grey.

Of course, I still believe that there is objective ethics and morality from G-d for us to live by and therefore we can distinguish right from wrong, which we are often are forced to chose.

However, when we are seeing choices through others persons eyes and processing through their brains, we may see the problems anew with different variables and effects as well as see new options for solving them that we didn't even see before.

That's a great thing about being a diverse society and bringing multiple views, vantage points, and brains to the table--we can innovate together beyond the limitation of any one of us alone.

This isn't necessarily a new concept, but still one that is very important, often forgotten, and one well captured in this GOOD video.

P.S. Maybe an interesting exercise is to think about make a list of whose brains you'd like to share for a while (if only you could) and see the world the way they do.

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January 11, 2009

Choice Architecture and Enterprise Architecture

In a free society like America, we are generally all strong believers in our rights and freedoms—like those often cited from the Bill of Rights-- speech, press, religion, assembly, bearing arms, due process and so forth. More broadly, we cherish our right and freedom to choose.

According to an recent article in Harvard Business Review, December 2008, one way that enterprises can better architect their products and services is by “choice architecture.”

Choice Architecture is “design of environments to order to influence decisions.” By “covertly or overly guiding your choices,” enterprises “benefit both company and consumer by simplifying decision making, enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing risk, and driving profitable purchases.”

For example, companies set “defaults” for products and services that are “the basic form customers receive unless they take action to change it.”

“At a basic level, defaults can serve as manufacturer recommendations, and more often than not we’re happy with what we get by accepting them. [For example,] when we race through those software installation screens and click ‘next’ to accept the defaults, we’re acknowledging that the manufacturer knows what’s best for us.”

Of course, defaults can be nefarious as well. They have caused many of us to purchase unwanted extended warranties or to inadvertently subscribe to mailing lists.”

Given the power of defaults to influence decisions and behaviors both positively and negatively, organizations must consider ethics and strategy in equal measure in designing them.”

Here are some interesting defaults and how they affect decision making:

Mass defaults—“apply to all customers…without taking customers; individual preferences into account.” This architecture can result in suboptimal offerings and therefore some unhappy customers.

Some mass defaults have hidden options—“the default is presented as a customer’s only choice, although hard-to-find alternatives exist.” For example, computer industry vendors, such as Microsoft, often use hidden options to keep the base product simple, while at the same time having robust functionality available for power users.

Personalized defaults—“reflect individual differences and can be tailored to better meet customers’ needs.” For example, information about an individual’s demography or geography may be taken into account for product/service offerings.

One type of personalized default is adaptive defaults—which “are dynamic: they update themselves based on current (often real-time) decisions that a customer has made.” This is often used in online retailing, where customers make a series of choices.

There are other defaults types such as benign, forced, random, persistent, and smart: each limiting or granting greater amounts of choice to decision makers.

When we get defaults right (whether we are designing software, business processes, other end-user products, or supplying services), we can help companies and customers to make better, faster, and cheaper decisions, because there is “intelligent” design to guide the decision process. In essence, we are simplifying the decision making process for people, so they can generally get what they want in a logical, sequenced, well-presented way.

Of course, the flip side is that when choice architecture is done poorly, we unnecessarily limit options, drive people to poor decisions, and people are dissatisfied and will seek alternative suppliers and options in the future.

Certainly, we all love to choose what we want, how we want, when we want and so on. But like all of us have probably experienced at one time or another: when you have too many choices, unconstrained, not guided, not intelligently presented, then consumers/decision makers can be left dazed and confused. That is why we can benefit from choice architecture (when done well) to help make decision making simple, smarter, faster, and generally more user-centric.


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