“To be or not to be” or how to avoid the framework when making design decisions

    Doing something professionally, we constantly make decisions. Big and small, important and not very. The success of all our activities depends on how correctly we accept them.

    When it comes to software development or startup development, both the commercial success of the project and the well-being, effectiveness and morale of the team depend on the decisions of key employees. Mistakes are not immediately detected and are very expensive.


    I recently read an excellent book, Thinking Traps, by Chip and Dan Hizov. She's not about IT at all. Rather, the opposite. She's about how to think every day. There is not a word about design or programming in it. But it was in it that I found a lot of advice on how to improve the decision-making process in an IT company. I’m going to share these tips with my own observations.

    Invisible problem


    The usual question when making decisions in the product development team is: add or not a feature, accept or not another programmer, support VKontakte or just Facebook, do or not do adaptive layout ... Such questions are solved either individually or by vote. As an answer we get “Yes” or “No”. Usually, neither one nor the other answer suits the team 100%. And what is guided in the decision process is not completely clear. Decision making is often accompanied by long torment, reflection and weighing. As a result, it is accepted, and then the team lives with it.

    For the sake of experiment, let's try to look at the same questions from a different angle - more broadly:
    Add or not feature?What are the highest priorities now? Which tasks will bring more money / customers / feedback ... in a short time / in the long run?
    To accept or not another programmer? How can you best use the free budget of N thousand rubles? Can we allocate another M thousand rubles to solve some other priority tasks?
    Support VKontakte or just Facebook?Who is our target audience, where does it behave most actively: social networks, forums, webinars? By what means can you attract / hold / build a dialogue with her ... the cheapest? What marketing tools will give us an effect right now, and which ones can work for the future?
    To do or not to do adaptive layout?What% of mobile users visit the site? Are we losing them? Which% of users are we ready to lose, and which is not?

    It turns out that if you shift the focus of attention a little and look at the question more broadly, it becomes much clearer how to solve it. There are more options and solutions and one of them can be much more reasonable.

    A typical problem that arises when making decisions is called the "narrow framework" and does not allow you to see the full range of possible options. The insidiousness of the narrow framework lies in the fact that in most cases we are not aware that we are in them. Let's look at examples of the manifestation of a narrow framework in product development.

    Design Frames


    Many times I found myself stuck in one variant. I don’t like it, but I don’t see how to fix it. I sit and move the line one pixel to the left - one pixel to the right or a little bit change the hue of some color. Usually - this is a signal that I have reached a dead end. We need to relax, move away from the monitor, ask someone's advice, look at some inspirational example (for me this is, oddly enough, apple.com :) or read the task again - do I understand it correctly.

    One of the problems, by the way, is connected precisely with the statement of the problem. Frames are often created when it is set. Instead of formulating a problem, and looking for ways to solve it, people begin to discuss right away and made the first solutions that came to mind and thereby limit their options.

    For example, you need to make a travel agency website. The client says, “I like that competitor’s site. I want the same. They have a beautiful twist on the main one and the orange buttons are just super. ” And that’s all! A designer can only think about how to make a twist and orange buttons, but so that it does not look much like a competitor's site. Those. he thinks not about how to make it more convenient for visitors and not about what else people can be useful in choosing vouchers. He is struggling to solve a completely different problem.

    Framework for programming


    After scientists, programmers are the most intelligent and often using their own brain people. But even they sometimes fall into the framework. They rest against the solution of one problem, do not see obvious solutions, put errors. According to my observations, this happens when they are either tired, or someone pulls them all the time and does not allow them to concentrate, or they are running out of time, or all this at the same time. It happens, of course, that the programmer is not literate enough, makes decisions based on his narrow momentary problem and does not take into account the general problem. But we will not talk about such :)

    Framework for Marketing


    I met many times with the fact that marketers act strictly according to the textbook (of course, not all, but many). Blog, SEO, subscription form, letter heating. Plus, social networks, where blog updates are published interspersed with posts from popular publics. Plus, of course, contextual advertising. And so for absolutely any project. It doesn’t matter if it’s a concrete plant, a medical center or a high-tech startup. What is the reason for such a narrow framework, I do not know. It would seem that the work is creative, it should consist of constant experiments. Perhaps fear intervenes not to repel the advertising budget.

    How to see the frames?


    Oddly enough, being within the framework, a person very rarely realizes this. However, he is not able to find the obvious answer, because he simply does not look in his direction. Who didn’t have the occasion that at the sight of an elegant solution we exclaim:

    “God, this is obvious! As I myself had never guessed before? ”

    One does not need to be a genius in order to find beautiful and correct solutions. It can all. And there are methods for this.

    Step 1. Detect the problem. If you see that the choice comes down to just two options (do this or that), or, worse - to one option (to be or not to be), then you are in the frame. Realized that within the framework - excellent! The first step to victory has been taken.

    Step 2. Consciously seek other solutions.The trick is to look for solutions explicitly and consciously, and not to choose from the first that came to mind. Some tricks:
    1. The disappearance of options. Imagine that we cannot accept any of the available options. Here we can’t, and that’s it. We recall the folk wisdom “The need for inventions of cunning”, make our brain turn on and invent something new.
    2. Not OR, but I. Instead of choosing between the two available options, let's try to combine them. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Leaving the advantages of both options, we will try to change the situation so as to level out the shortcomings.
    3. Like others. Surely, other people have already faced a similar problem. For example, your competitors. So let's use it for our own benefit. There must be some benefit from competitors :)

    One rule of thumb is to keep looking for options until you fall in love at least twice. (Chip Heath and Dan Heath)

    Step 3. Select the desired solution. So, we found some good options - you need to choose one. At this stage, another insidious enemy lies in wait for us - our emotions. For example, the mind suggests that it is time to close the project, and the heart screams that it can still pay off, and it is a pity to throw it, because we have invested so much in it. Here you need to make an effort and distance yourself from the question. Try to look at him from the side. Ask yourself, and if in this situation there was a friend of mine, what would I advise him? And if I asked Steve Jobs for advice, what would he tell me? Very often, with such a formulation of the question, a completely unambiguous answer instantly arises.

    Step 4. Check.No one is able to predict how events will develop and what the decision you make will lead to. Even if we are confident in the result, we have vast experience, we are experts, we have intuition and a Ph.D. in the field under discussion. The thesis that the solution will work is just an assumption. Just admit it.

    The tendency to consider myself a great specialist (“I just intuitively know this”) sits inside each of us (Chip Heath and Dan Hees)

    The good news is that in most cases the assumption can be verified under conditions that are close to reality. We decided that we need to introduce a new function - make a dummy button and check how often they will click on it. You think that taking another programmer will speed up development by 20% - measure for several days how much time the programmers spend on coding and how much time on interaction within the team. Please note that the more participants, the more interaction between them, and the dependence is far from linear.

    In some cases, to verify the assumption, calculation is enough, in others - modeling, in third - an experiment or a prototype close to reality. But in any situation, a field test will help to take a sober look at the decision. And what is important, treating verification as a study, we will be mentally prepared for a possible error and the subsequent course change.

    What do we have


    The need to make decisions is an important part of our work, and the ability to do it well is an important part of success. Learning to make the right decisions is not at all difficult. Anyone can do this, and for this, even a secondary school certificate is not needed. The trick is to turn on the brain more often and analyze your own behavior. And having recognized the problem of a narrow framework, turn decision-making into a conscious rational process.

    The right decisions for you!


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