Productivity | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

Parkinson's Law  

You might have heard of Parkinson’s Law. It states, that a project will always fill the available time. If you have two weeks, it will take you two weeks. If you have two years, it will take two years.

Cal Newport dug up the original article in which C. Northcote Parkinson describes how the naval bureaucracy grew after World War I was won.

How Tech Companies Manipulate the Media

YouTubers MrWhoseTheBoss and MKBHD explain the techniques tech companies use to get a more positive coverage of their products.

Checks and Balances

Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refutes the notion that the United States are such a free country because of the Bill of Rights:

But then I tell them, if you think that the Bill of Rights is what sets us apart, you are crazy. Every banana republic has a bill of rights. Every president for life has a bill of rights. The bill of rights of the former evil empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was much better than ours. I mean that literally. It was much better. We guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. Big deal. They guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff.

He then goes on explaining that what sets America apart is the structure of its government with checks and balances that make sure no one can amass too much power.

Full transcript on govinfo.

Goals, Not Tasks  

Matt Blodgett:

There’s a whole class of bugs that comes down to the developer followed very specific instructions without understanding the goal. And a well-meaning manager will take that to mean I wasn’t specific enough in my instructions. No! Computers need instructions. Humans need understanding.

Exactly.

I like to take developers with me when visiting customers. A common understanding of the goal removes so much friction and makes life so much easier.

I also recommend Basecamp’s Shape up to break down the barrier between product and IT and have small teams work closely together to ship a new product or feature.

Brown M&Ms  

When a promoter booked the rock band Van Halen they needed to provide a bowl of M&Ms, having all brown ones sorted out.

Julie Zeveloff:

As lead singer David Lee Roth explained in a 2012 interview, the bowl of M&Ms was an indicator of whether the concert promoter had actually read the band’s complicated contract.

“Van Halen was the first to take 850 par lamp lights — huge lights — around the country,” Roth said. “At the time, it was the biggest production ever.” In many cases, the venues were too outdated or inadequately prepared to set up the band’s sophisticated stage.

“If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design, and I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check” of the entire stage setup, Roth said.

Decisions

James Clear in his 3-2-1 newsletter:

If a decision is reversible, the biggest risk is moving too slow.

If a decision is irreversible, the biggest risk is moving too fast.

Bottleneck

James Clear in his 3-2-1 newsletter:

Time spent working hard is often better spent identifying where the bottleneck is located.

Working hard on the wrong thing leads to frustration, not progress.

Leadership is, by definition, leading people away from where they already are.

–– Tim Urban

When all is said and done, much more is said than done.

–– Dave Cutler

How to Raise a Human

As part of NPR’s parenting series #HowToRaiseAHuman Michaeleen Doucleff visited a Maya village in Yucatán where even the youngest kids take great joy and pride in helping out in the house.

The Maya achieve this by letting the kids help whenever they want and however small the contribution is. In the beginning this takes longer than if the parents would do the task on their own.

Doucleeff writes:

The moms see it as an investment, Mejia-Arauz says: Encourage the messy, incompetent toddler who really wants to do the dishes now, and over time, he’ll turn into the competent 7-year-old who still wants to help.

Research supports this hypothesis, says the University of New Hampshire’s Andrew Coppens. “Early opportunities to collaborate with parents likely sets off a developmental trajectory that leads to children voluntarily helping and pitching in at home,” he says.

Or another way to look at it is: If you tell a child enough times, “No, you’re not involved in this chore,” eventually they will believe you.

Back in San Francisco Doucleeff tried it with her then two-year-old daughter:

So how did I turn a tantrum-fueled toddler into a chore-loving cherub (as if). To be honest, I needed to revamp the way I parent. I changed the way I interact with Rosy and the way I view her position in the family.

She made the chores the fun activity of the day, took her time doing them and included her daughter whenever possible.

For another article Doucleeff and colleague Jane Greenhalgh went to Iqaluit, Canada to learn how Inuit parents raise their kids to be calm adults that don’t get angry.

One part is not to yell:

“Shouting, ‘Think about what you just did. Go to your room!’ " Jaw says. “I disagree with that. That’s not how we teach our children. Instead you are just teaching children to run away.”

And you are teaching them to be angry, says clinical psychologist and author Laura Markham. “When we yell at a child — or even threaten with something like ‘I’m starting to get angry,’ we’re training the child to yell,” says Markham. “We’re training them to yell when they get upset and that yelling solves problems.”

Another one is storytelling:

For example, how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, “Don’t go near the water!” Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what’s inside the water. “It’s the sea monster,” Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids.

And one is role play:

When a child in the camp acted in anger — hit someone or had a tantrum — there was no punishment. Instead, the parents waited for the child to calm down and then, in a peaceful moment, did something that Shakespeare would understand all too well: They put on a drama. (As the Bard once wrote, “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”)

“The idea is to give the child experiences that will lead the child to develop rational thinking,” Briggs told the CBC in 2011.

In a nutshell, the parent would act out what happened when the child misbehaved, including the real-life consequences of that behavior.

All three articles are highly recommended.

Hire Less  

Basecamp in Getting Real:

Don’t hire people. Look for another way. Is the work that’s burdening you really necessary? What if you just don’t do it? Can you solve the problem with a slice of software or a change of practice instead?

Whenever Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, used to fire someone, he didn’t immediately hire a replacement. He wanted to see how long he could get along without that person and that position.

I genuinely believe that with the right processes and the right people most companies need only half their headcount.

The Value of Ignorance  

The American Management Association published an excerpt from William A. Cohen’s book A Class with Drucker:

“I never ask these questions or approach these assignments based on my knowledge and experience in these industries,” answered Drucker. “It is exactly the opposite. I do not use my knowledge and experience at all. I bring my ignorance to the situation. Ignorance is the most important component for helping others to solve any problem in any industry.”

Hands shot up around the room, but Drucker waved them off. “Ignorance is not such a bad thing if one knows how to use it,” he continued, “and all managers must learn how to do this. You must frequently approach problems with your ignorance; not what you think you know from past experience, because not infrequently, what you think you know is wrong.”

Cohen continues with a story about Americans building British cargo ships during World War II without having any knowledge about building ships.

This reminds me a lot of John Ramsay, the designer of the Limiting Factor, the “first commercially certified full ocean depth manned submersible” (Wikipedia), portrayed in The New Yorker:

Ramsay, who works out of a spare bedroom in the wilds of southwest England, has never read a book about submarines. “You would just end up totally tainted in the way you think,” he said. “I just work out what it’s got to do, and then come up with a solution to it.”

Elon Musk, quoted in one of Tim Urban’s amazing articles:

I think generally people’s thinking process is too bound by convention or analogy to prior experiences. It’s rare that people try to think of something on a first principles basis. They’ll say, “We’ll do that because it’s always been done that way.” Or they’ll not do it because “Well, nobody’s ever done that, so it must not be good.” But that’s just a ridiculous way to think. You have to build up the reasoning from the ground up—“from the first principles” is the phrase that’s used in physics. You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that, and then you see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work, and it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past.

68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice  

Kevin Kelly:

It’s my birthday. I’m 68. I feel like pulling up a rocking chair and dispensing advice to the young ‘uns. Here are 68 pithy bits of unsolicited advice which I offer as my birthday present to all of you.

Great list. Some of the bits I like particularly:

  • Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more.
  • If you are looking for something in your house, and you finally find it, when you’re done with it, don’t put it back where you found it. Put it back where you first looked for it.
  • Before you are old, attend as many funerals as you can bear, and listen. Nobody talks about the departed’s achievements. The only thing people will remember is what kind of person you were while you were achieving.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

–– James Baldwin

How to Fix a Broken Knee

In case you’re ever hit by another motorbike and break your tibial plateau, that’s what they’re gonna do. Just saying…