Posted on April 29th, 2010 No comments
In a previous blog post “Rolling them down the hill” I was making the point that people’s decision making tends follow a path of an instantaneously formed opinion based on aesthetics followed by a process of looking for evidence to support this initial choice. In retrospect I may have over simplified it but there is still something there that I believe is largely true.
What made me think of it again was this quote that came up in one of my RSS feeds:
“When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you, but because, in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for.” Minimal
There has been a lot of work done in the field of decision making from examining established techniques to complicated medical investigations looking at things like the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex” and its probably worth mentioning that I have studied none of it. Even so I have a theory that much of the practical techniques are pretty much for show and that ultimately, good decisions makers rely on intuition & courage more than anything else. This is quite similar to what Malcolm Gladwell was writing about in Blink but the distinction I am making is that the process of decision making is a delaying tactic while the decision maker tries to work out how they “feel” about it in order to choose. They will do what feels right.
I know that people like to think they have an open mind and gather evidence before making a decision but in my experience the data collected rarely gives a purely positive or purely negative result. You are going to get pros an cons either way and ultimately you are going to have to make a “feel” call in the end.
“In the end” means you run out of time and are forced to make a call theoretically based on on what ever data you have gathered to that point. Your decision that may be better because you have had some time to think about it a little more or read something that changed your perspective slightly. But not really evidence.
In agile software development there is a saying that the best possible outcome is making the right decision and the worst possible outcome is not making a decision. The wrong decisions sits somewhere between the two. The sooner you make a wrong decision the sooner you discover that you where wrong. If you don’t make a decision then you are not making progress at all, you have stopped moving and probably stalled everyone working with you. You make not realised this at first but eventually you will find your loyal troops have moved on to other work.
What this means to me is that to get the best out of our teams and ourselves its probably best to stop pretending that we go through a decision making process and have more courage to make intuitive decisions.
Posted on April 13th, 2008 No comments
We have started building a new website and an issue has come up around the prioritisation of the work to include in our first showcase.
Do we focus on developing the site functionality first or do we make sure we make it looks good by implementing the graphic design?
I will ask to make you own call soon but let me fill you in on a little of the detail first.
A showcase is part of our agile project methodology where the business stakeholders get a demonstration of what the team have been working on in the previous fortnight and are given an opportunity to give feedback on the results so far.
This is a new site we are building so there is nothing much to show at the moment but it is going to have quite innovative functionality and some people are quite keen to start making some early progress on this. We also have an awesome visual design worked out that looks very impressive on paper.
The other thing is that the business stakeholders are not 100% behind the project and are not really convinced that we can do this sort of thing. There is the distinct possibility that they might shut the project down if they are not happy.
Timelines, as always, are very tight and we can’t do both things.
So…what do you do ? Make some early progress on the functionality in order to prove that you have the chops or put your efforts into building the flashy interface that is all smoke and mirrors because there is nothing really behind it.
Right…made your choice?
I believe that when people look at a website, (or anything really), they make a split second judgment about whether they like it or not then go about collecting evidence justifying their initial impression. If the first impression is good they will start picking out things they like about it. Conversely, if that first experience is poor they will start finding things they don’t.
That split second judgment is so fast it can only be based on visual aesthetics. There is not enough time for anything else.
So you can have the most amazing functionality of all time but if it looks like arse, then most people will say that they don’t like the font and have to be convinced it is worth using.
The reverse situation is where you have a snazzy interface over broken or useless features and you will find that many people will persevere with it way beyond what is reasonable because it promised so much!
It is far easier to roll people downhill that it is to push them uphill. So we made our decision and went with building the interface first and just had images for most of the features. Hopefully our business stakeholders will see the façade of a great website site get inspired, fund the rest of the project and not notice that all the smoke floating around.