Sunday, October 31, 2021


 Utkarsh Rai, in his insightful video, takes up this question and lays down a definitive point of view.

He cites- "Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. While it can motivate to perform higher and deliver better, it can cause unnecessary anxiety and time consumption."

When Google launched Gmail, it remained in beta for almost 5 years. At that time, technology companies used to keep products in beta as a transitional phase between “alpha” (when in-house testers or focus groups try out the software) and the official release. As far as I recall, my first experience with Gmail wasn't particularly buggy but it still preferred to keep beta as a label signalling that that they’re still tweaking the e-mail service and adding new features.  Apparently, Google's internal checklist still had stringent requirements that needed to be met before Gmail was fully released. Source:

I find it quite interesting as Google preferred to value perfection before it fully released Gmail and at the same time the users used the product that was 'good enough' (and not necessarily perfect). We see other extreme in the cloud era where anything less than four 9's high availability creates unpleasant headlines.

I find an alternative point of view on this debate in Shreyas Doshi's twitter thread on LNO Effectiveness Framework for task prioritization. In summary, this framework talks about only a very few of our tasks deserves our inner perfectionist to shine (what he call Leverage tasks) and for other category of tasks- Neutral and Overhead tasks, following a perfectionist mindset will be an overkill and a cause of stress and anxiety.

Borrowing thoughts from Utkarsh Rai's video (watch here where he articulates the strategies to cut down the obsession with perfectionism and shares the following :
1. Embrace progress in failure 
2. Calibrate your standards
3. Cut down Rumination
4. Value utility of time

Sharing my sketchnote on the quote i loved.

What's your take on this ?

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Jeff Immelt (former GE CEO) was once reviewing a problem in a product review with a group of executives. The problem being discussed was about the design of the brand-new engine that GE had developed for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Engineers had narrowed the cause down to a critical flaw in the low-pressure turbine design. GE was now facing a potential crisis. The company had spent five years and over $1 billion developing the engine. The market for this engine was worth $50 billion. Jeff watched and listened as people debated how to proceed—and then something dramatic happened.
One of the frontline engineers who worked on the turbine stood up. He was not a manager, not an executive. He was just an individual contributor. He said something that most people probably did not want to hear: “This is wrong,” he said. “We designed it wrong. It’s not working the way it’s supposed to be working, and this is going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, but we have to do it over.” As Jeff recalls, “This was a master technologist, a guy who would not even think about being politically correct. He said this with such conviction. He knew the consequences of this decision were going to cost the company probably $400 million to fix.” Jeff took that engineer’s advice. It was a costly but correct decision.
(Story adapted from the book- "Ask Your Developer")

This story can be dissected in many ways but two points that stood-out for me were:
1. The presence of front-line engineers in a critical project review meeting.
2. Not the mere presence but the engineers being given a strong voice in the meeting.

Embracing such culture helped GE avoid what Shreyas Doshi calls an "Authority Approval Bias" in his blog-
It is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure and be more influenced by that opinion.

The fact that an high authority figure can go wrong (we are all humans!) and by providing psychological safety for frontline engineers to speak, it can help avert major product problems.

The blog includes 6 more biases on why products usually fails-
-The Execution Orientation Fallacy
-The Bias-for-Building Fallacy
-The IKEA Effect for products
-The Focusing Illusion for products
-Maslow’s Hammer
-Russian Roulette for products

Catch my Sketchnote below & highly recommend reading the blog-

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Over the period of lifetime, Thomas Edison built a rich legacy in the field of business and as one of the most productive inventors. While his inventions are talked-about till date, the methods that led him to success aren't talked about as much.

Edison was also one of the most prolific note-takers in the history. He is said to be responsible for ~5 million pages of notes, the archives of which are at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. He developed a pattern which made sure that all useful or important information would end up written down. He called his notes memory assistants.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin group, also calls note taking as one of his most important habits. He says "I go through a dozens of notebooks every year and write down everything that occurs to me each day, an idea not written down is an idea lost. When inspiration calls, you have got to capture it."

It is evident that when we talk about high performance, it is not an all encompassing term but it is really made up of smaller but important skills like note-taking.

What are the other non-obvious skills for high performance ?

If you are interested in exploring this topic, you would love the thoughts shared by Greg Isenberg in this amazing twitter thread Beyond note-taking, Greg calls out habits such as:

- Ability to manage feedback.
- Writing well.
- Lifting other people up.
- (Counter intuitively) Not being hyper-productive everyday.
- Smiling/laughing often.
- Being allergic to excuses.
- Not being afraid to ask questions.
- Being on time.
(and a few more)
You can find summary of key points in my sketchnote here

It is often said that "Genius obscures hard work". The greatest in the world have a set of routines that they practise, that allows them to deliver peak performance. It is those little, simple things that one needs to perfect and rigorously keep doing even when nobody's watching.

What else would you add to this list ? #highperformance #skills

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 In the recent memory, one of the most cited cases in the world of digital transformation has been that of GE Digital. An extremely ambitious bet about building a software business that would help customers get more efficiency of their investments in industrial equipments. Unfortunately, most of the analysts label this as an initiative that didn't reap expected rewards for the company.

In retrospect, then GE CEO Jeff Immelt opines that "I had a team and a process that was setup for scale, not for experimentation. I wish I'd start small, with an entrepreneurial team, and got it started under the radar. And after they found early success, then I could apply the scale that GE was so good at."

It is often said that hindsight is 20/20 but I really find it fascinating how the outcome of one of the world's largest digital transformation projects is attributed to these 2 phrases- 'Starting small' and 'Appetite for Experimentation.'

CEO of Expedia group, Mark Okerstrom- a company known to run multitude of experiments said- “In an increasingly digital world, if you don’t do large-scale experimentation, in the long term—and in many industries the short term—you’re dead."

Despite these cases and learnings, building a culture of experimentation does not get as much press as it should. Recently, while reading an insightful book "Ask Your Developer" by Jeff Lawson (Twillio CEO), I was excited to find a chapter dedicated to experimentation. I have in included my sketchnote summary of learnings here. Key learnings:

1. Metaphorically speaking, experiments are not like Lottery tickets though there is a chance element associated with them but (unlike lottery) experiments can be improved by applying relevant skills.

2. After you run experiment, one of three things can happen. You strike gold; you strike out; or you find yourself somewhere in the fuzzy middle. Don't penalize failed experiments. Do reward successful experiments with more resources.

3. Never harm a customer in the process of doing experiments.

In the end, experiments are less about success or failure, more about accelerated learning. Building a culture of experimentation requires multi-layered approach- education (i have rarely come across training programs on experimentation), building psychological safety for employees and the appetite for risk-tasking.

What do you think ?

#innovation #experimentation

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Which of these is better- being a specialist or a generalist ? This one seem like an untiring debate, the one for ages.

A while back (thanks to a post by Tanmay Vora), i came across the book- "The Neo-Generalist" by Richard Martin and Kenneth Mikkelsen, which added a new dimension to this perennial debate.

What is a Neo-Generalist ?

According to the authors, “the neo-generalist defies easy classification. They are tricksters who traverse multiple domains, living between categories and labels. A restless multidisciplinarian who is forever learning. They bring together diverse people, synthesising ideas and practice, addressing the big issues that confront us in order to shape a better future.”

So, a neo-generalist is both specialist and generalist, often able to master multiple disciplines. We all carry within us the potential to specialise and generalise.
The authors argue that the time for learning one single skill and relying on it for rest of our lives is over. The world is not linear. Complex problems do not exist in isolation. They always touch other problems. To be relevant in an automated world, we need to be adaptive and constantly learn newer paradigms. In short, Eclectic outlook of life is the way forward (you cannot connect the dots with just one dot!!) and the ability to traverse between being a specialist and a generalist as the situation demand will become table stakes in the time to come.

No matter which side of the debate you are on, one thing is for sure that there is no better time to emphasize the importance of lifelong learning habits (something that is at a core of being a neo-generalist). Learn how to lean is super power that one must endeavor to weild.

What are the lifelong learning habits that one must look to embrace ?
Here's my sketchnote summary of some of the ideas shared by Sahil Bloom in his remarkable twitter thread

Few of my favorite points:
1. Watch out for your Information diet (majorly social media use). You become what you consume. Consume less, but consume intelligently. Aim for more signal, less noise.

2. Teaching is often the most powerful path to learning. If you want to learn, teach.

What are your favorite lifelong learning habits ? Please share.
#learning #specialists #generalist

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Friday, October 15, 2021



Back in 2005, Noah Kagan (employee #30 at Facebook) was concerned that Facebook wasn't making enough money & wanted to share his ideas with Mark Zuckerberg. Mark heard him but pushed back. On a whiteboard he wrote the word, “GROWTH.” He proclaimed he would not entertain ANY idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of “users.”

Mark's response helped Noah channelize his thinking around one metric that mattered the most- 'User growth'

It reinforces that focus is singular, a philosophy that is popularly endorsed by Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal). Thiel's 'One Thing' philosophy built a culture that led employees to think about not 3 or 4 but just '1 most important priority'.

It was based on the premise that if you allow yourself to have more than one focus, you’ve already blinked. You’ve determined that mediocrity is an acceptable outcome.(

'One-thing' thinking becomes even more important in today's times when we are spoilt for choices, where we have become content consumption machines (blame social media or our habits) which gives us fair share of ideas but also comes at a cost of distraction.

What strategies do you use to focus on your highest priorities ?

#focusonwhatmatters #leadership

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