Analytical 38: Ideas

1 March, 2019


Steve Jobs once said, the best ideas have to win. We unpack what that actually means in practice and ultimately look at how you can tell what the best idea actually can look like.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined and if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analyzed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered absolutely analytical. This episode is brought to you by Clubhouse, the first project management platform for software development that brings everyone on the team together to build a better product. Visit this URL clubhouse or one for more information. We'll talk more about them during the show. Analytical is part of the Engineer Network to support our shows including this one. Head over to our Patreon page and for other great shows, visit today. Ideas. You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. Who said that? Are you getting it? Because if you're not getting it, maybe you've heard this one. The best ideas have to win or good people don't stay. So, if you haven't heard that, well, Steve Jobs said that at the D8 conference on Tuesday, the 1st of June, 2010, just over one year before he passed away. There's a link in the show notes if you haven't seen it before. That interview is an amazing thing to watch. have to say. Steve's comments about ideas came with an implicit assumption. If you want to be both innovative and have the best chance for success as a company, then the best ideas have to win. Of course, how one evaluates what's a good idea and what isn't is actually really the issue. If we have a group of technical people in any given discipline trying to reach some consensus about the right course of action to take, then how can we actually be sure who to listen to and what the best idea actually looks like. Because some people exude confidence, but they aren't particularly competent, hence episode two, competence. Go back, have a listen if you're interested. How do you tell a good technical person you should probably listen to? Characteristics of a good technical person, they have a track record, a good sound track record of technical decisions, meaning that they led to more good outcomes than they led to bad outcomes. And to be honest, be fair, nobody's perfect, but there should definitely be more good than bad. People that are good technically will listen to the opinions of others. And importantly, they'll challenge their own beliefs and long-held opinions when they need to. How else will they improve and continue to be sound technically if they don't? The characteristics of the best ideas, they stand up to an open debate, and any teardowns or flaws that are agreed by a consensus to not outweigh the positive aspects of the idea. Too often really good ideas are shut down by a single stone, saying, "Well, it won't work for this one remotely possible situation, so it's no good." When in fact it's the best idea for 99% of the situations that may arise, you have to be honest and fair in criticism. The problems with hierarchical decision-making are long understood, but the problem is that hierarchical decision-making is actually very easy for people to understand. It's entrenched, like trenches, literally as in trenches from the First World War, from the military. If you don't like the decision, you escalate. If you don't like that decision, you escalate again until finally someone higher puts you in your place, and a decision is made, and it's usually bad. Collaboration ignores hierarchy, and a true meeting-of-the-minds type collaboration involves technical input addressing all aspects of the problem in question. I like the idea of people checking their ego at the door when they walk into a collaborative discussion. The problem is I've heard that expression used at gyms and in the parlance, "Leave your ego at the door and you sweat on the floor or something like that. I mean, it rhymes, but it's not really what leaving an ego at a door means technically, well, to me at least anyhow, but never mind. The concept is that our egos are invested in being the winner or vindicated that our opinion is the opinion that should ultimately win. It's not based on whether the idea is the best idea because it's your idea and it better be the one they all like, damn it. The problem with that though is on balance, not every idea that you have is going to be a good idea. I personally have had a non-zero number of exceptionally bad ideas, some of which I tried to follow through on with well… never mind. Before we go any further, I'd like to talk about our sponsor for this episode, and that's Clubhouse, the first project management platform for software development that brings everyone on every team together to build better products. Clubhouse was built from the outset with Agile development in mind with an intense focus on intuitiveness and responsiveness. With their web app backed by Fastly CDN, it really feels like a local app on any platform. Clubhouse delivers developer-centric tools for everything from Kanban boards to epics, milestones, cards with different card classifications for features, bugs and chores, but it's more Clubhouse's ability to interconnect all of them together that's so impressive. Users have reported creating less duplicates, navigation is very fast using a common board but with as many configurable workspaces as you like to customise that board for whatever purpose you might need. Morning stand-ups for different teams, sub-teams or all the teams, it's up to you. Ultimately, any collaborative project management software has to be as low friction as possible, and not just for software developers, but for everyone in the organisation. Marketing, support, management, you name it, the lot, so everyone can contribute and actual collaboration actually happens. Finally, the other part of Clubhouse that really shines is its ability to zoom out from the individual tasks to the overall project status that not only keeps project managers happy, but keeps the team connected to how their part contributes to the greater project and keeps them focused on what matters, delivering a result their customers will enjoy. There are others in the market but they're not like Clubhouse and what makes Clubhouse so different is the balance between the right amount of simplicity without sacrificing key functionality, structured to allow genuine cross-functional team collaboration on your project. Clubhouse is a modern software as a service platform with seamless integrations for popular tools like GitHub, Slack, Sentry and there's lots more and if the tools that you want to integrate aren't available out of the box, that's ok, there's an extensible REST API in Clubhouse that make integrations straightforward. If you visit this URL you can take advantage of a special offer for Engineered Network listeners. Of course, you'll get the 14-day free trial, but if you sign up you'll get two months free and because this is a team-centric solution, this offer will work for your team, not just you. The offer is only available to Engineered Network listeners for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. Thank you once again to Clubhouse for sponsoring the Engineered Network. So the point is, leaving your ego at the door means being able to set aside your opinion in that collaboration and accept that other people's ideas should be equally considered. If you find that you are shouting down other people, if there are ad hominem attacks, passive resistance, these are all signs that your ego has your brain by the throat. One of the other points that's key is the value of the beneficiary of your work. I don't see it as the winner exactly, but in effect, who or what benefits from the best idea. This should be the company as a whole, or on a smaller scale, sometimes a team or a group within the company. Mind you, if the success of one small team leads to the failure of another team, maybe you should stick with the organisational focus for success instead. But ideas need to consider as many broad aspects as possible. If the idea seems to stack up, it creates new risks that aren't considered and someday someone is injured or dies or the company ends up running out of money as a result of that idea, well, then obviously those are all bad outcomes you want to avoid. Considering as many of those outcomes as you can matters as well. So remember that ideas are like us, everyone's got one, something like that anyway. Now remember that not every idea, and remember that not every idea you have is going to be good. Letting the best idea in the room win isn't a sign of weakness or losing, but rather it's acknowledging that for teams to work, you have to respect their other people with really good ideas too, and you should listen to them and give their ideas a fair go too. If you're enjoying Analytica or want to support the show, you can via Patreon at one word with a thank you to all of our Patrons and a special thank you to our Silver Producers Carsten Hansen and John Whitlow with an extra special thank you to our Gold Producer known only as R. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to raw detailed show notes as well as ad free high quality releases of every episode with Patron audio now also available via individual Breaker audio feeds. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards and beyond that it's really, really appreciated. Beyond that there's lots of other ways to help like leaving a rating or review on iTunes, favouriting this episode in your podcast player app or sharing the episode or the show with your friends or via social. All of those things help others discover the show and make a huge difference. I'd personally like to thank Clubhouse for sponsoring the Engineered Network. If you're looking for an easy to use software development project management solution that everyone can use remember to specifically visit this URL clubhouse or to check it out and give it a try. It'll surprise you just how easy it can be. Analytical is part of the Engineer Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on the Fediverse at [email protected] or the network on twitter at We also have a YouTube channel with more content going live regularly for your convenience. Accept nothing. Question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chichie. Thanks so much for listening. for this day. 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Duration 11 minutes and 17 seconds Direct Download
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Show Notes

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Episode Gold Producer: 'r'.
Episode Silver Producers: Carsten Hansen and John Whitlow.
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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.