Availability bias and the remote work advantage

Removal of the easiest to observe input metric – face time – reduces the availability bias in remote work organisations, and helps them focus on the more productive outcome-based metrics.

This switch to emphasis on outcomes can be helpful for individual productivity, but is truly transformative when the whole organisation goes remote-first.

Behavioural biases confuse performance appraisal in office-based organisation culture

The time spent in office looking productive is a key factor in performance appraisals across teams and organisations. Even when time in office is not a formal factor, it unconsciously creeps in and affects rating scores on other factors.

This focus on input factors and ‘visible productivity’ (time spent, sales calls made, lines of code written1, bugs closed) is a result of the availability heuristic and substitution bias in action.

The outcomes of an individual/team’s work are delayed and often diffused – hard to credit exactly. However, the inputs are visible and trivially measurable. In pursuit of productivity metrics, the manager/organisation substitute the hard to measure outcomes with the easily available input factors (time spent in office, calls made, lines of code) etc.
Continue reading Availability bias and the remote work advantage

Money is the final metric

Facebook lies about video viewership metrics

This headline reminds me of the old principle that I emphasise:

Money is the final metric

If our metrics don’t directly correlate to, or convert into money1 in the near term, then they are not the correct metrics.

Too many metrics, in my experience, are designed for being:

  • easy to measure (or easily available),
  • easy to improve, and
  • comfortable to explain

What they are not designed for: being strongly correlated with current or future supply of money.

For growth, revenue (total, unit, net unit) is the best metric.

Views of our videos2 can be good metrics if they convert directly into money:
– product sales show a direct correlation, or
– advertisers accept them as proxy for ad views, or
– investors require them as a valuation input for the next raise

Views of our videos are a bad metric when they aren’t directly impacting revenue. If sales aren’t growing in proportion with the views, then counting views is of no relevance to the health of the business.

The availability bias trip-wire

The availability heuristic operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled.

Most online advertising platforms understand this well, and use it to hook their customers (advertisers). If they show us good3, clean and easily accessible metrics of their choice, we will give those metrics more weight than they deserve.

The views count is right there – in the analytics dashboard. While finding the correct metric that actually correlates with sales, and then tracking it, can be hard.

This also ties in the second part of the hook. The view count number is also easily movable. Spend some money on advertisements, the view count will go up. Voila! View counts – a metric that is easy to measure, and easy to improve!

Those money-correlated metrics, they are even harder to improve than they are to discover and track. Oh look, the views went up again!

We all have heard of ‘Our viewer/user/visitor numbers were amazing, but the money ran out before…’

This is why the money ran out. Because we chose the easy metric, over the metric that really matters – money.

Continue reading Money is the final metric

Twitter’s product ideas funnel

Since its founding, Twitter has made a religion of listening to users. After all, they came up with some of the company’s best ideas — including the hashtag, reply and retweet. After the flow of good ideas from users stopped, Twitter was hard-pressed to come up with its own.

Bloomberg: Why Twitter Can’t Pull the Trigger on New Products

The first part of that quote is a fact – users came up with hashtag, reply, and retweet, and Twitter (the company) adopted them.

However…

Continue reading Twitter’s product ideas funnel

Mind the gap

I’ve been helping my neighbour, David, with his visa application1. Spending time with him over a couple of evenings gave me a chance to get to know him better. It’s been quite a learning experience for both of us. Their life2 is quite a contrast to ours, in areas we wouldn’t even think twice about3.

  • We live around our smartphones – are probably too addicted to them.
    He keeps his mobile phone in his car, doesn’t even get it to the house.
  • He provides his landline as the only contact number.
    We didn’t even bother with getting a landline when we moved to this house 4 years ago.
  • He doesn’t know how to use a computer. His wife got a new computer as present last year. They’re still to ‘open it’, because she hasn’t gotten up to it yet.
    We spend many days solely with them ‘computers’.
  • Continue reading Mind the gap

Why tweetstorms, not blog posts

The other day my wife complained, like many of us Twitter users have often done:

Why do people write these long tweetstorms, instead of writing a blogpost?

I blog. And I write tweetstorms. And the answer to that question, for me, is in three factors – reach, effort, and ephemerality. Continue reading Why tweetstorms, not blog posts

‘How’ is the only question that matters

You don’t need risk takers, you need solution seekers

There are two ways people apply their significant intelligence and energy:

1. In figuring out excuses about why it can’t 1 be done

and

2. In figuring out solutions for how to do it

I call them the excuse generation and the solution exploration behaviours.

I explicitly say – two kinds of ways people think. Not, two kinds of people. Because, more often than not, we see both these behaviours in the same people.

Some of the most intelligent, determined, driven people I know are also the ones I often see working smart to come up with unquestionable excuses for why-not-to, instead of solutions for how-to.

A big task for a successful leader 2, then, is to give people a reason to switch from excuse generation to solution exploration. To motivate the best thinkers and doers with incentives 3 – emotional, financial, egotistical, or other – that helps them realign their thought process towards the target the leader wants achieved.

Most specifically (the usual):

Nurture a culture of solution exploration, with

  • big, and highly visible, rewards for success
  • little or no punishment for failure 4

Continue reading ‘How’ is the only question that matters