Sunday, June 26, 2011

Take Back The Pivot

I did an ignite talk at the World's Best Meetup Group on Wednesday night. It was insanely fun and I love the NYC lean community. Here are a few slides and the gist of what I shared...

"Pivots" are everywhere and that's a problem. Misuse/overuse of the term threatens to turn this extraordinarily valuable concept into meaningless buzzword.

While there are bang up definitions out there (see @dbinetti 's here), pivots for me are about adopting a mindset that failure is the most likely outcome of any new initiative. It's about knowing that my initial idea for any creative venture is probably wrong and doing it anyway, with the belief that the right path will emerge.

This mindset may be common in the valley, but it is a new way of working in NYC (and part of why NY tech is booming right now).

When we expect failure, we can design it into how we work. 
If we begin by asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we assumed you we'd fail?," we'd be more focused on the things that matter. The alternative is to cling to an idea for as long as possible out of fear of being proven wrong. 

Over the years I've learned that 95% of new creative initiatives do, in fact, fail. With disciplined customer development the failure rate can drop to 90%.

That's a 2x success rate. If I could double odds of winning in Vegas, I'd probably get booted from every casino. That's great, except one little problem.... 

The most likely outcome is still failure.

So with a 90% failure rate, the real upside comes from getting in multiple trials. We could jump from venture to venture but that simply ups the trials without meaningfully improving success rates. Instead I believe that we can leverage the learning from each failure to up the odds of the next one. That is the power of the pivot...
And even then the most likely outcome is failure... but I'll take 1 in 4 odds over 1 in 10 any day.

Pivots change the mindset. And that makes a huge difference. When we as a community talk about pivots, we share stories of failure and lessons learned. We get smarter, more flexible, and ultimately more successful.

So, yes, pivot is an overused word. But its an underused concept and I say we change that. I say we overuse the concept and take back the pivot. The NYC Lean Startup Meetup started that ball rolling the other night. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lean Usability

I'm finally getting around to posting this slide share here....

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Malkovich Bias

Over the years I've noticed that just about everyone believes that everyone else uses the web as they do.

People who skim believe everyone else does too. People who skip over ads can't believe anyone looks at, or even clicks on them. People who search can't believe others don't.

It's such an irrational behavior that psychologists should add it to their known list of cognitive biases. I suggest they call it the Malkovich Bias - and define it as "the tendency to believe that everyone uses the web as you do."

The Malkovich Bias is especially prevalent in design and product development processes. It's usually an ugly and frustrating experience. Odds are good that you and your teammates don't use the web in the same way. So you've had conversations like...

"That needs to go above the fold because no one scrolls."

"That's nonsense. People scroll all the time. I do it on Google all the time."

"You might, but 78% of people don't."
(I've actually seen someone reference made up stats on numerous occasions).

Rationally we can all accept that people are different and their approaches to the web differ, but that rational thought can be super tough to internalize.

Which is why I love usability testing. Much like traveling in a foreign country, we often witness behavior so counter to our own, that it makes us question our own dogmas. Similarly watching someone use the web in the exact opposite way we do, confronts and shakes our Malcovich Bias.

In a team setting, usability testing shakes the Malkovich Bias in profound ways. User testing shifts the debate. If a team witnesses a user struggle through something, everyone has a shared experience and understanding of that user's experience which serves as the starting point of the discussion and the eventual solution.