Making something of value

Or why give a damn about anything?

When our taxi app got into a no-stakes incubator program a full year ago, we tried to manage our expectations. We didn’t want to catch ourselves dreaming about hockey stick growth, we just wanted to ship the damn thing and put it on the app store to test it in the real world. Nevertheless, it was an exciting time.

Now, because it was in Manchester, not everyone wanted to go to the workshops. It meant a weekly bus trip — a cheap £15 return. And that was the first time when it hit me — “Why am I the only one in the team willing to learn how to build something of value?” Here I was on a string shoe budget, putting myself out there.

On good craftspeople

One-sided as it sounds, there are too many good craftspeople that can write code, good code that works. Those who can design wonderfully, delightfully and those who can embed value in a product by adding what many would many consider just as tiny details. But no matter how good they are with their skills, they can shoot themselves in the foot repeatedly if they don’t get out in the world and bridge their technical prowess with real people, with the streets, with the suburbanite's living room, with the thoughts in someone else’s mind.

I’m not saying that they should not do what they do best. But if they aspire to do products, to actually add value and not mere execute from a script, they have to escape the confines of a job title, of a profession, of any kind of labeling. In a way, the underlying principle is always to bet against the “truths” that many believe are true that are in fact in a gray area.

Perfect answers vs better questions

Back to the program experience, after 4 workshops and one really great book, there was the interview to be considered for the accelerator. The first question? “Where’s your team?” I felt both shattered and liberated. I cobbled up an answer. It pointed up a red flag.

“Who’s your market?” “What pain do you want to solve?” Rapid fire questions, answered in my still muddled up immigrant English.

The last thing that I got from the one who asked the questions was essentially the article that I found a week ago from below.

Strong opinions, loosely held

A week later, I called the 5 of us for what became an all night discussion on what’s going on. We weren’t true to ourselves, nor with each other. Why go through pain if you’re not willing to learn from your mistakes?

Our vision for the world stopped clicking.

The single most important concept that we held different?

You can’t teach someone, they can only learn from you.

When I first encountered this, I could see how the others tried to deny it in every way possible. The bigger their denial, the more I started to believe in it. And that put me on a wildly different path from day 1. Also because I could shed away more easily what I thought true in the past but which now turned out to be false, after being confronted with evidence.

Creativity = Learning = Growth

So I started reading more on cognitive biases and on the mind, on the elements that create our worldview, covering some of the huge blind spots that we culturally and socially have.

I thought a lot about the mismatch between mass-scale → rigid education systems. At one point, I found this article below and again, it spoke true to my newly updated worldview.

“In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?
We succeed in adulthood through collaboration. So why is collaboration in tests and exams called cheating?”
“When we have less to work with, psychologists have found that we actually begin to see the world differently.”

Minimalism, bias and more bias

Therefore, it’s confusing to observe so many opposite views out in the world. It seems this confusion is making #fakenews really easy to enter mainstream. The sheer cacophony of “truths” and opinions-disguised-as-facts make people shut off and stick to their immediate needs and desires.

That’s why I’d preach for minimalism every day.

“With constraints, things unfold quite differently. We dedicate our mental energy to acting more resourcefully. If you ask someone to design or build a product, you might get a handful of good ideas. But if you ask someone to design or build it while sticking within a tight budget, chances are you’ll get much better results.”

“Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention.”

Relevance and priorities are something that I know I need to work on. At the same time, I know this is something valid for many other people. Therefore, I revised this entry in my journal and made it more readable and concise, for you out there.

Enjoy learning!