Knowledge fuels Ego

Standard

As humankind evolved, so did our curiosity. Curiosity led us to question. The process of answering any question often begins from what we already know. The trouble with most things we know is that, every one of those things are based on certain assumptions.

Knowledge is often passed on in the form of frameworks. This make it easier for people to understand and assimilate what is being passed on. Most frameworks have gaps and holes. The implicit assumptions are not always (almost never) spelt out. What we know for a fact today can be completely undone by a discovery tomorrow. We have always got to be prepared for this.

There was a time when the brightest men in the world thought that the Earth was flat. They had sufficient evidence to back it up!

Have you seen anything stick on a round object? Their belief in the flat earth was so strong that they were willing to behead those who claimed otherwise. Giordano Bruno was burnt at a stake in Rome in 1600 for claiming the Earth went around the Sun. Galileo was imprisoned, threatened of torture and forced to recant his claims.

These people at the time, thought they knew better; and were willing to bet on their knowledge.

Their assumed knowledge led them to a place of inflated egos.

I often see this in action in startups.

Let us assume there are two co-founders in a company; one specialising in marketing, while the other in Finance. In the event that the marketing specialist came up with some ideas with regards to finance, would the same be readily embraced? There tends to be a certain amount of prejudice that tends to creep in when such a situation normally arises. The knowledge of the knowledge makes the finance specialist assume that he/she knows better.

There can always be a different perspective.

I was thinking about co-founder conflicts and the methods to resolve them. Often the kind of conflicts that become impossible to resolve are the ones where ego is involved. More often than not, when one of the founders feels that he/she is armed with some knowledge which the other is not, their ability to put ego aside becomes greatly diminished.

The ability of the one armed with facts to listen to the one proposing without, is the cornerstone of great co-founding teams. Incidentally, it also the greatest trait most successful leaders possess. Listening.

Irrespective of what you know and what you may have experienced; always listen. Perspectives make a great difference, none of us know everything. And even within the things we think we know, newer perspectives, or discoveries can emerge. So always keep an open mind. Don’t assume that you know everything that there is to know.

The real challenge often is to keep knowledge from turning into belief.

 

MVP Testing

Standard

Most entrepreneurs start with a problem statement. They wish to make money by solving the problem that people are facing. Building a product can be a long, challenging and expensive task. Nobody wants to be undertaking the effort with no certainty of whether or not the product would be accepted by the market. In order to mitigate this risk, an minimum viable product (MVP) is built to test the market and ascertain the demand for the solution.

I often find many startups go with a quick and dirty version to potential customers to find out what they think of the solution and if they would be interested in using it. Often the solution is pitched in the absence of a financial cost because it is very basic! When the real product hits the market, entrepreneurs find it hard to get customers to pay for the product. The discount spiral begins and continues down a slippery slope.

During one of the meetups that we were conducting, we were brainstorming some ideas with students at the Vellore Institute of Technology. In a room of 50 students, one of the students came up with the idea for an app, which would be able to show the mess menu. Since their hostel are 7 stories high, they find it inconvenient to come down to check the menu before every meal, in order to determine whether to eat at the mess or go out.

We asked the group of 50 students in the room, how many thought that the problem was worth solving; all of the hands went up. We then discussed what kind of app could be built and the features that would be required in the app. Everyone seemed to agree that the solution was great so I popped a question, “How many of you would pay Rs. 60 per year for the app?”; 2 hands went up!

There are inherently two types of test that the MVP should be able to succeed on.

 

Testing for behaviour

Every business is based on an insight into human behaviour. The entrepreneur exploits the behaviour to generate an income and a profit.

The first thing that the MVP is supposed to be able to do is prove that the behaviour that one is seeking to exploit does exist. If you are building an e-commerce business, the assumption is that people are ‘lazy’ enough to want to sit at home and shop for products than to visit the shop and buy the product. One of the biggest USP of e-commerce against traditional retail is ‘convenience’. The job of the MVP is to prove that people actually perceive a convenience. This is to test if the expected behaviour is shown.

Are people okay with buying goods from their computer? Are they willing to go ahead with a purchase in the absence of tactile feedback? Are they willing to pay online? Do they like the vast choice being offered?

 

Testing for value

The next step is to prove that the users see value in the convenience being provided. So is the user seeing enough value to pay money for the convenience being provided. If your solution cannot generate income, the path to sustainability is unclear.

Too often entrepreneurs miss out on testing for value, which arguably is the most important part of establishing an business. The purpose of any business is to create value for the customer and exchange that value for money. The value creation should be apparent for the customer.

Being able to test both of these aspects is critical to being right about the product that is being built. Therefore, an MVP must be a product that can be sold to the customer.  The MVP is not a model, it is a product that performs a function in a much simplified manner.

Did you know? – Sound

Standard

Why do you hear a thunderclap when the sound barrier is broken?

If you throw a ball at 10 Km/hr when stationary, the ball will begin travelling at 10 Km/hr, as it travels through air friction will slow it and it will come to a halt eventually. Let us say you were travelling in a car at 60 Km/hr and threw the same ball, depending on which direction you threw the ball in, it will either travel at 70 Km/hr or 50 Km/hr (for the sake of simplicity, I am not considering vectors).

Unlike the ball, sounds tends to travel at a constant speed depending on the medium that it is travelling in. Also, it is a pressure wave unlike light, which is a transverse wave. The wave leaves the the source and moves at a constant speed through the medium, which may be air, water or even a solid.

This is what a light wave looks like.

This is what a sound wave looks like.

Generally sound travels faster in solids compared to liquids, faster in liquids than in gases. Sound travels at about 1235 Km/hr in air at sea level. It travels a little slower as you go higher since air becomes rarer.

Unlike the case of the ball mentioned above, sound being produced by a jet engine will travel at a constant speed. When the jet begins to approach the speed of sound, every successive pressure wave begins to arrive faster and faster. When a jet reached the speed of sound, the next sound wave arrives before the previous one has been able to move.

Its like someone coming running from behind and slapping you.

This results is what is called interference. In this case constructive interference. The two sound wave collide with one another resulting in the Sonic Boom.

Did you know? – Mesmerised

Standard

Anton Franz Mesmer was a German physician in the 18th Century experimenting with magnets to cure maladies. He began by using magnets and soon discovered that he did not even need them. He referred to his approach to curing as Animal Magnetism. Nobody at the time understood what was happening. In the 19th Century one James Braid studied what Mesmer did and proposed to call it hypnosis.

Mesmerised is a word derived from his name to describe a person who is completely captivated.

Did you know? – Oxygenation

Standard

I keep learning random stuff, here and there. I never document these things although they might contribute to an interesting read.

I also have a writing problem. It takes me a lot of time to think through things and condense it into a blog AND I am mightily indisciplined.

So for the benefit of other and in order to be able to push out some content regularly, I am going to start writing ‘Did you know?’ It would generally contain something I learnt that I did not already know.

At time, you might already know it, which is fine; other times you might be surprised. If you like this leave a comment, so I know what all the 12 people reading this think about it.

So here goes…

 

Our blood carries oxygen from our lungs to all of the vital organs in our body. This oxygen is used to burn glucose in the blood stream to produce energy to keep all the organs functioning.

The body does not have any way of detecting the oxygenation levels of blood, but it can detect the CO2 level in the blood.

If you breathe in and hold your breath, you feel this intense need to release your breath because the body wants to push out CO2, not because it seeks Oxygen.

Freedivers use this fact to dive even upto 100 meters without any oxygen. They just keep breathing out enough CO2 and the body is happy!

Subtlety

Standard

Subtle changes have the power of making a huge difference. People don’t realise it at the time, but it does.

To Illustrate:

Take a point and draw a line. Now take a 1 degree deflection from the starting point and draw another line. Initially the paths of both lines seem similar but as you go on extending the line the divergence is apparent and huge. And the longer you draw the lines the more the deviation.

Let us assume you are flying a plane from Bangalore to Delhi. If you have a 1 degree deviation in your route, you will find that you land up in Haryana instead of Delhi. The same plane, if it was flying from Delhi to New York would end up in Washington DC with such a small deviation.

Even in absolute terms the difference is subtle but the outcome is wildly different.

Planes do not fly in straight lines, and neither is life a straight line.

Like a deviation can make a huge difference in the long run; so can a nudge or a learning born out a conversation. The effects of these subtle changes can make the difference between success and failure.

Surround yourself with people who can give you the right nudge and push you in the right direction. Gather diversity of thought from a variety of people. They average themselves out and you tend to arrive at good decisions.

A nudge, a push, a casual conversation can change everything.