The Basics of Work – Understanding Human Nature: Rapid Feedback Prevents Wasting Time

The most challenging aspect of ‘work’ is that it doesn’t matter whether “I” do a good job or not. What matters is that the job is satisfactory in the eyes of the “other party”. When we say, “other party”, It could be anyone, ranging from customers to investors, or even your direct supervisor. It includes anyone that holds a stake in your particular task or job.

Understanding another person’s thoughts/intentions is rather difficult. It’s even more difficult to express these thoughts in the form of words. Let’s attempt to understand the “other party’s” thoughts. We’ll assume that the other party isn’t intentionally speaking ambiguously to make your life difficult.

The first step is to think of what humans are attracted to by nature. Let’s try to think about an absolute truth that applies to all humans. 

No one prefers something “less” beautiful over something “more” beautiful.

Cheaper is better for things of the same quality.

Making more money is better than making less money.

Higher quality is preferred over lower quality for things of the same price.

Faster is better than slower.

Easy is favored over difficult.

(*Even these things may have exceptions.)

Aiming to achieve a goal that aligns with human nature tends to yield better results than strictly adhering to the other party’s words.

Next, the most effective way to understand the other party’s thoughts is to bring the resulting outcome to them directly.

Just because something is of high quality does not necessarily mean the other party will like it. There’s no need to give 100% on something that only requires 20% of your effort. It ends up being a waste of time and resources.

More often than not, many people aren’t aware of whether the other party wants 20% or 100%. In an ideal world, the individual assigning the work would clearly state their intentions to the employee, but things don’t always work out like that. In such cases, it’s better to bring an incomplete, 20% worth of product to the other party and check to see if you’re going in the intended direction.

Never aim to complete a task in one go. Come up with a rough draft, understand the other party’s intentions, and work under the pretense that it’ll take an X amount of times before it’s approved.

This goes for assigning work as well. Throw away any expectations that the initial product will perfectly align with what you envisioned. It’s important to get a ballpark figure on an individual’s capabilities and the quality of work they’re able to produce based on their past work. It’s also important that the individual on the receiving end of this feedback is able to accept and incorporate it well.

We should always remember that we cannot reverse the flow of time. The greatest risk in work stems from wasting time and resources on pointless things.

Always verify, even if it’s tedious. No one dislikes working fast. Something is better than nothing.

“Lean startup” is a methodology that follows similar principles.

The fundamental meaning behind “lean startup” lies in creating a business model that rapidly produces products, gets feedback from the customer, and making improvements. It’s a rinse and repeat of this process before pumping in millions of dollars and years of work.

But as with everything, quick production and quick feedback may not be the answer to everything. Let’s do some critical thinking.

The lean startup methodology may not always be the solution for some businesses. For example, it’s rather difficult to apply this process into developing new drugs. It’s probably also a bad idea to apply “lean” development to coding software for manned space shuttles.

Even IT services differ based on whether they’re free or paid services. I believe it’s more acceptable to implement a lean strategy if the service is free. But it’ll probably anger the customers if the service they paid for is constantly down and the quality of the service does not meet expectations.

Likewise, it’s also a bad idea to apply this lean approach to a supervisor who’s swamped with work. You’ll probably get yelled at for bothering them with mediocre work. But despite being chewed out, you can glean from the reprimand that you’re headed in the right direction. The supervisor would probably have said something else if your work was totally off direction from its intended purpose. You’re not necessarily wrong, even if you were chewed out.

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