Author: Shrutin Shetty

Leopard 2 Tanks and the Irony

I can’t seem to get over the irony of how once upon a time, Russian tanks helped turn the fate of a world war against invading Germany..; to current times where multiple European countries are now sending German-made (Leopard 2) tanks to Ukraine to help save it from the invading Russians.
 
Somewhere between these two events, we humans forgot our history and lost the plot.
German Leopard 2 tank, image: source

On Seeking Advice

pensive grandmother and granddaughter having a conversation while cooking in the kitchenImage: source

When seeking advice, especially from someone you believe can offer great perspective, stick to gaining clarity on the big questions you need help figuring out.
The advice you receive is obviously for you to consider, not to blindly implement.
And especially not for you to defend when receiving it.

Clarify if you think something was misunderstood. I have observed a good number of people claim to seek advice, but the moment the people they seek advice from points out an improvement area, they try to defend it and start chatting about it.
That is usually the ego’s defenses kicking in, which is natural. However, when we try defending and chat about it, that distracts and diverts focus from that very aspect of our behaviour that we hope to improve on (and why we seek advice for).

When I seek advice, I consider the duration of the meeting or interaction as a time to be quiet.
Start with your most important question.
A good person to seek advice from would ideally ask you more questions for context before jumping to ‘advice’.
Counterintuitively, be wary of those who jump to advising with little knowledge about your context.

And every once in a way, you add more questions or course correct, if you feel the challenge you’ve sought help on has not been accurately understood or has been addressed incorrectly.

But apart from that, seeking advice should be about attentive listening, note-taking, and hopefully getting a new way to look at the challenge, and some ways to take a shot at it.

It should not be like a casual conversation with a friend just for the kicks of relieving the pressure or discomfort from it, though if you choose the people you seek advice from well, the conversation will have that effect on you as an incidental benefit.

Helmets from Scallop Shells

A lot of you probably love scallops?! [controls drool].

Now, imagine scallop shells that are thrown away after we’ve had the good stuff.

Then, imagine 40000 tons of scallop shells thrown away!
That is the quantity of discarded scallop shells the island of Hokkaido in Japan sees each year!

Just left there, the shells would contaminate the soil.

So a creative team from TBWA\Hakuhodo and an Osaka-based chemical company created great looking hardhats and cycling helmets using these shells.

And as part of the design, they retained the naturally ribbed shell structure; and realized it improves strength of the structure. By almost 30%!

Now I am not sure if 40000 tons is excessive consumption or not. Assuming it is not, such innovations are a welcome solution to a global ecological crisis.

But if it implies excessive consumption, it is a good reminder for all of us to do our bit – from moderate consumption, avoiding endangered species and the resulting unregulated fishing, and so on.
After all, there’s only so many hats and helmets one can buy.

Read about it in the article here.

A white helmet made from discarded scallop shells, against the backdrop of the ocean.
Image: TBWA\Hakuhodo

#scallop #shells #design #innovation #ecofriendly #ecodesign #product #helmet

Rest in Peace, Mr. R. K. Krishna Kumar

Padma Shri R. K. Krishna Kumar, Former Tata Sons Director, passed away yesterday. A key pillar of the Tata Group, and close confidante of Mr. Ratan Tata.

I once had the privilege of meeting Mr. Krishna Kumar at the Tata Sons office a few years ago; on a special request through someone. I had some views about Tata Motors strategy and some car designs, and simply wanted to share them with him. He was extremely humble, and patiently went through my report, shared a few views, and then offered to have the report sent to the then CEO of Tata Motors. It right after that meeting I also saw Mr. Ratan Tata for the first time ever.

Today, I heard another incredible story about the Tata stalwart, Mr. Krishna Kumar.

Apparently in the early 2000’s, Mr. Krishna Kumar visited Tata Memorial Hospital and was speaking to the Dean. He knew the patients were well cared for, but he saw a lot of patients who had come from out of town to consult a doctor. And he wondered what they might be doing for lunch. He asked the Dean roughly how many patients visit the hospital for consultations each day.

300!

It seems from the very next day, to this day, there is good quality food available for 300 patients who visit the hospital each day for a consult.

In an age where ‘business=monetize’, and non-profits tend to deploy funds in areas that maximize optics, greats like Mr. Krishna Kumar and the Tata Group show us that there was a better way to work and to live. A more respectable way.

Rest in peace, Mr. Krishna Kumar.

Read a bit about his life here: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/tata-veteran-krishna-kumar-dies-11672597446130.html

Earth vs Jeff’s Trillion

When the population of animals or insects in a region grows substantially and causes damage, we call it an infestation.

Yet we humans have never looked at it the same way when it comes to ourselves, on how we grow and expand to displace and occupy forests, oceans, plant and animal territory.

And that concern is worsened multi-fold when public figures like Jeff Bezos say things like he did around 2018, that someday ‘a trillion people will live in space, there will be “a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts” and we’ll develop other planets, leaving Earth a beautiful place to be’, that isn’t coming from a place of need-based expansion, but rather a fascinating-sounding image to sell tickets on his spaceship.

Because then us common mortals start seeing the planet like we do an existing, well-functioning phone, when someone we admire gives us a preview of a fancy, upcoming phone. Our reaction is often reflected in what I call a ‘rolled model’ (as opposed to a role model).

We are suddenly even less careful with our phone. We don’t mind if it falls a few times, or if something we placed on it risks scratching the screen or leaking onto it.

Because someone we admire gave us a preview of what our world and life would be, with that upcoming new phone.

So what if that person we admire actually sells phones. So what if we are suddenly alright with our current phone getting damaged.

We are simply fixated on the possibilities of the new.

Only, in the case of the planet, the intention of the likes of Musk and Bezos is simply to sell tickets to space. But the effect of such previews don’t just influence our actions to affect our phone, but influence and magnify the damage we cause to the blue dot that’s home to a lot more than just us.

Here’s a very interesting article: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220905-is-the-world-overpopulated

#earth #population #ecologicalbreakdown #space #balance

Product Design should factor Human Forgetfulness

Product design should factor for human forgetfulness where possible.

This is a picture of the detergent tray from a leading brand, top-loading washing machine.

The hole in the tray is where detergent, mixed with water, drips into the drum during a wash cycle.

However, when the tray is opened to fill detergent, you notice it slopes downward.

This is understandable from a manufacturer’s perspective, the reason for the downward slope of the open tray intended to prevent any liquid or diluted detergent dripping into the drum before the cycle has begun.

However, from the user’s perspective, it also means that if a user forgets to shut the tray, it will fill with water, but mostly likely won’t drip through the outlet, as you can see in this case where, shortly after starting the cycle, it was realized and shut.

And forgetting to close the tray can be a very likely possibility in the hurried world we live in. It would involve an extra wash cycle after one realizes. And more water wasted, to get the job done.

A less desirable workaround solution could involve a sensor check that alerts the user of an open tray.
A intuitive workaround could be where the tray tilts forward (instead of backward), and the outlet is placed on the lower end, and only opens during a cycle and not before. So as not to inconvenience the user.

After all, aren’t machines supposed to be designed to make human lives more efficient?

#product #design #behaviour

An Indian Survivorship Bias Example

Many of you must have seen that drawing of a World War II plane with red dots on it.

It explains Survivorship bias, a bias that statistician Abraham Wald figured out.

Pic: source

Simply put, survivor bias is our tendency to view a situation or pattern as a comprehensive representative sample, often without considering what might be missing from that picture.

For instance, the WWII plane with red dots was a study Wald and his team carried out to determine which parts of returning Allied jets were hit the most by enemy gunfire, so as to reinforce those parts and make them stronger.

It was then that Wald realized that those parts were actually stronger, as all those jets had made it back to base safely. So instead, they focused on reinforcing the other parts, since clearly jets hit on other weaker sections never survived to tell their side of the story.

In India, there has been a belief among many of the older folk that children or people with big/long ears live a longer life, compared to those with smaller ears.

Interestingly, while most of our body shrinks with age, our nose, earlobes and ear muscles keep growing. Which means our elders had the concept backwards.

It was not that those born with bigger ears lived longer. But rather that those who lived longer, had ears that simply had a longer time to keep growing, and are therefore, relatively bigger in size.

#behaviour #behavior #bias #behaviouralscience #behavioralscience

 

Product Design Inputs for a Standing Desk

Invisible Bed has been an interesting product company.
As a recent
owner of a wall mounted sit/ stand desk, I recently shared some product design inputs with the CEO. They were well received.

The Product:

The Challenge:
1.Pre-attached table-top – makes installation a challenge even for a 2-person team, as the table-top weight causes the swing-arms to open
What I would do instead:
Keep the table-top separate. Maybe include a clamp on the swing-arms, onto which the table-top can subsequently be clamped onto. This might prevent the swing-arms from constantly opening.

2.Desk design – causes the unit in fullycollapsed position to swing outward and downward when unlocked. And the locking mechanism deforms if the desk is inadvertently lifted without unlocking – either way, risks injury to users or children who unlock it and are in the path when it swings outward
What I would do instead:
Offset the design so that the center of gravity falls within the unit itself, preventing it from swinging outward. It would then need to be manually lifted into position by the user, also automatically reducing the possibility of small children getting hurt as the unit would not swing open even if unlocked.
Or alternatively (simpler but boring option), a stronger locking mechanism.

This idea was part of an initiative called RattL ’em. and was shared with the CEO of the company, who was thrilled with the inputs, and plans to incorporate it in the future design.

What is RattL ’em?: We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So whenever a company catches our curiosity, we offer them an idea (a new product, service, or feature/ improvement idea), or highlight a concern area. Someday, we hope we can send an idea out into the world everyday.
We do this for free, and for fun. And the company receiving the idea is free to use it, with no financial or other obligation toward us. It is our way of trying to be the best in the field of people innovation.

Everything as a Service

Pic: source
 
Over the past decade, the business world has had a real attraction to making everything a service. And rightly so. Would you rather struggle to repeatedly sell your product to the same customer? Or would it be better to offer it on a subscription model where you can keep improving it over time, and charge users a regular fee for using it? From furniture and tech products to cars, web hosting and food apps. I’m all for the services model.
 
However, you can’t help compare the process of buying good ol’ products whenever you would need them, to subscription based services. Let me know what you think..
 
In FMCG products, larger SKUs are more expensive, but (almost) always cheaper per unit than smaller quantity SKUs.
Increased manufacturing, distribution costs, and profit margins affect the price of a product. But that price applies to all customers, new or loyal ones. As does any promotion, that does not differentiate between old and new customers.
 
Compare that with technology and web service companies. You pay a monthly, quarterly or annual fee for services they offer. Technology companies, like any other business, have costs that tend to grow over time. And their discounts to convert free-, or non-users to paid users are far more tempting than consumer product discounts. Rightly so.
 
But these discounts strain the operations of many of these tech companies, forcing them to create lean models of operations. That’s the upside! Is anything more fascinating than Uber needing only a 3-member team to manage every new location it expands to?
 
But once that discount period is over, fees of many tech services companies goes up, year after year. And similar to consumer product customers, there is no growing advantage of staying loyal (apart from a superior offering itself) to a brand. While customers of consumer products still benefit from any benefits offered to new/ non-paying customers, that often does not happen with tech services companies.
 
And therein lies the anomaly. Alert consumers of a tech service would find themselves reviewing the service and its benefits, comparing with competitors, or even just weighing the pros and cons of retaining any such service, each time it is up for renewal.
 
I’ve been using the MS Office 365 service for almost 8 years, and the older MS Office software before that. And while my subscription was on auto-renewal for many years, at one point I realized how the fee had steadily risen. While new users were still getting it at a price almost 40% lower (and as a friend mentioned, even lower on Amazon on festival days). It seemed unfair, and there was nothing stopping me from simply registering as a new user with a new email id, and simply moving files from one cloud to another.
 
Similarly, hosting is a ruthless market for service providers. All service providers offer heavy discounts on new subscriptions, but those fees skyrocket once that initial period is over. And in many cases, you don’t want to avail the heavy discount and commit to many years subscription without knowing the quality of the service and support.
 
I wonder if this anomaly seems more in price-sensitive markets like India, or it is a pattern across the world.
 
And I wonder if there is a better model that might help fix this apparent anomaly (for customers) and challenge that service companies face. One that is adequately fair to the service companies that work hard to bring incredible services our way, and to stand apart from the competition. And that is also fair to the average user of those services who is not thrilled about being fleeced for a service he or she has been using loyally for sometime, and then finding out that it is being offered to newcomers at a fraction of the cost they pay – with no extra benefits to show for the loyalty.
 
The ideal model would be one that adequately compensates tech service companies, while also avoiding the highly skewed pricing between newbies and loyalists. And tech companies need to lose any fat.
 
I am always reminded of Uber and Ola. It is popularly known that Uber just needs a 3-member team to expand to a new city. And in 2012, I remember forgetting an empty gym bag in an Ola cab, and ended up being sent to two of their sprawling offices in Mumbai!
 
The business model that extends from the founders’ vision and extends to become part of the culture of the organization, will determine how soon and how much profits your business can and will make.
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