Tag: Shrutin Shetty

Struggling with To-Do Lists and Staying Productive?

A lot of us struggle with staying productive. Especially so in these times of lockdown and uncertainties. And also when you are focusing on larger goals that don’t really offer much daily satisfaction of accomplishment.
I have heard of some really brilliant people, especially from the behavioural science and behavioural economics communities, struggle with staying motivated and on top of their tasks. I guess that is enough to confirm that it is clearly a human challenge, and not one that those who understand behaviour better than the rest of us can easily solve.
It also does not mean it cannot be solved. Just probably not in the ideal, smooth-flowing way we expect it to.

Staying productive and to-do lists are something I do struggle with. And I have tried many apps to help me. Some have worked, to some extent. Some have worked well in combinations with other apps. In short, it has been a messy process at least for me.

I started creating Excel spreadsheets to keep track of my tasks during my venture capital days. And over time, I’d realize I am falling back, so I’d rework the layout, find some effectiveness, and the cycle would repeat.

I have since, used Google Keep, EverNote, more spreadsheets, Trello, and well over a dozen other apps that I didn’t seem to work for me.

Recently, I read the book, ‘To-Do List Formula‘ by Damon Zahariades. And, it is brilliant.
The book has been beautifully written. The author literally describes different approaches from the perspective of a newbie, and then tells you why that one doesn’t work or where it falls short. That way, by just reading the book, you quickly go through the process of discovery and progress that could otherwise sometimes take years. Ask me.

Anyway, I created a list of key points from the book to serve as a ready reference. Sharing the overview of key points I created from the book here, in case some of you find it useful.
Of course, this is simply to give you a flavour of the book itself, which I strongly recommend you read. For those of you who have a Kindle Unlimited plan or trial plan, it is available there as well!

Anyway, he highly recommended the Todoist app. I have been using it for almost a month now.
Of course, still too early to say, and obviously, it is not the tool itself that will compensate for shortfalls in our enthusiasms or anything, but so far, it has been a good tool.

I love Trello, that I have been using for over a year, and still do. But this one somehow edges it out when it comes to the layout and experience. Still haven’t figured exactly how though yet.

In the next post, I share a RattL ’em idea I suggested to Todoist recently.

Till then, here’s the overview of key points I created from the book.

What if the Comments Section on Social Media had a Search Feature?

Image: source

Say you create a post on social media, and friends or acquaintances comment on it over the next few days or weeks.
Now, sometimes it gets tricky if the comments function is basic.

If there are a few new comments before the next time you check that account, finding them could be a little tricky. Especially if someone comments in reply to your or someone else’s reply. Or if the platform takes you broadly to that section but not specifically to the new comment.

Facebook does a decent job of highlighting the region around a new comment, making it easier to spot.
And LinkedIn gives you the option of sorting comments by Most Relevant and Most Recent.

However, this still leaves a lot to desire.

What if social media platforms could include a search function as a feature on comments?

For instance, LinkedIn has a fairly good search function on messages. It allows a user to sort messages by Archived, from Connections, Unread, InMail, and Spam. However, commenting on posts can get messy really fast if you have a conversation in comments with multiple people, and each one replying to their respective sub-threads.

Facebook gets a bit tricky on birthdays, especially if you are someone who tries to respond to everyone who wished you, and then there are a few small interactions happening in those sub-threads.

Would be nice if the search feature in comments across social media platforms would let us sort by recency, maybe even filter by commenter, etc.

Social media platforms also collapse the comments section for appearance and probably speed, and show only a few comments at a time. With each ‘next’ click, Facebook (and probably LinkedIn) show the next 10 comments, Instagram shows the next 3 only!
Would be great for social media platforms to have a ‘See All Comments’ feature.

From a development perspective, I would imagine it would be similar to adding the Filter function to a spreadsheet.

Do you feel the need for a more effective comments section on social media?

Reading and Writing Smarter

While looking up an old blogging account of mine, I stumbled upon a #RattLem idea from many years ago.

I had made a suggestion to Google, sometime in Feb., 2013 regarding composing of emails.

People sometimes want to, or even unintentionally tend to write lengthy mails.
And people’s attention spans have become shorter [or unchanged, as per some reports, while number of distractions have increased]. Which means, most of us have lesser and lesser time and patience to read through any written matter. And since most of what we read is online, I felt there is scope for improvement.

My suggestion was that emails could have the option to group sections [remember the ‘Group’ option available in Microsoft Excel]. These sections would become collapsible. That way, the recipient of the email can quickly get a gist of the content, and could then expand any or all section if they want more details, and toggle back to birds-eye view whenever needed.

This would be better than overloading the reader with an endless sea of paragraphs that stand the risk of going partly unread.

Main points or key news headlines could be listed out, with  details kept hidden by a [+] sign, so that recipients could expand and read more.
Let me know what you think, and if you have any better suggestions.

Sample Size of One: Towards a Possible Solution

This post explores an alternative to fix the replication crisis (particularly in the behavioural science and economics fields, and if relevant, in other fields too). This post is in continuation to an earlier post titled Sample Size of One: The Rose Negotiations. It would help to read that one first before coming to this one.
 
What can we do to solve our human desire to create or find patterns and thumb rules to how we function? Or to find keys to getting humans to behave in a particular manner, be it to drive a more healthy culture, or improve finance sense among populations. Especially when few patterns exist. And when our desire might be overly simplifying a pattern which might be far broader than what we might want it to be.
 
Here is a broad suggestion towards what a possible solution looked like, at least in my head.
Consider a “hypothetical” scenario where a group of researchers wants to find the effects of an ‘opt-in/opt-out response’ for organ donation.
Up until now, behavioural economists or scientists would identify a large, diverse study group of volunteers, and conduct the experiment. Let’s suppose at the end of the study, they found that 70% of respondents opt for the organ donation program when the form requires them to physically opt-out of organ donation.
Now, a non-profit across the world tries this tactic on a local population, but perhaps has a less than encouraging (and far less than a 70% success rate) outcome. This leads to questioning the research findings, and the broader hue and cry around the reproducibility and replicability of such studies/ experiments.
 
For a moment, consider currencies. They are always fluctuating, and there is a definite exchange rate to convert between any two currencies at at a given point in time.
Or consider diverse marketplaces across the world. Any single product would be differently priced in these different marketplaces. And within a single market, the price variance might not be too much. But it might vary if you went to a market in the next village.
 
Coming back to trying to find an alternative to traditional experiments that try to find thumb rules to then apply to social or business causes.
 
The alternative I see, is where the economist or scientist creates a simple experiment or study around the hypothesis they would like to test. They would then put it on an online platform (and share it with their colleagues and counterparts across the world, who would then deploy it among local populations).
The experiment would be introduced via a website. Deployment could be done online with voluntary participants, or random people. The experiments would run in perpetuity (hence online), and results of the same would keep evolving over time and geographies.
 
The outcome for the same opt-in/ opt-out hypothesis with this alternate deployment might look something like this:
The experiment is designed to be unbiased, simple (easy to deploy without the original team of researchers being physically present), and yet robust enough to provide meaningful data.
The results of this experiment would not be captured as a single value (like 70% in the first hypothetical scenario), but rather as a function of (age/sex/location/study response/point in time).
As a result, what the outcome might look like, is diverse data points from across the world at diverse points in time.
It is possible that patterns will emerge in localized groups, or even at a nation-level for some experiments (since respondents or the general population might share a similar national history, current political and economic environment, and similar fears and concerns – whether it is about inflation, unemployment, or a multitude of other variables that were possibly getting ignored when a research study focused on finding a thumb rule.
With a global, perpetual study, for the same opt-in/ opt-out experiment, we might perhaps get results like an average of about 65% in Mumbai, India, but a 20% on the outskirts of Mangalore, India, and maybe even an 80% in Itanagar, India.
That way, researchers and anyone trying to use these research findings would be mindful that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all finding. But rather that perhaps (cautiously), one might expect to get a similar response to an organ donation campaign in a town in Country 1 and a city in Country 2, because their outcome values over a particular period of time have been similar.
 
And these values that emerge across individuals and locations are not fixed values. They are ever-evolving, to reflect the evolution of humans in a particular society, given the context of its changing sociopolitical and socioeconomic landscape, among other variables. So perhaps the same individuals too could participate in the same experiment multiple times over the years, with different results. In that sense, it would be similar to taking an IQ test or an MBTI test.
Which means, the same non-profit that is driving an organ donation exercise in a particular country in a particular year, would refer to the current result outcomes for different parts of that country, to determine what strategies they might have to employ (government intervention, financial incentives, etc.), towards driving a more successful change effort.
 
An obvious extension of this proposed solution will be in the next post.
 
#SampleSizeOfOne #BehaviouralScience #BehaviouralEconomics

The Behaviour Triangle

 

A humorous take on the paradox that exists between the views or tendencies of us common humans, versus that of therapists, who seem to take the more empathetic approach, versus some behavioural science practitioners who try to leverage behavioural knowledge to grow business without it necessarily being beneficial to customers themselves.

A related interesting read someone shared: Nudge Theory needs to take more external factors into account.

#Humour #BehaviouralScience #BehaviouralEconomics #Nudge #psychologist #Behaviour #Behavior

Wonder Why so many Americans are wary of Vaccines

 
In the past, US Anti-vaxxer protests have not gone unnoticed by the world. And while it was surprising then, anyone who was curious enough to dig a bit deeper, also saw that the US had at least a few more vaccinations prescribed to newborns-through-18 than many other countries. So, at least to me, questioning the need for all the vaccines by some groups seemed understandable (though not justified, especially when one’s personal choice could put others’ health at risk too). But thanks to Covid-19, a good part of the world became keen to get vaccinated, so they could go back to a normal, pre-Covid kind of life.
 
Early on with the Covid-19 vaccines, it seemed a bit concerning that educated populations from developed countries, were trusting of the Covid vaccines. Especially considering that in the past, vaccines took years to develop, even for less rapidly mutating diseases. And yet, in a record time, a few pharma companies had created vaccines for a dangerous variant of the flu that the world had not seen before. And one that continued to mutate into concern-causing variants through the vaccination drives. So while a considerable population of the developed and developing world scrambled for vaccines, it was not surprising how part of the population in the US continued to resist getting vaccinated.
 
The media and propaganda played a big part no less. Readiness or resistance toward the vaccine getting influenced by one’s political stance or religious beliefs. It gave us a glimpse of what the combination of human bias, politics, religion and media, are capable of.
 
While most of us have lost at least a few friends or family to Covid, and seeing how the vaccines have been safe so far, it was surprising to see some people in the US stay put on their decision not to get vaccinated.
 
As per a BBC article from a few days ago, US President Joe Biden was insistent that employers ensure their staff gets vaccinated. And a number of US citizens across professions remained adamant about not taking the shot, even if it cost them their job. Many seemed to be from the healthcare sector.
 
I wondered if those from the healthcare sector, being closer to the problem and solution, knew something about the vaccines that the rest of us did not. Especially since the virus continues to kill about 1500 Americans daily.
 

A few months ago, I was reading the exceptional book, ‘The Signal and the Noise‘ by Nate Silver [get a copy of it, it is priceless!]. An incident detailed in the book from American history made me wonder if that could be one of the causes that sowed the seed of doubt about vaccines or strong government interventions among Americans, making them continue to resist it. Especially since the country is among the top in innovation, so we are talking about an intelligent people, not some isolated, small town population in an underdeveloped country, cut-off from world perspective.

In the 1970’s, there was a common belief at that a major flu epidemic struck roughly once in a decade, and by 1976, the world expected one to hit.

In January, 1976 at Fort Dix, David Lewis, a nineteen year old private who had returned from holiday, had the flu – a common occurrence at army bases, thanks to soldiers returning from holiday bringing back some variant of the flu from their hometowns, and into cramped up bases, where it would spread. However, it was almost always the common variants, causing no concern. However, private Lewis, while on a march, collapsed and was later declared dead. The cause was pneumonia.

Hundreds of soldiers suffered from the common A/Victoria flu that year. Blood samples sent to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that some had the more disturbing H1N1, or swine flu; the one responsible for the 1918-20 Spanish flu. Around 200 soldiers at Fort Dix tested positive for swine flu, with private Lewis being the only casualty. While flu season had passed by then, scientists feared that by the next winter, there could be a severe outbreak of a more mutant strain of swine flu.

US President Gerald Ford’s secretary of health, F. David Mathews, estimated a potential death rate of a million. Fighting to repair his public image, President Ford thought that preparing his country for the epidemic would be the perfect way to do it. He rallied Congress to allow a USD 180 million plan to manufacture 200 million doses of vaccine, and ordered a mass vaccination program.

It was winter in the southern hemisphere, but to everyone’s surprise, there were no instances of H1N1. Criticism started to build. No other western country had called for such drastic measures.

Instead of admitting their mistake, the Ford administration went rogue. It created panic-causing public service announcements and telecast them at regular intervals. One TV message showed a healthy fifty-five year old mocking the vaccine, only to shown on his deathbed moments later.

The result was an American public that was fear-struck, by the disease and the vaccine. Under pressure from drug manufacturers, Congress indemnified them from legal liabilities that could arise from manufacturing defects. Vaccine production was rushed, without adequate testing. Compared to government estimates of 80%, polls found that only about 50% Americans intended to get vaccinated.

The vaccination program began in October. Three Pittsburgh citizens died shortly after receiving their shots. Similar news poured in from other cities, causing concern among those who had taken the shot.

By late fall, a bigger problem emerged. 500 of the 50 million vaccinated, began exhibiting symptoms of a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can cause paralysis. This occurrence among the vaccinated, was ten times its usual incidence in general population (one case per million). Manufacturing defects due to the rushed production seemed a possible cause. The vaccine program ended on December 16th.

Long story short, the outbreak at Fort Dix was an isolated one, with no other H1N1 cases across the country. The government faced USD 2.6 billion in pharma liability claims. Cities and towns saw upright citizens who had contracted Guillain-Barré. Within a couple of years, the number of Americans willing to take flu shots dwindled to about one million.

One cannot say for sure if a horrific experience like this is what might have left Americans so wary of Covid-19 related government assurances and the vaccinations themselves. But it did make me wonder.

 

 

What if We could Mute Serial-Forwarders on WhatsApp Groups

A recent ‘RattL ’em‘ idea was for Will Cathcart and Matthew Idema at WhatsApp.

Through the lockdown, a lot of people began spending considerable time on WhatsApp. And some, let’s call them ‘serial forwarders’, dump forwards literally like there is no tomorrow.

While it is possible to block or mute individuals and entire groups, currently one cannot mute an individual on a group. Which means either the Admin has to tell them, or remove them. Something that can be difficult and delicate in some groups.

What if WhatsApp had a feature that allows a user to mute specific person(s) in groups? The user who mutes another user on a group is simply not shown messages from that user.

And, both sides win. The serial forwarder gets whatever pleasure they get, and no one has to suffer for it.

***

This idea is part of our RattL ’em initiative.
What is RattL ’em?
We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So, every few days, we send out an email to, or share an idea online, about a random company anywhere in the world that caught our fancy. What we share is either an idea for a new product or service, a concern area to focus on, or a new feature or improvement to their portfolio.
We do it for free. And for fun. And the company that receives it is free to use the idea, with no financial or other obligation toward us. We think of it as our way to be the best at what we do in the field of innovation and design strategy.

Idea for a Review Mode for Note-taking and Planner Apps

A recent ‘RattL ’em‘ idea was for Note or Planner apps like Evernote, Google Keep and others.

Such apps could include a ‘Review Mode’ for existing entries.

In this mode, users could be given a few function options such as Highlight, Bolden, Italicize, Strike-through, etc. on the toolbar.

That way, the user can use review functions on an existing note or entry, without the keypad constantly getting in their way.

***

This idea was part of our RattL ’em initiative.
What is RattL ’em?: We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So, every few days, we send out an email to, or share an idea online, about a random company anywhere in the world that caught our fancy. What we share is either an idea for a new product or service, a concern area to focus on, or a new feature or improvement to their portfolio.
We do it for free. And for fun. And the company that receives it is free to use the idea, with no financial or other obligation toward us. We think of it as our way to be the best at what we do in the field of innovation and design strategy.

Elevators and Nosocomial infections

Nosocomial infections are infections that patients contract inside of a hospital, due to contamination or germs present there. A patient undergoing treatment at a hospital is almost always has a weak immune system, which is more susceptible to infection. And the odds of contracting an infection are higher in operation theatres and ICUs. Most likely because those needing to be in the ICU or get operated are in a far more immunocompromised state.

Now ordinarily hospitals are brilliant at spotting and solving hospital related risks and challenges. Having been an examiner for a prestigious award that company, hospital and educational institute teams compete for in areas of innovation and improvement, I have seen the top projects being showcased, and they are impressive. The meticulous tracking and calculating of various data points, identifying causes, finding and implementing solutions, and tracking effectiveness, and then setting up a cycle for continuous improvement.

So it is concerning when nosocomial infections account for 5-10% of all patients in an acute care hospital in the US [+]. And the numbers are even more concerning in India, where our hospitals are far more crowded, with little concern or respect for regulation. Here in India, nosocomial infections are as high as 11-60% in ICUs [+].

While this one is quite obvious, assuming ICU cleanliness follows the highest of standards and procedure, I think a bulk of these infections occur in elevators. Elevators are known to be extremely contaminated, the buttons in particular.

While I unfortunately don’t have a broad solution idea to offer for this challenge, I do have some almost obvious suggestions:

  • If a new private hospital is being constructed, try and create an isolated elevator between ICUs and operation theatres. Often, patients are carried for surgery in common elevators, exposing them to every visitor who might have visited someone with another infection, which they are likely to catch
  • Again, for new hospitals yet to be constructed, ideally have the wards frequently visited by visitors on the lower floors, and have sloped ramps for people to walk up and down to those floors (say up to second floor). That way, a bulk of the visitors who would ordinarily use the elevators could be saved, thus perhaps making it economical to dedicate at least one elevator purely for shuttling only patients between  ICU and/or operation theatres.
  • A shield-type enclosure (might look like the mosquito nets for beds) over the patient’s trolley while being moved might help contain their infections and reduce spread while in the elevator
  • Limited options for public hospitals or those with limited budgets, seem to include:
    • stricter laws for visitors,
    • encouraging the use of staircases by visitors,
    • installing affordable disinfection tunnels, and making masks compulsory for visitors
***

This concern was part of an initiative called RattL ’em.
What is RattL ’em?: We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So, every few days, we send out an email to, or share an idea online about a random company anywhere in the world that caught our fancy. What we share is either an idea for a new product or service, a concern area to focus on, or a new feature or improvement to their portfolio.
We do it for free. And for fun. And the company that receives it is free to use the idea, with no financial or other obligation toward us. We think of it as our way to be the best at what we do in the field of innovation and design strategy consulting.

An Idea for Food Delivery Services

How most food ordering/ delivery service apps work is, you make your selection, pay (or CoD), and confirm the order.
However, there are occasions (or lack of them) where you might want to order something, but without any time constraint.

These instances might include, remembering to order a birthday cake for tomorrow, or have some starters or dessert sent anytime this evening. In such cases, at present, you’d have to remember or set an alarm to place the order in a broad time bracket.

But what if instead, like with Scheduling a ride with Uber, you could simply place the order in advance, and either pick the day, or a broad time within the day, for when the order could be dropped.

It would be convenient to customers who might risk forgetting or risk ordering too late.
Companies could insist on prepaid orders only.
Companies benefit by being able to bunch orders only when a rider is headed in a particular direction, rather than sending them with a lone minimum order in a direction.

Might help marginally with easing traffic, and make rider trips a little more efficient, while being convenient for customers.

***

This Idea for Food Delivery Services was part of an initiative called RattL ’em.
What is RattL ’em?: We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So, every few days, we send out an email to, or share an idea online about a random company anywhere in the world that caught our fancy. The email either contains an idea for a new product or service, a concern area to focus on, or a new feature or improvement to their portfolio.
We do it for free. And for fun. And the company that receives it is free to use the idea, with no financial or other obligation toward us. We think of it as our way to be the best at what we do in the field of innovation and design strategy consulting.

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