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Posted on: Saturday, January 15, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Practice Continuous Learning With Deliberate Practice.

If you are somewhat naturally inclined a few years of mucking around in a field can make you decently good at it. Good enough a get a job and start making a living out of it. That's exactly how far mucking around will typically take you.

From that point on you have two options:

  1. Keep looping: where you keep writing the same CRUD screens for seventy years and keep making a living out of it.
  2. Move to the next level one step at a time with Deliberate Practice.

Deliberate Practice is where you meticulously and carefully examine every aspect of what you do and what the best people in your field of work do.

For authors deliberate practice involves not just writing, but reading the works of other authors who happen to be better than them. For musicians, it involves listening to the music of other musicians. For software programmers it involves reading code and learning from other Alpha Geeks and kickass programmers around the world.

But deliberate practice doesn't end at meticulous observation. It involves stepping out of practice using your comfort zone and moving to practice using your learning zone.

A classic example of this would be, spending a week to figure out how to tube, tweak and improve your JQuery based Ajax calls to make them faster. Deliberate practice is hard work. Deliberate practice is painful. Deliberate practice is scary because the first step is a silent acceptance of how little you know.

Deliberate Practice, or lack of it thereof,  might also be the reason behind why most programmers cannot program.

What did you do today? Complete your tasks the entire day? Or did you indulge in the act of deliberate practice using your learning mode for at least a couple of hours? Yes we know deliberate practice is hard and painful but that anything that is wroth doing, is. Go on. Keep a few hours a day aside for deliberate practice of your craft.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Saturday, January 15, 2011 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Friday, January 14, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Keeping The Crowds Out For The First Couple Of Sprints.

If you have done this even once, you know that if you are planning on working on an idea that you have, you are going to have to work without the crowd.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. The crowd doesn't get the idea. Its going to think your idea is too lame or too impractical or already taken
  2. The crowd doesn't care.

Both of these are good things.

The first is good because it allows you to build your idea exactly as you see it. As more people join, the vision dilutes. You are way better off working on the first version yourself or just a couple of really close friends who totally understand your vision or people who have similar core philosophies and values.

The second is good because it allows you to work in stealth mode, build something really small and release it to a closed inner circle of acquaintances who do care. This is good news because if you fail or build something that none of your users like, you have just disappointed a really small group who are willing to give you a second chance. You can choose to bury your failure, learn from it, move on, fix it, tune it, work it up and add more people really slowly.

Releasing a product live till you are done with a couple of complete sprints is almost never a good idea. If you are going to release a product live, do it when you are pretty darn confident the product has enough meat for people to love it, because otherwise they are just not going to care and that is not such a bad thing after all. Go on, ship something to your inner circle first and then slowly and steadily, surprise everyone else with a kickass product.

You don't need a big bang release date and press releases. Start with a slow and steady release instead.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 5:33:18 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, January 9, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Stop Whining About Power And Start Contributing.

Hugh MacLeod's book Ignore Everybody, is a classic collection of well written articles and hugely funny cartoons:

One of the most interesting parts of the book is Hugh's explanation on power and the people who crave it. He explains:

Power is never given. Power is taken.

People who are "ready” give off a different vibe from people who aren't. Animals can smell fear. And the lack thereof.

THE MINUTE YOU BECOME READY IS THE MINUTE you stop dreaming. Suddenly it's no longer about "becoming". Suddenly it's about "doing".

You don't get the dream job because you walk into the editor's office for the first time and go, "Hi, I would really love to be a sportswriter one day, please".

You get the job because you walk into the editor's office and go, "Hi, I'm the best frickin' sportswriter on the planet." And somehow the editor can tell you aren't lying, either.

You didn't go in there, asking the editor to give you power.  You went in there and politely informed the editor that you already have the power. That's what being "ready" means. That's what "taking power" means.

A rather interesting read for anyone who has ever craved for, asked for or haggled for a promotion. You know the kind I'm talking about here. The kind that graduates from a MBA school and expects nothing less than a private cabin and a team they can boss around.

You cannot be expecting the world to give you power just because you want it.

After all, anyone who wants power should not be given power, for obvious reasons.

Now go focus on the taking up more responsibilities and adding a little bit of passion to everything you do.

Stop worrying about the power bit. Seriously.

posted on Sunday, January 9, 2011 10:45:25 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Saturday, January 8, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

If You Want Our Business Or Attention Don't Make Us Wait.

When it comes to personal life and parenting, making someone you truly love wait, to teach him or her ability to delay gratification and self discipline, can be a good thing.

When it comes to business however, how long you make me wait has a inverse correlation to how much you care about me.

Please wait, our customer care executive will attend you shortly, is translated as: we have more customers than we can possibly care about and you are just one of them so talk to a machine instead.

When a restaurant makes you wait for a table or makes you wait after taking your order it sends a similar message. We have more customers than we can handle so wait in queue and stop bothering us.

When your website makes your visitors wait, its even worse.

We know its hard. We know sometimes the message isn't intended but we are all busy and if you make us wait, we are just going to assume you don't care and go somewhere else.

The best you can do is speed things up for us. Hire more trained executives like zappos does and have a human being answer the phone. Allow people to book a table in your restaurant over their mobile devices and give them a time to arrive at. Tune your website to work faster or buy more processing horse power. If financial constraints prevent any of those, the least you can do is explain it with true empathy, say sorry, mean it and work your ass out to fix it as soon as you can.

Relationships are a two way street and treating your customers like replaceable parts of your profit making machine is stupid.

Please don't make me wait, because I won't anyway. If you do I might but only as long as I can find a different option.

I am just saying.

posted on Saturday, January 8, 2011 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Friday, January 7, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Things To Do When You Have Nothing To Do - Part 1.

Do you love what you do?

What if you were forced to take a couple of weeks of off time each year. Not a vacation where you go somewhere. Just random couple of weeks of time off.

A few rules apply:

  1. You cannot work on anything connected to your organization.
  2. You cannot be talking, emailing or getting in-touch with people at work.

You get up in the morning, no emails, no fires, no colleagues, no tasks. Just silence.

Most people who claim to love what they do would freak out if this was done to them. If you are one of them, chances are that you do not truly love what you do. You just love your job. That or your job is just keeping you busy.

People who love what they do hardly have time for insecurities and freaking out. Most of them have activities other than work that allow them to workout their creative mussels. This is why countless kickass programmers spend their time blogging, coding on open source projects, launching free products and answering questions on free forums.

These folks would be just as happy if you brought them out of their work environment and gave them a month long unplanned time off.

Others will freak out and resort to nothingness.

Which of these two groups do you belong to?

When you have nothing to do, what is it that you usually do?

Just a little something to think about.

posted on Friday, January 7, 2011 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Sunday, January 2, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Letting Your Products Turn Into Remarkable Stories - Part 1.

There is an attack of cheap Chinese and Indian smart phones with cool features in the Indian cell phone markets.

Every cell phone shop is littered with tongs on these. Every television channel seems to be running advertisements featuring some of these phones.

Even when Indian and Chinese cell phone companies try to woo customers with the lowest of prices and more features, any Indian who wants a smart phone eventually buys a Nokia or a BlackBerry.

Why are the Chinese or Indian cell phone companies with better pricing and more features failing this badly?

One reason is quality but the bigger reason is the lack of a story.

If you buy a simple cheaper model of Nokia that is not a smart phone, your story is that you are not interested in smart phones. You just need something that lets you talk. You are just not into smart phones and that is a perfectly acceptable story you can tell your friends and colleagues at work.

If you buy a Nokia or a BlackBerry your story is that you love smart phones and you have a good smart phone.

When you buy similar features sluggishly stitched together by a Chinese or an Indian brand your story is, you love smart phones but you cannot afford a good smart phone.

The result?

Even in the Indian market, which is hugely sensitive to the price advantage, no one seems to like this story.

You almost never win product battles by throwing in features hastily stitched together and then by competing with just price.

The Wallmart model is starting to work less and less with every passing day, even when it comes to selling your product in India where people are super sensitive to price.

If your product is not backed by a concrete story that make people feel good about buying or using your product, no one cares about your product. It is that simple.

What story does your product tell?

Just a little something to think about, if you work on a product or are planning on working on one.

posted on Sunday, January 2, 2011 5:23:20 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Saturday, January 1, 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Asking The Right Questions For Remarkable Work Cultures.

"If no one monitors their work timing and the quality of their work closely enough why will they take their work seriously?"

An acquaintance asks when I am talking about the team I work with, our no policing work culture.

If you want to build great teams ask the right questions.

Why will they take their work seriously, is a wrong question. Why won't they, is the right question.

When you ask the wrong questions you get policies. When you ask the right ones, it becomes easier to trust people and you get innovative life styles with kick ass work cultures.

Before you ask a question, ask yourself if you are asking the right question.

Pick your questions carefully, for they decide your lifestyle and the answers that you eventually find.

posted on Saturday, January 1, 2011 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [0]
Posted on: Friday, December 31, 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Software Development And Hope Drive White Lies.

There are times where we (the collective we, involving anyone who has ever been associated with the world of software development) silently enter the unspoken agreement of leaving a few things unsaid. These are what I like to call white lies.

Hope is often the root cause of most white lies.

The developer checks-in the code, hoping that if there is a bug someone from QA will catch it and report it.

The tester rushes through the test cases and then does no ad-hoc testing, hoping that the developer would have written decent code.

The manager provides a push, hoping that if there is an issue the team will let him know.

The team provides a hushed up feedback sugar coated with a truck load of mitigated speech, hoping that the manager will read between the lines.

Hope driven white lies where everyone knows they are fu@#ked but no one says so are dangerous, because 1) you're lying 2) you are paving the path to a perfect text book example of a disaster caused by too many small things going wrong in the right sequence and order.

Irrespective of who you are, a developer, a tester, a graphic designer, a business analyst or a manager, this week, stat by calling bullshit on quite lies. Stop hoping and start doing what you do with passion, conviction and a strong spine.

I wish you good luck.

posted on Friday, December 31, 2010 8:30:00 PM UTC by Rajiv Popat  #    Comments [3]