Sujith Jay Nair Thinking Aloud

Culture Articles

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    Innovation Loops

    The purpose of an engineering organization (at the risk of sounding frivolously reductionist) is to build business value. You can grow an organization’s delivered business value over time by: 1

    • training members: investing in people,
    • improving process: investing in shaping behaviour and communication,
    • staking technical leverage: investing in technology.

    A cumulative side-effect of these approaches is to strengthen innovation loops.

    Innovation Loops

    Innovation loops are informal, intrapreneurial feedback loops in engineering teams which builds products & features to address user demand & pain. It is innovation which circumvents the software development cycle involving product & market research teams. In mature teams, innovation loops complement & reinforce the existing, evolutionary product development feedback cycle. I call product development evolutionary, in contrast to the more revolutionary (or reactive) trait of innovation loops.

    Regular product development as green arrows; Innovation loops as red squiggles.

    Regular product development as green arrows; Innovation loops as red squiggles.

    Innovation loops are more prevalent in infrastructure teams than in product-focused teams. This could be partly explained by the availability of direct communication channels to users which infrastructure teams possess, and product-focused teams do not.

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    Hanlon's Razor: Some Comments

    Do not attribute to malice that which can be explained by the less criminal motives of ignorance and lethargy.

    An aphorism of utmost utility in my life is the Hanlon’s Razor. I find it a liberating rule of thumb to weigh a lot of unavoidably unpleasant experiences in daily life. In a less formal & more terse form that I prefer, it reads:

    Stupid people abound; Malicious people, less so.

    There is a neat wikipedia article on it which focuses on its origin, and also introduced me to an earlier form of the aphorism by Goethe.

    Misunderstandings and lethargy perhaps produce more wrong in the world than deceit and malice do. At least the latter two are certainly rarer. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in The Sorrows of Young Werther
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    How Conversations on StackOverflow Teach You


    Note: This post has some concepts on Scala collections. Do not worry if you have little interest in Scala; the point I am trying to convey has significance beyond my choice of language. This is an exhortation to the engineering community at large to share our learnings more.

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    An Early Employee's Field Guide to Workplace Arguments

    TL; DR Conflicts are common in an early-stage startup. This post lists a set of mental models an early employee can use to prevent, judge, diffuse and take leverage of conflicts.

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