Weekly I/O #50
Actionable Truth, Delta 4 Framework, Similarity and Trust Spectrum, Different Communication Medium, Inefficient but Soulful
Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.
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The below is extracted from the email sent on Nov 06, 2022
1. Insight is the smallest unit of truth that is actionable. If you cannot act on it, it is just an abstraction.
This reminds me of what I wrote a few years ago in the article sharing my internship experience at AppWorks. “If you learn things only to get competitive advantages over others, the things you learn are just lifeless knowledge. You cannot solve anything with that.” Though I wrote this years ago, I still fell into this trap a lot.
2. Delta 4 Framework for evaluating product: If your product outscores the existing solution by more than 4 in efficiency score on a scale of 1 to 10, your new user irreversibly will adopt your service, brag to their friends, and have a higher tolerance for your mistakes.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how efficient is the old method of booking a cab? How about booking a taxi through Uber? Subtract these two scores, and you get a simple framework to evaluate a product or service. According to Kunal, three things happen whenever the Delta of efficiency score between a new product and its existing counterpart is larger than 4.
First, it leads to irreversible behavior. Once you experience the Delta 4 better product, you will not return to the old one.
Second, your new adopters will have a higher tolerance for your mistakes. Even though some of the experience in the new product might be broken, you won’t go back to the old ways. For example, you might hate Uber, but you won’t be like, “I hate Uber so much that I’m going to delete this App and go back to the old inefficient way.”
Third, when users discover something Delta 4, they will brag about it everywhere. This is what Kunal called a UBP (Unique Brag-worthy Proposition). Word-of-mouth can become so prominent that it becomes more important than the product’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
You can find more details of Delta 4 Theory here.
3. When we have too much similarity, innovation dies. When we have too much dissimilarity, trust dies. We have to operate on a spectrum of chaos and stagnation.
What creates trust? Kunal found that trust is more natural in societies that have low diversity of ethnicity. We tend to trust people with common belief systems. Unfortunately, race plays a huge role.
It’s not a surprise that most societies are not multi-ethnic because trust declines as it becomes more diverse in terms of ethnicity. We see the emergence of authoritarian leaders more frequent nowadays because low-trust societies always want somebody with a strong backbone to create peace.
One more nuance is if it becomes too similar, innovation dies. If it becomes too dissimilar, trust dies. Therefore, there’s an interesting spectrum that we have to operate on between similarity and diversity. I’m unsure whether any scientific study backs Kunal’s comments on ethnicity and authoritarianism, but it is a thought-provoking perspective to understand trust.
4. How to make sure someone knows what they are doing? Ask them to change the medium of communication. Can they pitch in a different language, explain in higher and lower levels, or present without slides? Can they pretend they were real users telling a friend about this over dinner?
How to detect a startup’s success? For Kunal, a lens that adds value to his filtering system is asking the founder to explain things with a different communication medium. For example, many founders usually come to him with a well-prepared presentation. He will ask those founders, “Hey, I don’t understand English very well. Can you explain this to me in Hindi? What does it do?” Founders who understand the essence of what they are doing can switch without a problem. However, many people only prepare their presentations without fundamentally understanding them and, therefore, struggle with different mediums.
The other way to do it without asking them to switch languages is to change the material or level of conversation. Can they pitch without slides? Can they go a bit deeper or higher without losing the context?
Kunal also asked founders to pretend they were actual users of the product that were telling a friend over dinner to try this. This shifts their frame of reference, and they then cannot use any jargon because we don’t speak to friends in jargon. If the founders cannot distill their idea into a transmissible conversation at dinner, their idea will not spread.
5. Efficient methods rarely create emotional arousal. Meaningful and soulful experiences are inefficient because they can’t be standardized. Non-standardized things are harder to scale but also harder to destroy.
Emotional arousal rarely happens with efficient metrics. Everything that feels soulful in life is inefficient. Vacations to inefficient places are usually more meaningful. The food we find soulful is typically inefficient to cook. The more something becomes efficient, the more cookie-cutter it becomes. Standardizing is the friend of scalability but also the enemy of soulfulness.
Hinduism is an example of non-standardized things. Hinduism is not as scalable as many other religions because there’s no one book, ten rules, or one God. It’s like an open-source religion that people built principles on and keep evolving with. Therefore, Hinduism is mainly distributed through birth but not through scaling to other societies.
However, non-standardized things can be harder to destroy. Standardized things are easier to scale but also easier to be disrupted because the areas of attack are clear. On the other hand, something built inefficiently is harder to destroy because you don’t know what to destroy and how to destroy it. There is nothing to attack. There are no areas of attack that you can say, “Okay, these are the three points on which we can attack”. Non-standardized things are harder to scale but also harder to destroy.
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