Finding flaws in your work
"Everything Starts Out Looking Like a Toy" (No. 42)
This week’s toy: this website. It might be the most amazing website created by a private investing office ever. (Ok, I am biased as it has strong 8-bit video game vibes). Edition No. 42 of this newsletter is here - it’s April 18, 2021.
The Big Idea
This week, I started revising a process that I’ve been doing for over a year. The goal was to hand it off to a new member of my team and to document the process so he could take it over.
On further inspection, there was a problem. The original process had lots of flaws and – although it worked reasonably well – was difficult to explain to someone new because part of the process was very well defined and part of it had a lot of variability depending upon which records were reviewed.
Finding flaws in your work
The first emotion most of us feel when getting ready to present work we feel is pretty good and then have a change of heart is vulnerability. This can be an intense feeling (some people describe it as “imposter syndrome”, others call it “feeling like nothing is right” and yet others don’t really feel it all that much.
Brene Brown describes it this way:
When you experience this emotion, it can be a powerful motivator. The close focus that you get when you see your work in a new light helps you to re-evaluate a process or a work product.
What did I find when I looked at the process? I saw something that could be improved, made simpler, and the way to hand it off seemed much clearer. After I got out of my own way, I was able to see the way forward.
Revising your work is continuous
The insight was simple: revision is continuous.
If your expectation is a finished product, you’ll spend a disproportionate amount of time on the last 10-20% of the task.
If your expectation is continuous improvement, you’ll have the expectation that things could always get better. Taking that feedback and putting it into practice gets you that incremental improvement.
The process that I worked on last week? I’m ready to improve again this week.
What’s the takeaway? Small incremental improvements beat big waterfall improvements if they happen enough - don’t sleep on the ability to compound positive things.
A Thread from This Week
Twitter is an amazing source of long-form writing, and it’s easy to miss the threads people are talking about.
This week’s thread: Inflation. Is it simply the “spirits of animal investors” expecting prices to rise, or a warning sign about the state of the economy? The White House weighs in:
Links for Reading and Sharing
These are links that caught my eye.
1/ Using Math to Create “Alien” Art - @aemkei shows us the beauty of repeating formulas when used to generate graphics.
This reminds me of 8-bit graphics and other clever tricks developers have used to repeat information and trick our brains into seeing continuity from patterns. Convention is a powerful tool when you’re writing, presenting for people, or just framing an idea. What tricks do you use?
2/ Robot Cleanup on Aisle 3 - there is a pilot using robots to scan products on shelves at two supermarkets in California. On the face of it, this seems like a great idea. Why wouldn’t you want to use robotic workers to assess store conditions instead of having hourly workers count the items on the shelves? One reason is that you may have a slow slide into other things being handled by robots. This is one area to watch over the next few years to see whether the robots are truly doing things humans don’t want to do (or can’t do), or whether they start replacing people in-store.
3/ Waiting for vaccines - Trying to get a vaccine appointment has been very challenging in many areas of the country. In New York City, some technologists have made a vaccine finder called TurboVax. This tool not only finds out which locations have vaccine appointments, but also points out how many. We might need this tech again, so I hope the CDC is watching.
On the Reading/Watching List
Netflix’s show Song Exploder is a documentary where musicians describe how songs get made - not only the inspiration but the process. Each episode focuses on a single song, and gives new perspective.
Land of Big Numbers is a short story collection about life in China. Te-Ping Chen, a former writer for the Wall Street Journey, shares her perspective on living in China as an outsider.
What to do next
Hit reply if you’ve got links to share, data stories, or want to say hello.
I’m grateful you read this far. Thank you. If you found this useful, consider sharing with a friend.
Want more essays? Read on Data Operations or other writings at gregmeyer.com.
The next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” - Chris Dixon