Thanks for sharing this Joel! This is a really astute observation that
you've made about the number of projects people take on having an impact on
this facet of emotional perspective.

I think there is a compounding/complementary force at work here, which is
that in our organization all projects are, by default, huge commitments.
They require dealing with a ton of barriers (technical, internal,
community) and this means that even on a team level the number of projects
that we take on is really small compared to the number of decisions that a
trader would be making. It also means that just getting to the finish line
is often a huge accomplishment, and there isn't much room left to consider
the impact of the work. Of course we get invested in our projects in this
environment!

IMO this is one of the biggest challenges to our ability to innovate
meaningfully, particularly for users we don't yet have relationships with.
If we're being realistic, we're probably wrong with most of our ideas at
some level, whether that's on the execution, the logic behind it, the need,
etc.. We can't possibly know that up front for everything we do and we
should take the pressure off of ourselves to get it right the first time.

One of the ways that we've been mitigating this in New Readers is to try
ways to find out we're wrong a lot earlier in the process. This means
we've, at times, created a handful of quick and dirty prototypes to run
through evaluative design research, and then thrown most of them away. Or
we've created pitch decks and promotional posters for projects that are in
the concept phase to present to potential collaborators for feedback. We
should do more of this, and cheaper. This email is a good reminder as we
gear up for another year - thank you.

Back to your question, from a high level planning/management perspective,
there are a few things that would support this reality:
- An environment with fewer barriers (technical, community, and otherwise)
to quick testing of ideas. This does not have to be on production sites.
- Management based on *outcomes* rather than *outputs *for people whose
roles are strategically oriented (PMs, for example)
- A culture of learning by embracing so-called failures as opportunities to
develop our instincts and practices

Teresa Torres has a bunch of good writing/videos about this very subject on
her blog, Product Talk <https://www.producttalk.org/>, in case you're
interested.

On Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 3:03 PM, Joel Aufrecht <jaufre...@wikimedia.org>
wrote:

> The advice to pick goals hard enough that you will only achieve 75% of
> them is emotionally tricky to follow.  Why would you want to set yourself
> up for failure like this?  The advice makes logical sense: if you achieve
> 100% of your goals in a fixed time period, you probably were too
> conservative and left some possible gains unrealized.  But how can one
> execute it confidently?
>
> I see a clue in Kahneman's section on loss aversion.  Excerpted:
>
> ... you will have many opportunities to consider attractive gambles with
>> stakes that are very small relative to your wealth. You will do yourself a
>> large financial favor if you are able to see each of these gambles as part
>> of a bundle of small gambles and rehearse the mantra that will get you
>> significantly closer to economic rationality: you win a few, you lose a
>> few. The main purpose of the mantra is to control your emotional response
>> when you do lose. If you can trust it to be effective, you should remind
>> yourself of it when deciding whether or not to accept a small risk with
>> positive expected value.
>>
>
> ... we now know that experimental subjects could be almost cured of their
>> loss aversion (in a particular context) by inducing them to “think like a
>> trader,” just as experienced baseball card traders are not as susceptible
>> to the endowment effect as novices are. Students made risky decisions (to
>> accept or reject gambles in which they could lose) under different
>> instructions. In the narrow-framing condition, they were told to “make each
>> decision as if it were the only one” and to accept their emotions. The
>> instructions for broad framing of a decision included the phrases “imagine
>> yourself as a trader,” “you do this all the time,” and “treat it as one of
>> many monetary decisions, which will sum together to produce a ‘portfolio.’”
>> The experimenters assessed the subjects’ emotional response to gains and
>> losses by physiological measures, including changes in the electrical
>> conductance of the skin that are used in lie detection. As expected, broad
>> framing blunted the emotional reaction to losses and increased the
>> willingness to take risks.
>>
>
> (From Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, pp 763-768)
>
> *My conclusion is, the advice to set goals such that you achieve only 75%
> of them is only reasonable advice for people responsible for an entire
> portfolio of projects,* dozens of things.  They can have the broad data
> perspective to "think like a trader" and accurately gauge risk and reward
> for funding different projects.  The fewer the number of projects you are
> considering, the harder it is to have that emotional perspective that frees
> your logical brain from the loss aversion fallacy.
>
> The question then becomes, how should planning be structured so that
> people working on individual projects, who come up with the proposals and
> invest energy in starting, executing, and completing work, coordinate their
> planning with higher-budget-level planning by people who are in a position
> to take a more neutral view and thus to do planning free from irrational
> loss aversion.  For example, should direct contributors come up with an
> excess of realistic projects so that they don't have to feel that any one
> project is life-and-death, and then have planners prioritize those projects
> by more abstract criteria?  How might that diffuse responsibility, and is
> that good or bad?
>
>
>
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>


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*Anne Gomez* // Senior Program Manager, New Readers
<https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/New_Readers>
Pronouns: she/her
https://wikimediafoundation.org/


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