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  • Sharpening Your Instinct: MSTM Frontier

    On Friday, November 30th 2012, we had a presentation by a corporate speaker Andrew Stein. He was kind enough to come and present us on topics of innovation and recombinant technologies. His presentation really inspired a lot of us and everything we learnt in our classes made more sense. As part of this, I also wanted to share Mr. Stein’s response to my questions on general management. He was very kind to provide me with a detailed answer. Here it is:

    My question:
    “When working on projects, there are large volumes of texts of well research material on software engineering and the underlying principles on what to do and what not to do. If we end up reading about all so many principles, of well researched material, we hardly have any time to implement stuff that really matters. On the other hand, we are also discouraged from going by instinct when taking decisions.

    "Another point I wanted to discuss was that in cases we read about a lot of companies which made mistakes and which didn't and try to come up with a solution to what went wrong. There are always several different decision possibilities and trade-offs associated with them. I feel what makes companies successful is the ability to act on instinct. Because instinct is what we develop as a result of our past experiences and the current scenario that is presented to us, no management text can analyze why we went wrong or how best we could have encountered a particular decision.”

    "I wanted to ask you about what your thoughts are about it."

    Andrew’s response:
    “As for your questions, these are good to ask. I don’t believe that there is a perfect answer to them, but here are some thoughts to consider as you ponder your own path along with many others that have the same dilemma."
    "The keyword on research and development is 'balance'. The balance point for different people, projects and companies, is different. It is a function of the time available, the pressure, the quality required, and the individual people and leaders involved. I find that communication is the key to finding this balance.  And, the closest process that integrates forward progress with validation is the agile method, or some form of it.'
    "On the coursework and case study of examples of solutions that went wrong, I know that this can be confusing.  For the classes you take in the MSTM program the teachers use cases to demonstrate principles in black and white terms. It really is the only way to eliminate ambiguity to ensure everyone can learn the same thing.  In practice, nothing is black and white. That’s why statistics help you pick the “normal” in making a decision – but we know that there are outliers on each end of the distribution curve that do not fit the “case study”."
    "We learn the cases so that we can sharpen our instinct and ability to make split decisions with limited data.  The key is to know that you can change the direction, and pivot, as you learn more information and gain data that improves your instinctive decision.  In other words, balance your instinct with data and information.  Balance in this case is synonymous with support.  i.e., support your instinct with data.  Chances are the more you do this, the better your instinct will become."
    "Anecdotally, many people believe that Steve Jobs build the iPod and the iPhone with his instinct.  No doubt, Jobs has a very sharp eye for design, and a rigid unbending believe in user experience. However, he ensured these years of “learning” by “failure” were data inputs into his developing the iPod and iTunes business ecosystem.  Likewise, the iPhone was preceded by WindowsCE, the Palm, and years of simple cell phone handset use. There was much data he used to develop the vision for the iPhone."

    Overall, I think this is a really great course for people who are interested in areas of product management, product development, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

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