How to Become the Master of Knack?

I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this…

App Development is a knack!

Just like Ikebana is a knack.

Just like Knitting is a knack.

Just like Public Speaking is a knack.

Knack = There are certain principles to follow and master. When you implement those principles, you get predictable results.

“Open your speech with this statement, communicate these 3 points swiftly, make people think about X point and Boom! your speech is loved.”

The same works in App Development.

“Get Agile, create a prototype, then develop an MVP, then test it in a niche group, if it is accepted, make it better and release v1.0, if it doesn’t work, pivot.”

What is the opposite of knack?

Spray and Pray.

Sure, there are masters of knack, people who make App Development look like an art. Just like there are people who make Public Speaking look like an art.

But you don’t have to be an artist to see results. You just have to learn the knack.

How do you learn the knack?

By experimenting.

By practicing.

By saying no to 1000 things.

…and saying yes to what enables you to learn the knack of App Development.

“But I’ve developed 30+ apps and none on them has worked well,” you might be wondering, “I haven’t cracked the code yet …”

It’s okay.

Practice. Find out what works. And what doesn’t. Reflect. Learn the lessons. Develop one more.

It is scary.

It is frustrating.

30+ apps. None has been super-successful yet.

It. Is. Frustrating. For sure.

Keep working on your next one. You already know 30 ideas that don’t work well. Only a few people know that.

Persevere.

Success is nearer than what it was when you were developing your first app.

Sooner than later, your knack will look like an art. And you, an artist!

Master the knack, and you master your trajectory (aka your ability to accomplish your dreams).

App Development is a metaphor. The same logic applies to marketing. Or writing. Or cooking. Or singing. Or learning Spanish. Or any other skill-acquisition.

And once you start-in on this particular learning journey… your life will never be the same again.

Impatient Opportunist

Impatient opportunist only cares about what’s “trending” today.

He impatiently reads the startup news, studies the technology trends, bookmarks the stories of startups who have made it to Techcrunch or Mashable this week and talks about these examples everywhere he goes.

His tone is typical, “They won, we lost and why the ‘hell’ we can’t think of such innovations” kind.

For him, today’s hot trends are the thing to focus. Or even what he thinks of tomorrow’s things could be.

He’ll intrude long-term strategy talks and speak urgently about what’s the trend today.

He only has surface level knowledge about his area of work which is obtained from surface level reading of stories trending in the leading media.

He gets his energy from the news media or the startup meet-ups he attends.

He often changes what he believes in because his suns of his energies (Read: Newstraders) are in that kind of business.

When he learns that he was wrong, he does not have time to reflect on, inspect and adapt because he is busy reading one more trending article on his iPad or talking about what we all have missed by not knowing what’s trending.

Alas!

Being in motion is good but all motion is not progress. Patience is a virtue but not everyone has that.

Enforcement Vs. Choice

When a Business Leader says, “I have so many expectations to fulfill, and so little time available.” It actually means that he’s not able to see.

  • He’s not able to see the business priorities.
  • He’s not able to see the important projects and tasks that need to get done.
  • He is not able to see the opportunity to lead and take his career (and life at large) to the next level.

The same Business Leader has time to go out to watch movies, spending hours on Facebook, attending funeral of neighbor’s mother-in-law or attend a professional skills development seminar.

He’ll figure out the time because he wants to do those things out of a kind of enforcement.

Fear of looking bad in the eyes of spouse and neighbor or enforcement from the employer in terms of missed KPIs.

Alas!

Alas! Many Business Leaders operate out of enforcement.

If they’re not pushed, they don’t lead. It’s not that they don’t know how to lead, they just an external force to act.

“I have so little time available …” is a great excuse because it looks like the reality.

It’s not.

  • The reality is that you have made promises that you know you cannot keep.
  • The reality is that you don’t know how to say “No” to unimportant things so that you can say “yes” to the important things.
  • The reality is that you are a poor self-organizer.

The reality is that you don’t really know the power of choice.

If you are in a leadership role, all you do is lead. Any expression that keeps you away from action is a waste. Oh thy excuses, are you listening?

Choose to lead yourself despite the constraints of time.

Choose to continuously figure out what’s important and what’s not for your goals to advance.

Choose to lead yourself on the face of an uncertain next.

Choice has a habit of turning itself into a weapon when you own it. Sure, an excuse is also a weapon but it is owned and operated by your biggest enemy – resistance.

Who do you want to win? You or your enemy?

Reading Books Vs. Collecting Books

I used to do it wrong.

I was investing my energy in collecting books rather than in making something remarkable out of reading them.

It was so dumb.

And, I thought I was smart: I knew how to acquire the gems from which I’ll learn one day.

The thought of “Learning One Day…” was fascinating but not very helpful.

Better thought, as it turned out, was to pick one good book, read it till you get the crux of it, apply what you have learned from it in your life and let the book go.

Once the right thought picked my attention, I immediately aligned myself and altered my book collection habit.

Any guess what would have happened?

I saved over 300 hours last year from merely skimming through and collecting books.

I invested those hours and learning from select few books. And applying them.

Collecting more books is a bad goal to have. Making something remarkable out of one that you own (or even don’t own) is good!

Same logic applies to bookmarking blog posts, saving videos for later views, or buying more shirts than we really need.

If we invest our energy in collecting, we’ll end up being a good collector. But, if we invest our energy in applying our learned knowledge in the day-to-day challenges we are dealing with, we end up being a good executor.

I made a choice between being a better collector vs. being a better executor.

What about you? Better late than never.

Truth of App Development

How would you deal if you discover the truth of App Development?

“Dear Stakeholder, the code I’m going to produce will take your App to a level you have never thought of.

The code is not commented. I haven’t yet thought about making the code reusable. I have copy/pasted some code from Stackoverflow. Well, Only a few functions.

But I’m going to delete all unnecessary code soon from the codebase.

The App delivery is going to be delayed. Coding is done.

Yes, coding is done, Optimization is pending. And some fixes. Good thing? Most bugs are not visible in major devices.

But what if we release the app anyways? We’ll be able to meet the deadline.”

Stakeholder (founder): “Remarkable Apps are not created that way. They take guts, fire in the belly and some on-ground skills to get the sh*t done. Thanks anyway!”

Return On UX

You’ve heard about Return on Investment, I know. But have you heard about Return on User Experience or RoUX as I call it?

Or, if you’ve heard, have your attentively thought about it?

ROI is easy to measure. You invest your dollars, measure the metrics, optimize and win (or lose).

But RoUX?

It takes sense, guts, resourcing, intention to serve the humanity and more important, willingness to act on face of criticism … all these and what do you get in return?

It’s easy to hire the most expensive UX expert. It’s not that difficult to train a junior who has guts. But it’s not easy to observe the benefits of better UX in terms of returns.

The objective you are chasing will drive your decisions.

As a retail store owner, if your objective is to make maximum possible profit from every footprint you get, you won’t get much worried about the feelings they carry while waiting on Cash Counter for 20 mins to pay for their $5000 purchase.

But, if, for you, the people who visit your store are more than “footprints”, then you might figure out a way where select salespersons go to the customer, talk to them humanly and ensure that their billing is done without they standing in a long billing queue.

What would be the RoUX in such case?

Reduced marketing costs? More on-target sales force? The feel good factor in your staff? More sale?

All of these are actually by-product of better UX. Better UX, as I see it, ensures that the person at receiving end, is treated a living being, his worldview is respected and he’s rewarded for shopping in the particular shoppe.

What would you do if you were that customer? Would you hesitate recommending that retail store to everyone you know?

No chance.

The real RoUX will be the delighted users who will become your raving fans.

And good thing about fans is they want to buy your products without being asked. I wanted to buy iPhone before it was launched. I want to buy iPhone6 which is not yet officially announced!

Apple is doing something right. It has kept my eagerness alive about what they have to offer next. They don’t need to spend on PPC or mobile advertisements to “sell” their upcoming iPhone.

That’s the REAL Return on UX!

Better UX eliminates the need of investing time to figure out marketing gimmicks to win the competition. Better UX is more than better engineering, it is better way of living a better life …

I am afraid that I will fail

But I am afraid of failure …

This is a sad thinking.

Sad because it prevents you from taking actions.

If you are “thinking” that you’ll fail, it is most likely that you will.

Better thought is, “What will I learn if I fail? Is the cost this learning worth?”

Failure is not the enemy. Inaction is.

Execute a Plan Vs. Execute With Agility

Do you love plans? Do you consider them as blueprint for your execution? Do you think that the more perfect your plan, better your chances of success?

execute plan agile Execute a Plan Vs. Execute With Agility

Consider the following tale which is true unfortunately:

In 2011, Rick founded his startup with an aim of developing a Mobile App that he thought will change the world.

He hired a consultant to create a Business Plan for his startup and paid a hefty fee to her.

He ensured that he executes as per the business plan he got created for his dream startup.

Estimated App Development time was about 40 weeks. He tracked the development and ensured that each feature he envisioned of having is included in the App.

When the development was about to get over, he started executing his marketing and promotional activities as per the business plan.

He got Press Releases written and bought premium press release plans so that his App can generate good traction in media.

He contacted App Review Sites and opened a negotiation dialogue with them. He hired video creation experts to create video commercials for the App that were to be uploaded in different video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.

And came the Launch Friday. A perfect day. Weekend was about to follow and lot of people should be using the App as they have ample time to play with their iPhones.

He launched the App with all positives: positive press, good reviews, video commercials live on YouTube and Vimeo, Search Optimized Website for his App, a comprehensive FAQ section about how a particular feature could be used and more.

The result? 2000 downloads at the end of first day.

Good, isn’t it?

He thought his App is now going to be successful. He was relieved. He went off  to weekend outing with his girlfriend to celebrate. He wanted to have an extended weekend. Monday was his first day off in past 40 weeks.

On Tuesday, when he returned from his weekend outing, he was keen to check how the App users are doing. So he opened his Analytics Software.

And …

He found a sad metric about the App: DAU (Daily Active Users) – they were just in two digits. The number was much less than 99.

Desperate as he also checked Monday’s downloads and they were just 7.

Just 7 new App downloads. Not even in two digits.

ALAS!

He observed the same pattern for next whole week.

He searched about his App’s prime keywords over web to figure out that one person had tweeted about his app saying – XYZ App sucks. ABC app which came a few months earlier does a much better job than this.

His app was not getting any good downloads. Users who had already downloaded the App were not using it.

He perfectly executed the project as planned and still this result. What went wrong?

THE ASSUMPTION!

The core assumption was that people need such an App, turned out to be wrong.

The problem was that he PERFECTLY executed the project as per the business plan. He did not question it till he experience his first failure. 

Lot of hard work. Demotivated Rick. Failure at a higher cost. What a waste.

And, let me tell you that, Rick is not the only one who has passed through similar situation.

Stop and reflect on what Steve Blank, who is considered an extremely respected authority in startup world:

“In a startup, no business plan survives first contact with customers.”

How true!

But wait, what does it mean? Business Plans are useless?

No.

I don’t think Business Plans are useless. Plans are good when things are right. The problem is, we don’t know what’s right till it is proved as the RIGHT thing!

It’s okay to create business plans. It’s okay to talk from the perspective of business plans with potential investors and other stakeholders.

But …

But, it’s not okay to presume that your business plan is THE BLUEPRINT, upon which you should base execution of your startup.

In startup, Business Model Discovery is much bigger problem than mere executing a business plan.

Business Plans often work well in corporate world because in their operations frequency of change and uncertainties are less. They have discovered the business model. Their chief problem is execution and good amount of their focus is on efficiency.

But with startups, your ability to deal with an uncertain next while you’re discovering a business model that will for your startup is much needed skill than having an MBA degree from a reputed university.

If you’re working in a startup, whether it is a technology oriented startup or not, master the art of Agile Business Model Discovery.

Inspect regularly and adapt timely. Ship fast and ship often. Involve customers early and seek their feedback. Don’t focus on perfecting a product until you have identified a business model. Try different product ideas, Create lot of MVPs and ensure that you’re keeping costs of creating MVPs as low as possible.

Keep your mind steady and your actions…AGILE!

The sooner you’ve discovered the Business Model, the better the chances of your startup to see its 1001th day of existence icon smile Execute a Plan Vs. Execute With Agility

Once you’ve discovered the business model for your startup, you are no longer just a startup. You’re a growing company. A company where inputs, processes and outputs are predictable. This is where good MBAs can help you establish the processes and bring out the best possible efficiency out of the resourcing.

Enter Rick’s story again, a better choice for him would have been to create a non functional version of his app, contact at least 100 potential users and seek their feedback. Had his idea been invalidated, he would have invested in some another idea and would not have wasted weeks and weeks of his time.

In closing, I cannot agree more with what Steve Blank says, “When you’re building a startup, get out of your building, there are no facts in it!”

(Random) Never 12

Never …

  1. Hand over an App to your client which is not tested well;
  2. Establish the expectation about who you are not, you’re not going to deliver it;
  3. Try to prove that you were RIGHT and offer supporting “facts” that don’t matter at the receiver’s end;
  4. Drink and drive;
  5. Ever underestimate the power of good UI;
  6. Do something because you feel it is right. Instead do what is right;
  7. Play while you work or work while you play;
  8. Say Die, Instead, say “Die Another Day!”;
  9. Choose any other phone over iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone, YOU DON’T HAVE AN IPHONE! (Now this one is biased, we develop iPhone Apps  which have got thousands of users:) )
  10. Keep thinking for too long. If you want to do something for long, act!
  11. Ignore what Nicholas Bate has to say. It has value. A lot of.
  12. Never say, “Never!”

…because it is either NOW or NEVER. When it comes to getting it done, NOW is much better than NEVER.

How to Find Out if Your Behaviour is Right?

Every behaviour gets something done …

… or delays something that is to be done.

Every word you speak, every sentence you write, every piece of code you test, every story you tell has only one purpose – to get something done.

Purpose of your behaviour is NOT to showcase your skills, your knowledge of the facts or standards to be confirmed to, or whether you’re smart or committed.

Purpose of your behaviour is also not to prove if you were RIGHT or wrong.

Purpose of your behaviour is simple: it is to figure out/carry out/push forward/facilitate what you are going to do to get the ONE, most important thing done. The most important thing is the ONLY thing that matters out of hundreds of things that lie with it on your (and your organization’s) to-do platter.

If you want to argue, argue about how you can make it better.

If you want to disagree, show the value that your disagreement would bring.

But if your expression brings the negative energy in just to PROVE your point, then everyone loses.

It is a waste…it is a waste of your time; and it is a waste of the receiver’s time. It’s a waste for a simple reason: IT DOES NOT GET ANYTHING DONE.

If your expression does not get things done, it is of no use.  Since it is of no use, how can it be right?

The ONLY right behaviour is what contributes in making the most important thing done. At least in the start-ups, and did I mention that YOU are also a start-up called YOU Inc.?