Weeknotes S02E01: heuristics

I haven’t written weeknotes in a while. Partly, this is because I’ve had a lot of other things on. Things, good and bad, that have taken a lot of my emotional bandwidth and haven’t left me in a place where I want to write weeknotes. But also partly because I haven’t really had anything I felt like writing about. Although I liked trying to keep the practice up, I think it’s probably better to do something when you feel like it, rather than to just do it out of a sense of obligation (even to oneself). This week, I felt like writing, and so here I am. This one’s a bit different to my previous, because that’s what I feel like writing today.

I think a lot of experience comes down to heuristics. When you’re experienced, you have, by definition, experienced different things. Some of these things, you might have experienced from different perspectives. You’ll have been frustrated with a digital service and complained, and worked on a team where you listened to a complaint. You’ll have had that sad conversation with a colleague to tell them you’re leaving, and you’ll have had that sad conversation when someone tells you they’re leaving. You’ll have worked for an agency navigating a relationship with tricky client, and been that tricky client navigating a relationship with an agency. When you’ve seen those scenarios, preferably from different angles, a heuristic helps you respond to a new scenario quickly. I see this in my more experienced colleagues and admire it greatly.

Heuristics make decisions and conversations not just quicker, but easier. They take up less of your emotional energy or intellectual capacity. This is a good thing. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to make all that many decisions at all.

But then there are some times when your prior experience just doesn’t seem to be of much help. Those situations that make you sad, or angry, whether big or small. Here, the heuristic maybe helps you behave differently on the surface (which can have its benefits). But underneath that, you might feel similar, and the emotion doesn’t seem get any easier the more times you experience something. This is tricky. But in some ways I’m glad, because to feel those troughs and peaks is to be human and alive. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

This week, we needed to work out the scope of the product we’re working on. I used an approach to writing this down based on things I’ve experienced before (though I’m not sure I’d call it a heuristic). The scenario was more mundane (and, let’s be honest, easier) than the examples earlier. But it was something I wouldn’t have been able to do without my previous experience, and it will be useful. Writing helps.

A good way of understanding things better, and making better decisions, is working together. One person’s heuristics aren’t always the best way of working things out. They’re fast and imperfect. If we all rest on different heuristics, based on different experiences, we’ll get to a better result.

We tried this in a couple of different ways this week. Early in the project, we’d spent a lot of time working as a whole team, but we tried a couple of different approaches this week. We did a few bits of work in pairs with each other, and then also voted on some of our key insights as a team, but remotely and anonymously. That worked really well too, tech included. It’s always fun to find a new way of working.

I shared the scope work with the team, and got some amazingly thoughtful and useful feedback on it, which will help it grow better and better. I’m privileged to work with a team that is so open and generous with their feedback. Love the team. ❤️

Writing helps. I’m not sure when I’ll write again, but see you in the next one. Enjoy your weekend. I’ll enjoy mine. This was a good week.