In times when opportunists with aspirational ideas believe that spending more always means earning more, the ethic of conservatism, frugal application of financial factors, and maximum exhaustion of efforts are often ignored. The true value of a project is emanated when it is accomplished by using the least of resources. Below are 38 invaluable leadership insights by Manoj Agarwal, Co-founder of Empuls, that would change your perspectives on handling resources and customer expectations.
The Leadership Insights on Making the Best of Now
1. Less = more
In the world of consumerism and "excess" in everything; I have found delight in "Minimalism". I am sharing my best learnings which can help any organization to improve its business. It has been helping Xoxoday too.
2. Scarcity is the mother of invention
Empuls have grown from zero to few points with limited resources. We found solutions in every problem, embraced iterations and changes, and tried innovation in every small thing whether it's lead generation, reducing customer tickets, reducing fixed costs, hiring, and technology. Less is more for us.
3. Break down the scope in smaller teams
Rather than adding more people to a project, break down the project itself. This always helps in agility and cost controls.
4. Do just what is essential
A laser-sharp focus helps in getting high-quality output. Many times at work, we are busy doing unnecessary and loose focus on what is most important. Organizations should be ruthless removing anything unnecessary whether its design, features, processes, goals, teams, initiatives etc.
5. Clutter to clarity
We keep sitting on multiple tasks and goals. While chasing multiple goals, one tends to deliver each with mediocre output. Instead of that, one can choose a few goals at a time, do them very well before moving on to the next.
6. Deep Work
28000 is the number of hours the Xoxoday team collectively puts at work every month. 8000 hours were the number of hours at work from the WhatsApp team when it was acquired by Facebook. Deep focussed work can create wonderful output with lesser man-hours. Organisations should enable workspaces which help in deep work and reduce distractions in everything else. Xoxoday needs to improve in its deep work culture and I am sure this applies to many other companies
7. Less noise at work
Open workspaces in offices in the name of collaboration are increasingly leading to distractions. Organizations should have a good balance for open spaces and noise-free spaces. Most of the time your output is best when you are working alone with access to people on-demand. The always-on collaboration through open workspaces does not help any cause and kills productivity.
8. Meetings are toxic
Meetings in organizations are the biggest time killers. One meeting with 5 people for 1 hour is equal to 5 man-hours. Most of the time meetings don't result in anything. What could be done in a simple mail or chat resulted in a meeting. Avoid the temptation of meetings, have clear agendas, decline what is not relevant, and have fewer meeting rooms.
9. Law of Productivity
While working it's important to have few sprints of fully focused hours with breaks. For example, one hour sprint of full concentration with a fifteen minutes break works much better than twelve five minute sprints with one minute of breaks after every five minutes. In the former, you get higher productivity as well as more break time. Avoid the temptation of social media or email browsing during focused sprints.
10. Less Hierarchy
Hiring is one of the most important activities in an organization, often taken lightly. The person you hire, the reason you hire and the process of hiring has to be very high quality. For every hire, one should ask "Do we really need". This helps in reducing unnecessary hierarchies, posts and bureaucracy in companies. Less people means less Chinese whispers, less politics, less discussions, more decisions, more alignment, more execution.
11. All the cash, all the marketing, all the people
Change and agility are the biggest weapons of small companies against the biggies. It's not the money or people or product. Companies should be ready for quick course corrections and changes on the way to the destination in the VUCA world. Navigate fast, be decisive and move on. Even if you make any error, your ability to change fast will overcome that.
12. If your competitors change faster than you
Reinforcing yesterday's post, One needs to be future-ready, today. It's known that elephants can't dance, and that the dance startups and smaller companies perform very well. Hundreds of great companies like Yahoo, Nokia, Blackberry, Kodak etc would not have been wiped out, had they changed fast for the future.
13. Embrace changes
Many times you resist change and adapting anything new, and worry too much on the unknown unknowns. This can plague your decision making and agility. Radical innovations are a function of errors, iterations, failures and experiments. In dynamic business environments today, organizations should not worry too much on change, rather they should execute a quick plan B if the plan A fails. Change fast, fail faster, respond fastest. This has been our learning and practice at Xoxoday.
14. Decide quick and execute
It's very important for businesses to take decisions. While democratic opinions, discussions and brainstorming are crucial to find the most optimal solution, it should all result in a decision. A fine balance between ideation and execution is the key to success. Too much analysis and too less execution would lead to failures.
15. The faster you can ship things
Agile practice works best in software products. Founders, Product and Tech guys should always try to ship products faster, iterate, validate and repeat the process. Less scope, faster shipping is better than more scope, slower shipping. This gives time to improve the product with quick market validation.
16. Quality > Quantity
We tend to take the sides of quantity over quality in the rat race of growth in vanity metrics. We keep on chasing "likes" instead of "love". Organizations and leaders should bring a top-down culture of quality over quantity whether it's about content, proposals, products, features, hiring, marketing etc. To create Love for your business or product or marketing you need to invest quality time. Likes are short term, mechanical and hacky.
17. A symphony is better than a million cacophonies
Reference to my previous point, quality can never be replaced by quantity. Invest time, practice and prepare well before any delivery or performance. The results always pay off the hard work, sooner or later. Rather than getting busy in too many mediocre things, do a few things absolutely well. We all are fans of quality performances rather than mediocre, whether it's sports, food, artists, movies, songs, books, or anything else. Then why chase quantity, when the customer only remembers quality.
18. Design is intelligence made visible
User experience and design are the biggest competitive differentiation with companies in this century. This is proven by many brands like Apple, Ikea, Braun, Uber, Amazon and more. Design is a subject where the concepts of "less is more" work best. Design is about form and function. Function follows human needs (visible), form follows human behavior (intelligence).
19. Design is everywhere
Design touches our lives every day. The toothbrush, shoes, teacup, laptop, car, sofa, food plate and so on. Design insights are " in sight". See the design in everything you do or use and you will be able to appreciate or help in improving it. Every nuance in design is important as humans tend to design for function and miss out the form factor.
20. Something lesser
Everything we do, can be done with something lesser. Just try it in everything. Whether its a proposal, email, content, design, features etc. A visiting card can have too much information, it can be clutter-free like its shown too. Brevity is the soul of wit, apply it as much as you can.
21. Little details matter
While doing more, we compromise on the little details. The efforts in every detail separate a good product from ordinary. Do less, but do it with details. Large projects and investments fail due to lack of detailing. The cost of overcoming these failures are very high and sometimes there is no way to even fix them post-production. Devil and God lie in the details.
22. Deliberate design flaws
The Pharma industry has done so many innovations, but could they not solve the problem of unclear expiry dates? Should it take a lot to put expiry date in every medicine clearly? Such deliberate flaws should be discouraged.
23. Creativity at cost of usability
Creativity at the cost of usability is a bad design. While creativity is pleasing, it becomes annoying if it increases your cognitive load. When we are already exposed to too much information with too little time, it's best to keep it simple and straightforward. Less creativity and more usability should be the design approach. Usability and Creativity can co-exist. Know your customer and audience while designing to keep a fine balance between the two.
24. Keep it simple
There is a perception that more complex means better. More features, more functions, more graphics, more options don't make a product better. In fact, products adoption is inversely proportional to these "number of features". Tom and Jerry is ageless, because of its simplicity. Simplest things are the hardest to build.
25. Flexible vs convenience & time
Product designers have to make various tough decisions while designing a product. (Flexibility or Customization) Vs (Convenience or Time) is one such decision. For example, a barbell with fixed weights is convenient, takes less time to use Vs the one with flexible weights. Flexibility & configurability (More) always increases your cognitive load in any kind of product. Fixed and definitive (Less) always makes it easier for the customer to decide and use quickly. A fine balance is very important otherwise the product might become unusable.
26. Humans are strange
We always desire to have more of everything. More features, more variety, more furniture, more decor, more food, and so on. Slowly, this more starts biting and generally struggles to find out ways to reduce it. Every time you create or have more, you later have to solve it to make less. So why do more, just keep it less. A firestick is far better than the complex TV remotes.
27. Hick's law
We are spoilt by choices. We always demand more choices and later get confused. More choices, more work for the brain, more confusion leads to less decisions, low speed and high clutter. In product designs, customers more often than not, ask for more. Keep it simple with few options.
28. Customer experience has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator
Yahoo user experience vs Google is one of the most talked-about topics in the technology world. Yahoo despite being an early mover in the internet could not handle the single focussed approach of Google. Yahoo was all over the place, doing something for everyone, mostly half baked products with a more is more philosophy everywhere. Then came Google with just something less and less. Rest is history.
Do less, show less, confuse less, give more quality.
29. Endless preference screen
This is in continuation with my previous posts. Preference screens are common in software products. However, most of the time we don't use these preference screens whether it's a Windows operating system, mobile advanced settings screens, a TV advanced settings or an MS office advanced settings. Product designers should keep only the most used and bare minimum preferences in the front end so that advanced preferences required only by power users are not exposed to a normal user. Why make it complex for everyone, when only a few are looking for these advanced preferences. Just hide these advanced preferences such that only those who need it, use it.
30. Under-do vs out-d
The world is highly competitive and we generally tend to outdo the competition. We outdo them by building more features, hiring more people, raising more funds, expanding more, building more products and so on. However, most of the companies win against competition by doing less. Less features have won against more in most places. Less funded companies have done better most of the time than better funded in the same sector. Companies with lesser people have a better product than companies with more people. There is enough analysis and data on these points.
Try to do less, but do awesomely well.
31. Obsess with customer
Humans always benchmark against competition. Whether it's education, sports, business, art etc. While competition tracking and knowledge is important, one should not get obsessed with competition. Eg: While building products, if you keep chasing the competition features, you might end up building a similar product. But that does not help the customer at all as they suffer from the same problem they faced in the other product too. Many times your competition also is unaware of what is right or wrong. Hence, just imitating them or being fearful of them neither helps you nor the customer. Instead of obsessing with competition, obsess with your customers. The customer is your true north.
32. Make opinionated software
It's easy to build products today than before and barriers to entry are going lower. Most products, companies, solutions, services are me-too, copied and have very limited differentiation. So "What you do" in the product is no longer a differentiation as the other product will copy it sooner or later. However, "Why you do" becomes a very big differentiation. Why does your product ideology, philosophy, brand and customers start recognizing you for that? Product designers have to take some bold calls while defining the product to establish the Why. There are numerous examples from Apple products, Whatsapp allows only 256 people in a group, Qwerty keyboards, a bulk operation feature not given in many great SaaS products to establish the importance of doing it one by one, and so on. So, try to reduce answering "What" in the product and think more "Why". What’ll lead you to more, Why ll help you to do less but still significantly useful to customers.
33. Ask people what they don't want
Surveys and feedback on products are very common. Sales teams, product teams and clients keep asking for "more". Most of our surveys or discussions with customers are around "What more do you want in the product?". Just flip this to "What would you want to remove?". The whole dimension changes and you'll start thinking more on "less" features. Try doing this in every such conversation, and see the difference.
33. Did Henry Ford say faster horses?
The essential 5 Why approach to product planning. Read an entire article on this.
35. Focus on the right customers
Product success depends not only on good team hires but also on good customer hiring. Which customers you choose to work with and which ones you let go is important. While businesses should always endeavor to acquire every customer, no business can satisfy all the customers optimally. Your product will be most relevant for some customers and not so relevant for others. If there are future product features which satisfy the customer needs, you should go ahead with a customer, but if you have to make unsustainable short term changes in your product for serving a customer, it's better to stay away. Short term product features are neither good for you nor for the customer in the long run. Every time you agree to a special feature request of a customer, you are adding more complexity for other customers who don't need that feature. Every new feature is an additional investment to manage. So add any new feature only when it's absolutely required. No to some features is better than releasing many poorly thought 'yes' features.
36. Keep your code as simple as possible
Programming is an art and science. One can write a complex or a very simple code for the same output. Less is more, can be aptly used in software programming. While building software products, it's important to keep simple, well architectured, well defined and documented code. Scaling a product becomes nearly impossible with complex and poorly written code. Every new line in your code is adding a new complexity, hence think before adding new lines or new features. Cleanse, stabilize, detox the code at regular intervals. It's like the inner engineering of your body, if you don't keep your code healthy, it's not going to scale for long.
37. Don't try to predict the problems of tomorrow
While building products, it's important to prioritize features. Many times we tend to build something which is neither a current problem nor a customer ask. We tend to predict a problem with our own bias without having significant sampling data. This way you might end up doing very wrong prioritization of features. Use user voice methodology effectively in solutioning.
38. You do not need to complicate as you grow old
This is the last post in the series of less is more. This image speaks for itself. This text is written on a notepad, software which has remained the same over the last 25+ years. Yet, this simple software is heavily used even today as it was used over years. No enhancements or new features have been added to notepad software over decades. That's one reason it remained so simple and easy to use. Products of any type whether in software or other industries, don't need to complicate with time. Instead, try to simplify it with time. It's a human tendency that with every new year, we think we need to do more on a product and make changes to it. It's absolutely unnecessary to make changes when it's working very well and adopted very well by users. It's perfectly fine to keep the product constant as long as it's liked and not going towards obsolescence. Overcomplicating products with time generally leads to higher production costs and lower usability leading to revenue losses.