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Linda Rising firstname.lastname@example.org www.lindarising.org @RisingLinda. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making in Software Development.
@RisingLindaProblem-Solving and Decision-Making in Software Development
Disclaimer: This provocative presentation is ideally the beginning of a conversation. It won't take long for me to tell you everything I know about cognitive psychology, although I have been reading in the area for several years now. I'm an amateur who has sufficient interest in weird topics and a strange way of connecting ideas that might or might not be of interest to you. Thank you for your tolerance and understanding of my meanderings and I hope you learn a little that might help you in your life.This is not an “academic” presentation, but those interested in more information are invited to ask me for references for any part of this talk and I will be happy to make them available.Scientists and journals prefer positive findings and bury negative studies. Always be a little skeptical!
Long periods of focused attention without a break
Inside – no connection with Nature, no natural light
Drab, probably noisy surroundings
Tired, over-caffeinated individuals
Cognitive science is fast growing, uses controlled experiments, on-going re-testing, explosion in results
Our field is slow growing, few, if any controlled experiments (mostly anecdotes, case studies)
We should pay attention – it might help us do our work better !
Blink, move your eyes from side to side, turn your head from side to side
Look at the horizon, look around, look outside
Walk – even 5 minutes
Sitting is the new smoking. Sitting kills !
Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA-based health plan
“We actually do have walking meetings at Kaiser Permanente, believe it or not. My team is pretty productive, so it must be working.” Ray Baxter
Baxter believes walking together can change the dynamics of interactions.
Recent study of stand-up meetings shows they took 34% less time and produced decisions that were equally good.
Not all meetings should be stand ups!
Bio break, coffee break (caffeine is the subject of another talk), smokers’ edge !
Quick walk – effective persuasion technique – walk sideways or backward
I've walked myself into my best thoughts. Kierkegaard
Work on a different hard problem – NOT multi-tasking (can you listen to two songs at the same time?)
Work on a different easy problem – quickly do some routine task
When Arianna Huffington is looking for inspiration, she goes to sleep. “There are many, many great ideas locked inside of us. We just need to close our eyes to see them.”
There are three nap rooms in the offices of the Huffington Post Media Group.
In pairs of subjects, Player A is given money (e.g. $10) and makes an offer to Player B. If B accepts, both keep their money. If B rejects, both get nothing.
Typically low offers (e.g. $2) are rejected. Why?
Research shows that if players take a 10-min break, low offers are accepted. Take Ten!
Counting helps, counting backward even better!
Compared with engaging in a demanding task, rest, or no break, engaging in an undemanding task led to substantial improvement in performance on previously encountered problems.
Processing a barrage of information leaves us too fatigued to learn. The brain needs downtime.
We think we’re relaxing by distracting ourselves, but we’re fatiguing our brains.
Research shows we would rather fail when doing something than risk failing doing nothing
Study of 300 soccer goalies: stay in the center, stop ~1/3 of opponents’ shots; dive left, stop ~14% of shots; dive right, stop ~12%
Even when faced with data, goalies choose to move rather than staying put
“My commute is my most productive creative time when I’m not focusing on anything.”
Chris Cox, Facebook’s Product Chief
Even mild dehydration affects the brain – always have water on hand – watch the caffeine
Decision-making requires energy, if tired and hungry people are forced to make decisions, they look for the easy way out
Study of judges granting more favorable verdict after breaks
The loud guy = Conscious mind - slow, linear, forgetful
The quiet guy = Unconscious - fast, can multi-task, knows everything, but is inaccessible
Keeping the conscious mind occupied on some other task allows the unconscious to get through to you
The conscious mind cannot multi-task but must context switch as does any linear processor
Heavy multi-taskers have been shown to have no beneficial abilities and to be suckers for irrelevancy
Bottom line: multi-tasking is bad, sorry !
Only 25% looked both ways
1/3 listen to music, text, on the phone
Texting pedestrians ~4 times more likely to cross against the light, fail to look both ways.
Those listening to music walked more quickly but less likely to look both ways before crossing.
Distracted behavior helps account for accidents that injure more than 60,000 per year and kill more than 4,000 in the US alone.
Plants (must be the real thing, not photos or displays) improve innovative and creative thinking
Looking outside improves health
Walking outside, even for a few minutes, improves decision-making (better than walking in urban areas) by restoring ability to focus
Explain the problem out loud to something or someone else – a stuffed animal, a photo, or another person who does not have to understand what you are talking about !
Use this technique in meetings – have proposers of different solutions explain their version of the problem (not the solution!) to others
Typing is the least effective means for description
Writing by hand is useful for solving problems of all kinds
Drawing, sketching are also helpful – research shows that doodlers remember more information than note-takers – encourage doodling at meetings!
You forget 50% of what you hear in about 4 hours, so write it down.
J.B. Rainsberger, “Get stuff out of your head, now!”
The visual cortex of happier people takes in more information so they "see" more and as a result have more insight
Posture – sit up, both feet on the floor, arms open, pull work toward you, nod your head (slouching makes you sad)
Language – choose affirming words “like,” “positive,” find areas of agreement, “yes, and”
Smile – research shows this to be as effective as anti-depressants ! Fake it!
Hard vs. soft chair or weight of a document influences how “hard” or “weighty” we believe an issue to be
Information in black & white makes us more judgmental (right or wrong, no “gray” area)
Temperature of room or drinks influences how we feel about others around us.
Higher ceilings increases innovation. Lower ceiling concentrates on details.
Noisy environments are harmful. Music we like is more distracting than music we don’t like! Fast, loud music interferes most with comprehension.
Brainstorming “invented” in the 1940s – is intuitively appealing – we all get together and follow some simple rules to generate innovative ideas
Research shows that individuals working on their own produce a higher quantity/quality of ideas than those in groups and avoids “social loafing” and “groupthink”
Stressed people tend to conform more to social opinion.
Getting a lot of smart people in the room is no insurance against Groupthink.
J.F.K.’s Bay of Pigs fiasco is the classic example. After this, Kennedy appointed his brother Devil’s Advocate—to function like a good lawyer requiring group members to examine carefully the pros and cons of policy alternatives before they agree upon the best course of action.
Quiet storming after preparation
Independence is a requirement for individual action
Imagine you are solving a problem or making a decision for someone else.
Imagining you are far away from the issue leads to more rational reactions and decisions.
We are better at estimating others’ health risks!
Andy Grove (Intel CEO) asked Gordon Moore (COO), “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?”
Most decisions are unimportant
Create decision-making rules and stick with it
Timebox, e.g. allow 5 minutes
Delegate, e.g. let a friend pick the movie
Taking a break allows more rationality
Have more women on the team or involved somehow.
Preliminary research shows higher quality collaboration, changes the behavior of the male members, increases group intelligence and overall performance.
Everyone had lunch, tea, coffee together, they spent a lot of time talking and I wondered how anyone was getting any work done! But the conversations were not about the latest movie—they were always talking about science, suggesting ideas for experiments, sharing ideas, critiquing, giving feedback.
Now we eat lunch in our offices alone, doing e-mail. IMHO, this is a lousy way of doing science. You can't learn anything by doing e-mail.
At the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, 2009 chemistry laureate Thomas Steitz recalled the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge in the 1960s.
Recent Harvard study shows that collaborators working within 10 km of each other produced more innovative ideas.
Researchers suggest: frequent, spontaneous, “real” as opposed to virtual interactions lead to more innovation.
We have a sense that large, complex problems require large, complex solutions.
Organizations and software are examples of complex systems where the impact of any change is difficult to predict
The often-overlooked approach of Small Steps (it’s a pattern!) is a better road to success where the result of each small experiment can be seen before the next step is taken.
Concrete Action Plan
Singing reduces stress and lowers blood pressure
Avoid buyer’s remorse - hand washing - bring a sense of closure to the decision, don’t continue to debate
Research shows dogs in the workplace result in better collaboration within teams.
I now get to validate the information you sent me on Dogs and Development. I moved to Google as a Technical Advisor about 9 months ago and I am able to bring my dogs to work! It is really fun to see the different breeds on campus. My role is very interesting and I am leading software patent projects and innovation initiatives. Keep in touch! Kevin Brune, Google
Software design and development should be a joyful experience.
To achieve this joy, we have changed everything.
Move Eat/drink (no energy drinks) Color Nature Animals Take a break Sleep
From Fearless Change:
Test the waters
Time for Reflection
Step by Step
Thanks for listening!