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TECH TALK: Creating Options: Blind Spots and Lock-ins

September 9th, 2004 · No Comments

When good things happen to us, we think it is because of our hard work or because we are smart. When bad things happen, we blame it on luck or destiny. In fact, if we retrace the decision-making tree that resulted in the good or bad things, more often than not we will realise that we created situations that enabled the effects to take place. In other words, the cause is more likely to be the fact that we created (or eliminated) options.

Let us first look at how we systematically eliminate reduce options. One of the common factors is what Id like to think of as blind spots. Think of them as mind blocks where we let personal biases interfere with decision-making. The second factor is when we lock ourselves in too early to a certain path in order to optimise some other parameter, realising only too late that we didnt really need to do it.

Just as a blind spot can be dangerous while driving, it can be hazardous in life too. We tend to ignore some things based on emotions or our past experiences but we do so at our own peril. In some ways, the cheese may have moved, but we still go back to the same place in search of the cheese refusing to learn new things. This can be especially true in the world of technology where things change at as fast pace. Consistently challenging our fundamental beliefs is important to prevent us and our business from being disrupted.

In an organisation, at times, we sometimes become critically dependent on a single resource be it a person, or a machine. We refuse to recognise that that person may leave, or the machine may stop working. This blind spot prevents us from building backups and other adequate safety measures. And then one day, we get hurt. And then, we brood over what could have been and what we should have done.

An example of lock-in is when we try and save some money by booking lower-fare tickets for business travel. I did it once last year when I was going to Hyderabad. At the last minute, an important meeting could rescheduled and I found myself speaking to a client giving some silly excuses just because I had booked tickets which could not be changed and having spent that money, I was trying to protect the investment I had made. I realised that to try and save a few thousand rupees, I had put myself in a situation where I had limited our own flexibility when I was going to discussion a business with potential which was significantly higher.

On a larger scale, in India, we have hundreds of thousands of businesses who have unwittingly let themselves be locked in by choosing to pirate Microsoft Windows and Office software. Life is free and fine till the Business Software Alliance, Microsoft or the police come calling (and trust me, they will very soon). At that time, the business owner has little or no choice but to pay up. If, however, businesses can consider the option of open-source software which is now more than good enough, they will have created a much happier scenario for themselves. Few do that assuming that they are either above the law, or have an attitude which says, Well tackle them when they come. By then, it will be too late.

Tomorrow: How?


TECH TALK Creating Options+T

Tags: Tech Talk

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