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How storytelling can help us tackle (and solve) complex problems SoCal Kanban/Lean Software meetup July 12, 2011 VenkateshRao
Complex Problems are Mysteries 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 2 “Eh bien. …je me pose des questions,…You too, doubtless?” Lord Edgeware Dies, Agatha Christie
Hastings 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 3 “Certainly…Who killed Lord Edgeware?”
Poirot 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 4 “No no. Not at all. Is it a question, that?” … Why did Lord Edgeware change his mind about the divorce? What happened to the letter?
Hastings vs. Poirot Formulaic questions Obvious logical closure Problem and formula Solution seeking Means-ends reasoning Planning Calculative rationality Jomini Situation-specific questions Non-obvious narrative closure Mystery and clue Resolution seeking Insight-seeking Storytelling Narrative rationality Clausewitz and Sun Tzu 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 5
On Planning and Plans “The process of planning is very valuable, for forcing you to think hard about what you are doing, but the actual plan that results from it is probably useless.” – Marc Andreessen “Plans are nothing, planning is everything” – Dwight Eisenhower 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 6
Who Read Napoleon Right? 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 7 Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) ,[object Object]
Better known todayAntoine-Henri Jomini (1779-1869) ,[object Object]
Less-known, more actual influence,[object Object]
Or… 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 9
Works sometimes 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 10 Known map, pre-defined objective:  compute the fastest or cheapest path
…but groping creates… 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 11 “Simultaneous Localization and Mapping” (SLAM)  – sketch of typical situation
...exploration-exploitation tradeoffs 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 12 Unknown/partially known map, unclear objective:exploration-exploitation tradeoff
Three Trade-off Strategies Grand Vision: Build the whole map just for one journey Tunnel Vision: Never backtrack, hope to get lucky Cheap Trick: Build enough of a map to find some high-leverage opportunity Aside: Central idea in lean startup “pivot” concept 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 13
Grand vision: ambitious, brute force Cheap trick: high-leverage insight 1+2+3+4+…+17=? 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 14 Hey, notice something?    1+2+3+…+16+17=17+16+15…+2+1
Cheap Trick = coup d'oeil Clausewitz, “strike of the eye,” Mathematical Aha! Significant clue in mystery Enlightenment event at a Zen retreat Elegant design insight, military attack insight What does it feel like? Resolves a building tension  Complexity and chaos dissolves Deep emotional relief when you get the insight Unleashes creative energy Sound familiar? 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 15
Joseph Campbell (1949) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 16 “Tchh, tchh…Joseph my friend, everything should be made as simple as possible  but no simpler!”
Gustav Freytag (1863) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 17 Climax Freytag Triangle Rising Action Falling Action Resolution Exposition “Tchh, tchh…Gustav my friend, everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler!”
Double Freytag! (Rao, 2011) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 18 Separation Event Cheap Trick Increasing Entropy Heavy Lift Retrospective Sense-Making Exploration Valley Liminal Passage Evolved doctrine “Moral of the story” Liminal Passage
The Matrix 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 19 Neo Resurrection Red-Pill/Blue-Pill Increasing Dissonance Neo Win, EMP Burst Neo vs. Smith Battle Training Montage Neo in Real World Neo Flies into Sky Inside the Matrix Neo-and-boss scene “Neo isThe ONE!” Boss to Neo: “You think that you are somehow special and that the rules do not apply to you.”
Typical Software Product 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 20 LAUNCH! Design Aha! Increasing Dissonance Pay off tech debt Launch Heavy-Lift Waterfall Backlog Throwaway prototype Bugs level off Feature freeze Classic Scrum Phase Learned hacks to lean/agile, like marginnotes in Half-Blood Prince Project Kick-Off “We really have to get in on this gamified social commerce mobile check-in trend!”
Marketing Narrative 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 21 Product/Market Fit Positioning Aha! Increasing Dissonance Clarify, focus position PR Double Down Develop Brand  Narrative Messaging Trials Maintenance Advertising Establish category voice Brand doctrine Project Kick-Off Aside: NOT the same as the Blank/Ries model; that is more sales-driven
Tempo in the Double Freytag 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 22 Crescendo Crescendo Increasing Anxiety Decrescendo,Joy+sorrow All-nighters Relief Volatile, dissipative Stillness Steady, slowing momentum Stillness
Tempo Shift Example: PMF “You can always feel when product/market fit isn't happening. The customers aren't quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn't spreading, usage isn't growing that fast, press reviews are kind of "blah", the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market fit when it's happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it -- or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account.”  Marc Andreessen in The Only Thing That Matters 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 23
Let’s Try It Pick a finished project in your past… A phase with a consistent TEMPO is an epoch Tempo: rhythms, emotions, energy A SHIFT in tempo: an epoch boundary Let’s map them! 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 24
What about character? So much for plot 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 25
Hastings vs. Poirot Energetic Reactive Impulsive Buys others’ stories Social “old boy” morality Jumps to conclusions but… …is also indecisive Reflective Deliberative Sense of timing Makes up own stories Absolute morality Defers judgment but… …moves decisively 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 26
Hastings is a Toad DOCTRINE: Next Shiny New Thing (NSNT) Motto: I have to have that! Momentum axiom: what are we waiting for? Characteristic emotion: excitement alternating with boredom Characteristic energy pattern: impulsive spikes Characteristic rhythm: excited alternating with lethargic Characteristic belief: variety is the spice of life Archetype: Toad in The Wind in the Willows, who gets all the other characters into one adventure after another 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 27
Archetypes and Doctrines An archetype is the “imprint of a pattern of human behavior” (Jennifer von Bergen, Archetypes for Authors) A doctrine is a set of beliefs about TEMPO management Archetype+doctrine+narrative context=enactment style 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 28
Hastings as Hero 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 29 Heroic struggle and failure Jump to conclusion Increasing entropy Rationalization Brute force effort Grand Vision Run around like crazy Denial Wild Goose Chase Restless Reinforced deluded beliefs
Poirot as Hero 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 30 Final test Right Questions Increasing entropy Murderer validates Push for resolution Hypotheses “Arranging facts” Calm Tests, Red herrings, Loose ends Calm Improved detection doctrine
Let’s Try It! List the dramatis personae in some completed collaborative project For EACH character, pick a favorite FICTIONAL character that he/she reminds you of the most For EACH, write down a motto that you think describes their doctrine 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 31
Challenges From use cases to archetype-driven design From gamified products to storified products Learn from screenwriters and script doctors From Waterfall/Agile dichotomy to synthesisusing narrative arcs 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 32

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SoCAL Lean Meetup Talk

  • 1. How storytelling can help us tackle (and solve) complex problems SoCal Kanban/Lean Software meetup July 12, 2011 VenkateshRao
  • 2. Complex Problems are Mysteries 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 2 “Eh bien. …je me pose des questions,…You too, doubtless?” Lord Edgeware Dies, Agatha Christie
  • 3. Hastings 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 3 “Certainly…Who killed Lord Edgeware?”
  • 4. Poirot 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 4 “No no. Not at all. Is it a question, that?” … Why did Lord Edgeware change his mind about the divorce? What happened to the letter?
  • 5. Hastings vs. Poirot Formulaic questions Obvious logical closure Problem and formula Solution seeking Means-ends reasoning Planning Calculative rationality Jomini Situation-specific questions Non-obvious narrative closure Mystery and clue Resolution seeking Insight-seeking Storytelling Narrative rationality Clausewitz and Sun Tzu 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 5
  • 6. On Planning and Plans “The process of planning is very valuable, for forcing you to think hard about what you are doing, but the actual plan that results from it is probably useless.” – Marc Andreessen “Plans are nothing, planning is everything” – Dwight Eisenhower 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 6
  • 7.
  • 8.
  • 9.
  • 11. Works sometimes 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 10 Known map, pre-defined objective: compute the fastest or cheapest path
  • 12. …but groping creates… 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 11 “Simultaneous Localization and Mapping” (SLAM) – sketch of typical situation
  • 13. ...exploration-exploitation tradeoffs 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 12 Unknown/partially known map, unclear objective:exploration-exploitation tradeoff
  • 14. Three Trade-off Strategies Grand Vision: Build the whole map just for one journey Tunnel Vision: Never backtrack, hope to get lucky Cheap Trick: Build enough of a map to find some high-leverage opportunity Aside: Central idea in lean startup “pivot” concept 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 13
  • 15. Grand vision: ambitious, brute force Cheap trick: high-leverage insight 1+2+3+4+…+17=? 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 14 Hey, notice something? 1+2+3+…+16+17=17+16+15…+2+1
  • 16. Cheap Trick = coup d'oeil Clausewitz, “strike of the eye,” Mathematical Aha! Significant clue in mystery Enlightenment event at a Zen retreat Elegant design insight, military attack insight What does it feel like? Resolves a building tension Complexity and chaos dissolves Deep emotional relief when you get the insight Unleashes creative energy Sound familiar? 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 15
  • 17. Joseph Campbell (1949) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 16 “Tchh, tchh…Joseph my friend, everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler!”
  • 18. Gustav Freytag (1863) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 17 Climax Freytag Triangle Rising Action Falling Action Resolution Exposition “Tchh, tchh…Gustav my friend, everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler!”
  • 19. Double Freytag! (Rao, 2011) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 18 Separation Event Cheap Trick Increasing Entropy Heavy Lift Retrospective Sense-Making Exploration Valley Liminal Passage Evolved doctrine “Moral of the story” Liminal Passage
  • 20. The Matrix 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 19 Neo Resurrection Red-Pill/Blue-Pill Increasing Dissonance Neo Win, EMP Burst Neo vs. Smith Battle Training Montage Neo in Real World Neo Flies into Sky Inside the Matrix Neo-and-boss scene “Neo isThe ONE!” Boss to Neo: “You think that you are somehow special and that the rules do not apply to you.”
  • 21. Typical Software Product 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 20 LAUNCH! Design Aha! Increasing Dissonance Pay off tech debt Launch Heavy-Lift Waterfall Backlog Throwaway prototype Bugs level off Feature freeze Classic Scrum Phase Learned hacks to lean/agile, like marginnotes in Half-Blood Prince Project Kick-Off “We really have to get in on this gamified social commerce mobile check-in trend!”
  • 22. Marketing Narrative 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 21 Product/Market Fit Positioning Aha! Increasing Dissonance Clarify, focus position PR Double Down Develop Brand Narrative Messaging Trials Maintenance Advertising Establish category voice Brand doctrine Project Kick-Off Aside: NOT the same as the Blank/Ries model; that is more sales-driven
  • 23. Tempo in the Double Freytag 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 22 Crescendo Crescendo Increasing Anxiety Decrescendo,Joy+sorrow All-nighters Relief Volatile, dissipative Stillness Steady, slowing momentum Stillness
  • 24. Tempo Shift Example: PMF “You can always feel when product/market fit isn't happening. The customers aren't quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn't spreading, usage isn't growing that fast, press reviews are kind of "blah", the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market fit when it's happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it -- or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account.” Marc Andreessen in The Only Thing That Matters 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 23
  • 25. Let’s Try It Pick a finished project in your past… A phase with a consistent TEMPO is an epoch Tempo: rhythms, emotions, energy A SHIFT in tempo: an epoch boundary Let’s map them! 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 24
  • 26. What about character? So much for plot 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 25
  • 27. Hastings vs. Poirot Energetic Reactive Impulsive Buys others’ stories Social “old boy” morality Jumps to conclusions but… …is also indecisive Reflective Deliberative Sense of timing Makes up own stories Absolute morality Defers judgment but… …moves decisively 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 26
  • 28. Hastings is a Toad DOCTRINE: Next Shiny New Thing (NSNT) Motto: I have to have that! Momentum axiom: what are we waiting for? Characteristic emotion: excitement alternating with boredom Characteristic energy pattern: impulsive spikes Characteristic rhythm: excited alternating with lethargic Characteristic belief: variety is the spice of life Archetype: Toad in The Wind in the Willows, who gets all the other characters into one adventure after another 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 27
  • 29. Archetypes and Doctrines An archetype is the “imprint of a pattern of human behavior” (Jennifer von Bergen, Archetypes for Authors) A doctrine is a set of beliefs about TEMPO management Archetype+doctrine+narrative context=enactment style 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 28
  • 30. Hastings as Hero 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 29 Heroic struggle and failure Jump to conclusion Increasing entropy Rationalization Brute force effort Grand Vision Run around like crazy Denial Wild Goose Chase Restless Reinforced deluded beliefs
  • 31. Poirot as Hero 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 30 Final test Right Questions Increasing entropy Murderer validates Push for resolution Hypotheses “Arranging facts” Calm Tests, Red herrings, Loose ends Calm Improved detection doctrine
  • 32. Let’s Try It! List the dramatis personae in some completed collaborative project For EACH character, pick a favorite FICTIONAL character that he/she reminds you of the most For EACH, write down a motto that you think describes their doctrine 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 31
  • 33. Challenges From use cases to archetype-driven design From gamified products to storified products Learn from screenwriters and script doctors From Waterfall/Agile dichotomy to synthesisusing narrative arcs 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 32
  • 34. The Book http://tempobook.com More on the stuff in this talk:Chapters 3 and 4 of book Sorry, no Kindle yet (due Fall) 7/12/2011 Venkatesh G. Rao 33