Cost of Drawbacks

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The article Principles for Better Design gathers insights on how to solve problems efficiently, but omits a crucial point: how to evaluate other people’s designs. This article focuses on one aspect of assessing the credibility of a design.

Collaboration is essential in the development of great designs, not only because it engages competition, but also because, since everyone has a piece of reality, the combination of parts contributes to the resolution of a more complete reality.

Knowledge is decentralized, so is reality

Drawbacks lie in every single design

A design always has pros and cons. Always. That’s why design decisions are difficult to make. Just as it wouldn’t be possible to compare apples and pears, how could you compare designs with different advantages and disadvantages? Designs are generally incomparable. But life is full of decisions to make and whether you choose pasta over vegetables for breakfast, blue over red for a car, agility over a waterfall for an organization at the end of the day, each of these choices has advantages and consequences depending on the situation.

When I wrote “A design always has pros and cons”, I really meant it: drawbacks lie in every single decision design for the simple reason that no design is perfect.

Drawbacks cost

In the collaboration process, the person sells you its* perceptions along with its suggestions. Whether it is a centralized or decentralized design, a do-it-yourself product or a homemade product, the focus will most likely be on the benefits exclusively. Understanding in what way X is better, faster, stronger than Y is an intuitive behavior. It is a good and necessary first step. Appreciating the pain or frustrations of your interlocutor gives a lot of credit to changing for the better. But don’t stop there.

By listing the advantages of a solution, we are trapped into forgetting the disadvantages that come with the new design. Remember, “drawbacks lie in every single design”. Identify the inconveniences that will occur when you move from X to Y. In other words, what’s the drawbacks cost of the move? It is so easy to be blinded by the inconveniences of a solution, even more so when the one in place generates a lot of frustration. Hope emphasizes relief over danger. This behavior is a common cognitive bias known as confirmation bias:

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. Wiki

Acknowledgment

Give a lot of credit to designers who honestly acknowledge the drawbacks of their creations. The inconveniences are not necessarily terrible in all situations, but a good decision is one that understands that it must pay the price.

I leave you with an example. Imagine you are discussing about your way of working within your organization. Which answer would you trust the most to the question: “I understand you idea of moving forward with Agile instead of Waterfall, but which are the drawbacks of such model?”

  • “There is none.”
  • “The management is going to lose power in our decision to self-organize, poor them!”
  • “Outsourcing development is more difficult, but this should be okay because we plan to keep all development in-house. The documentation will also be lighter, but the knowledge does not need to be so exhaustively formalized as long as the team remains internal and located in the same place.”

* when gender does not matter in the context, the neutral pronoun is used intentionally.