Tag Archives: social behavior

The Strategy-Execution Deadlock

I’ve recently observed a specific product management/product engineering dynamic and I got to thinking that it’s quite common.

Observe: The engineers are clamoring for the product management to provide a roadmap or at least a high-level vision for the existing and future products in the next year or three. The product management is unwilling or unable to provide this information, but wants to know what engineering has been doing recently, i.e. some form of a progress report that they can trade in to top managers to get a green light for the ideas and vision that engineering is asking for.

This deadlock can take any form from very amusing to very dysfunctional, and I’ve personally seen this particular information flow break down on several occasions.

So how can this pattern be defeated? What would it take to break the vicious cycle? Read on to find out…

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The Long Tail of Taste

One of the premises for dreaming up Just Liked is that when a friend tells me “I like Starbucks coffee” I, for one, would consider this piece of information less interesting than if he would have told me that he likes Kopi Luwak coffee. If he also told me he had it at Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms in North Queensland, Australia for a mere $33.00 a cup, I would have thought him some sort of coffee connoisseur.

Our likes and dislikes play a profound role in defining who we are and how we position ourselves within our social circle. I am not a sociologist (if you haven’t guessed this much already), but I am convinced that everyone born and raised in societies where individuality is valued strives for some sort of uniqueness. This drive for uniqueness finds an outlet in our physical appearance, our purchasing decisions, our food, our travel and just about everything else. We do not want to appear indistinguishable, we want our identity to stand out, to sparkle and to signal to those sharing the same preferences, interests and values, which also means that there is a palpable  social behavior attached to the drive. Well, the extroverts have it anyways.

The long tail of taste (not drawn to scale)

Yes, there are extreme examples of eclecticism (and its close cousin elitism) but I would argue that the extremes only appear extreme because the observer is not a part of a given social circle. If you can appreciate drinking yak milk with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, then chances are someone you know does too. Taste flows both ways. It’s used to define who you are and to attract those who are like yourself, so it’s used at once to make people stand out from the rest and to bind them together. This simple social dynamic is what we wish to tap with Just Liked.