I write for me; not for you. // I'm not a huge fan of pontificating. Most of what I write here is to solidify a lesson-learned or to clarify my coalescing thoughts.
  • Mobile eCommerce: Old, but still intriguing, news [Part One]

    In the wake of this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday stats, I want to talk about mobile commerce: the truths, the questions, and the abundant opportunities. I’ll be honest, the importance of mobile commerce isn’t escaping anyone playing the eCommerce game. In fact, it may be the most agreed upon movement out there — consumers spend a lot of time on their phones so eCommerce apps need to be available to them. And there are tons of stats to support the growth of mobile, particularly after the past four days.

    Courtesy of

    Courtesy of

    Some background stats

    According to IBM, Black Friday mobile traffic increased 34%  over 2012 to make up 39.7% of all online traffic and mobile sales constituted 21.8% of online sales. Cyber Monday was also strong in mobile, showing 31.7% of all online traffic and 17% of sales. The breakdown of smartphones to tablets was interesting too:

    “Smartphones drove 24.9 percent of all online traffic on Black Friday compared to tablets at 14.2 percent, making it the browsing device of choice. Tablets drove 14.4 percent of all online sales, double that of smartphones, which accounted for 7.2 percent of all online sales. Tablet users also averaged 15 percent more per order than smartphone users, spending on average $132.75 versus $115.63 for smartphone users.”

    Compared to Cyber Monday:

    “Smartphones drove 19.7 percent of all online traffic compared to tablets at 11.5 percent, making it the browsing device of choice. When it comes to making the sale, tablets drove 11.7 percent of all online sales, more than double that of smartphones, which accounted for 5.5 percent. On average, tablet users spent $126.30 per order compared to smartphone users who spent $106.49.” (Read the full Black Friday and Cyber Monday reports).

    The Big Question

    So what does this all mean? We know phones and tablets are important in the future of eCommerce, but what should companies actually be doing about it?

    Differentiating Web from Mobile

    Tinder screenshot

    Despite universal acknowledgement that mobile apps are increasingly important for eCommerce companies, those apps continue to be viewed as just paired-down versions of web apps. They’re not. Thinking about tablets and smartphones as smaller versions of desktops is a dangerous game: Best Buy and Sony Style both failed to adapt their sites to tablet users and lost out on Cyber Monday (Mobile Commerce Daily has a good article about this). On the other hand, dating site Tinder is crushing it in the mobile sphere by creating an app that is NATIVELY mobile. Users swipe though potential matches instead of clicking or scrolling.

    But what about eCommerce sites? Some retailers are certainly catching on. Both REI and Nine West have created mobile apps that are meant for use in store. They recognize that shoppers want to be able to compare products in real time. The REI app has a product scan option where shoppers can scan the bar code of any product in store to see details and customer reviews. Nine West now provides in-store ipads with an app from which shoppers can browse, see details and reviews, and then order online, all while still being able to try on the item in-store.

    Mobile apps offer incredible opportunities for marketing and personalization. Cache is doing this right. They’ve adapted their push notification system to respond to shoppers habits. If a shopper generally browses certain parts of the site, they get notifications about specific items that they may have viewed. And, like REI, the Cache app also offers in-store bar code scanning.

    There is so much opportunity inherent to mobile shopping; retailers need to remember that having a mobile app does not mean having a responsive web page.

    Showrooming vs. Webrooming

    Brick and Mortar isn’t disappearing anytime soon. But the growth of mobile shopping means that eCommerce and B&M don’t need to be in constant competition. If showrooming and webrooming are growing trends, mobile apps and in-store tablet implementations could help companies create harmony between the two. eCommerce companies should be looking to build better cross-channel experiences as Nine West is doing. Moreover, companies should think about offering incentives to customers browsing online — if the customer webrooms on his phone, why not offer him a promo when he walks into the store? Promotions could work across channels, providing incentives for shoppers to be interacting with retailers on multiple channels, thereby increasing exposure.

    Coming up in Mobile eCommerce, Part Two:

    Mobile Behaviors and a few questions to turn things on their head.

  • The New World of eCommerce: An Increasingly Competitive Landscape

    To begin, I’d like to say, “I’m back!”  I’m committed to being a better, more frequent, blogger.  Instead of simply stating publicly that I’m going to try harder (which I’ve done before…and failed), I intend to simply prove it.  Stay tuned and see if I’m telling the truth.

    My newest company is focused on scaling global technology teams for high-growth companies.  Many of our earliest customers are eCommerce companies.  (This is not purely coincidence: I was a Founder at ModCloth, an investor in Touch of Modern, and an advisor to Blank Label.)  So I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about the future of eCommerce.  My goal is to share the fruits of my research and analysis with you.  With that thought in mind, this post is intended to get you up-to-speed. This is the stuff I already know, and much of it may not be new to you. Moving forward, I intend to dive deeper into the nitty gritty.

    Before I jump into things, if you are totally new to eCommerce (or just want to have a little more background) I suggest that you check out this report from the National Retail Federation. It provides a brief history of eCommerce as well as an overview of the eCommerce landscape in 2012 and 2013.

    Groupn Collage

     eCommerce is getting very competitive.  Fast.

    This post is about the big picture. eCommerce has evolved a lot over the past seven years. Online retailers are reaching more people around the world (see the recent Wall Street Journal article on Russia’s emerging eCommerce market) through more channels. With more points of access to retailers, more retailers, and more product choice, consumers are gaining power at an unprecedented rate. And with more consumers with more personal choice, retailers have to compete more than ever to win that consumer’s custom. In order to compete, retailers have to up their game, and they’ve been doing so in a myriad of ways.

    Trend #1: Flash Sales and Deep Discounts It’s not the newest trick in the book, but sites offering flash sales and deep discounts are still making headway in the eCommerce world. One point of success for these companies is that they require the consumer to sign up before he or she can see any of the offers. This allows sites like GrouponTouchofModern, and Zulily to better track and identify their users. Whether you’ve visited once, twice, or fifteen times, they can customize their marketing to your apparent interest level.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 12.31.55 PM

    Other sites like One Kings Lane and Wayfair (see here an interesting article on Wayfair’s approach to indecisive consumers) may not require you to sign in, but they publish their discounts on the page (see image) and on sites like One Kings Lane, sales only last for a certain amount of time, encouraging consumers to buy quickly or lose out on the deal.

    Threadflip Comments

    Trend #2: ReCommerce Deals don’t only come in the form of sales. Companies like thredUP and Threadflip are bringing second-hand retail to the internet. Nor does it only apply to clothing. Gazelle is a site where consumers can selltheir used electronics.  Offering verification services for used items brings the whole second-hand marketplace online. It also allows shoppers and sellers to directly communicate with each other about things like size and availability.

    Trend #3: Social Shopping Although the social shopping trend hasn’t seen too much implementation amongst individual retailers, it may not be far off in the future. If friends share what they buy with each other through channels like Pinterest, Facebook, and Wanelo how long will it take before major online retailers implement their own social shopping platforms? A slightly different form of social shopping, Yardsale incorporates both secondhand and social elements. A mobile-only app, it makes your local garage sale  available right on your phone.

    Trend #4: Subscription Commerce In contrast, a trend that has taken off amongst online retailers and consumers is the subscription model. Companies like Birchbox, ShoeDazzle, BlueApron, and Fancy are all using it, to lesser and greater success. The appeal of the model for the retailer is that it solves the problem of CLV (customer lifetime value). For the consumer, boxes provide a sense of personalization, and for boxes like those from Fancy (who predetermines the content of each box along some basic themes), they also provide a solution to the paradox of choice. For a lot more insight andsome interesting reviews of the many subscription box options out there, check out My Subscription Addiction. You can get an even better of idea of who’s doing it well and who’s just making it work.

    Box Collage

    Trend #5: Digital to Brick In a world of pure-play vs. multi-channel, many eCommerce companies have opted for the online (and mobile) route in order to keep down the costs behind traditional brick and mortar retail. But one company has found a way to do both – and to both the company and the customer’s benefit. Bonobos, originally an internet-only retailer has begun opening “guideshops.” Recognizing a desire in their customers to try before they buy, customers can nowgoto designated guideshops to try out clothes and then place an order online and in-store. The orderis delivered to their home. Glasses brand Warby Parker has also begun opening stores that offer in-store optometrist appointments and a carefully curated selection of books with which to test your newfound eyeware. Fashion jewelry site BaubleBar offers in-store visits by appointment only with perks including styling sessions, a free tote bag and other small delights.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 12.35.35 PM

    Trend #6: The convergence of content and commerce An interesting partnership is emerging between Flipboard and online retailers. Flipboard now offers clickable catalogs for retailers like eBay, Banana Republic, Modcloth and more. And they’re creating a platform not only for retailers, but for users too. For more information, check out this article.

    Trend #7: Vertical Integration Finally, one of the most interesting trends emerging-and it’s significant to note that this is the only non-user-facing trend I’ll discuss here-is the movement towards vertical integration. This is a trend focused on creating a sustainable competitive advantage, not simply generating sales. For this reason, although I’ve mentioned it here, I want to come back to this trend in more depth. So keep your eyes open for a post on vertical integration and how it fits into the future of eCommerce.

    So how do you compete? I don’t know yet.

    Alright, so now you’ve got an idea of some of the developments and innovations I’ve taken note of in the world of eCommerce. It’s a tough world out there, but the little guys are finding some pretty good ways to fight back. (For other interesting trends, check out this article) But what does all this mean for the future of eCommerce? First, and perhaps most significantly, consumers are winning. They get more choice overall: products, costs, brands. But having this as our number one takeaway raises questions about loyalty, marketing technique, and sustainability. In particular, the following questions come to mind:

    1. If the consumer has so much power of choice, what does the future of CLV and loyalty look like?

    2. If loyalty is becoming ever more unattainable, how important is CPA? Is it possible to attract consumers and drive purchase behavior without some kind of gimmick?

    3. This gives rise to my next question: should retailers really try to differentiate based on existing customer loyalty vs. new customer acquisition?

    4. And if gimmicks are the best way to attract consumers, what’s the half-life of user-facing innovations on the web? How long is the window for gimmicks open and what are the benefits of being a fast follower?

    To be honest, I don’t have the answers for these questions just yet. But I promise I’ll get back to you soon with some more insight.

  • Gigs: the new hope for twentysomethings

    I read an interesting article today in the WSJ that talked about the growth in unemployment rate among today’s recent college grads. Nothing super-surprising here.

    However, I was impressed to find that the President of the New York Fed, William Dudley, sees just how impactful gigs are to the future-of-work. “More twentysomethings today work “gig to gig” as freelancers or on short-term contracts”, he said.

    I wonder if this is an evolution. My experience as a hiring manager, particularly with new grads, has been that ‘trying before you buy’ is best. Maybe others have seen the light?

  • Missionaries and Mercenaries

    John Doerr, the prolific investment partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) who backed Google, Amazon, Intuit, and Twitter, popularized the terminology around ‘Missionary’ and ‘Mercenary’ entrepreneurs.  He described the stark differences between these two types of entrepreneurs in a 2000 interview using some powerful language:

    Mercenaries are driven by paranoia; missionaries are driven by passion. Mercenaries think opportunistically; missionaries think strategically. Mercenaries go for the sprint; missionaries go for the marathon. Mercenaries focus on their competitors and financial statements; missionaries focus on their customers and value statements. Mercenaries are bosses of wolf packs; missionaries are mentors or coaches of teams. Mercenaries worry about entitlements; missionaries are obsessed with making a contribution. Mercenaries are motivated by the lust for making money; missionaries, while recognizing the importance of money, are fundamentally driven by the desire to make meaning.

    Despite this being originally inked in the year 2000, I hadn’t read anything about it until recently.  And I have to admit that my first response was negative.

    As a serial entrepreneur, I find it hard to believe that all of us are either wholly ‘missionaries’ or ‘mercenaries.’  I mean, if you start a company once in your life, I might buy the argument that you are a missionary.  I might even buy the idea that you are, in fact, starting a movement and not a company.  In all likelihood, though, I’ll call bullshit.

    I don’t think it’s realistic for us to believe that entrepreneurs and organization builders are not opportunistic.  And it is not fair for us to characterize some entrepreneurs as shortsighted capitalists and others as long-view makers of meaning.  That’s especially true if the winners are the ones who were makers of meaning and the losers just happened be the greedy fools.

    The reality of the human condition is a lot more complex and a lot harder to codify.  This bifurcated oversimplification of the world is just a convenient way for winners to write history.  It’s way too convenient and black-and-white to be an accurate portrayal of reality.  Having met and interacted with hundreds of entrepreneurs in my career, I feel like most of us exhibit characteristics of both missionaries and mercenaries as they are described by Doerr.

    Many of us are excited by untapped opportunity.  We could just as easily reframe that as saying, “Many of us are excited by exploiting an opportunity that others haven’t seen or exploited yet.”  Is that about a movement or creating meaning?  Not necessarily.  It may simply start out as capitalizing on a disruptive change in technology.  Or it might start out as solving a business problem you’ve had in the past.

    Turning that solution into a business definitely takes strength-of-will, however.  This is where you start to see a lot of missionary instincts kick-in.  We begin to weave a narrative around why we chose to start this business.  We figure out how to build what we are doing into a movement.  We work to inspire rather than just convince people that what we are doing is going to be a market success.

    The dirty-little-secret in all of this:  being driven by meaning is just good business.  People want to join movements, not companies.  If you are a jerk with an uninspired mission, it’s a lot harder to win.

    In the end, I would argue that some of us back into the meaning behind what we are doing after we find an opportunity we really like.  I think that’s OK.  Let’s just be honest with ourselves about how we got there.


  • #SXSWi — How to get users addicted to your content

    I love addiction; perhaps because I have a very addictive personality.  As such, I was drawn to the talk here at South by Southwest by @taraattrulia about engineering addiction.  She’s going pretty fast, so I will.

    • Starting out with the definition of addiction.  Addiction does not have to be negative.  You want people to have a positive association with the addictive experience; not something they are ashamed of.
    • Recommends the book Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts.
    • Need to get into the ‘core mix’ of sites for a customer.  The path: reach–> trial–> stick.  The big goal: get the STICK!

    Three strategies to get to stick:

    • Don’t just publish information; fuel people’s aspirations.  People crave change; they want to be better than they are today.
      • Real-time helps people get more drawn into an experience
    • Market your manifesto.  Focus on lifestyles and values; you’ll find people who are already in your orbit.
      • You can engage people who are not directly aligned with your business.  They may just believe in the same stuff.
      • Lululemon example: their manifesto is about life; not black yoga pants (their core market?)
      • Secret (brand of deodorant): manifesto about bullying.
    • Double-down on content experiences.  Create unique content experiences that draw people in.
      • Lululemon yoga mobs (not sure what the better name is for this.. but they have thousands of people getting together to do yoga in public places.)
      • UGC call to action.  Trunk Club and Kiwi Crate –> users are posting their own content to facebook.

    My reflections on the talk are as follows:  I think it was heartfelt and interesting, but I failed to see any real connections to addiction.  The talk description mentioned stuff like neuroscience; but I the content was not specific or in-depth enough to make me feel like I really learned something deep.  Cool pillars, though.

  • #SXSWi — Hardcore vs. Casual games and gamers

    I’m in an interesting talk at South by Southwest Interactive (2012) put on by Jack Buser and Scott Rohde (from PlayStation).

    I figure it makes sense to write a few live thoughts as I’m listening since it’s turning into a pretty lively discussion. This may be the only way that I’ll be able to keep up with the rapid-fire conversation.

    Some interesting threads of conversation that I’m hearing so far:

    • (Hard)core games — these games seem to be well characterized by having a high-degree of ‘gaming literacy’ in order to enjoy the experience.  They are also often characterized by some significant learning-curve, complex interactions, and a high degree of engagement.
    • Casual games — these games typically don’t require high gaming literacy to play.  Players can simply ‘walk up’ and get started playing, figuring out the game mechanics quickly.  Also, these games are often characterized by short play sessions.
    • The need for play is a fundamental part of humanity.  In ancient societies, games were a big part of life.  Even before the complex systems that enable ‘virtual worlds’ that exist today, people had this fundamental need for play.  Why?
    • There are some people that gravitate toward social games over solo games.  Does the classic introvert vs. extrovert personality archetype apply?

    Another interesting thread of conversation is about ‘social games’ (mostly built on facebook).  The core question: are they really social?  Hrm.  My answer: not really.  The games have a viral acquisition model.  But these people are not really playing together.  Their worlds don’t intertwine any more than the game requires them to ask eachother for help to get more resources and points.

    (A mild critique: the way these slides are written is such that we keep debating the semantics of what these game types are.  But that’s less important to me, and less interesting in general.  What’s really interesting is the ‘WHY.’  Why are people different kind of gamers?  What makes them tick?  Which one segment is growing faster?)

    It seem that a proposed answer to bridging the gap between core and casual: free-to-play.  Casual gamers can jump in for free.  Hardcore gamers can get ‘more out of the experience’ by paying for extras.  Interesting.

    What hasn’t been addressed yet that really has me thinking: what makes a gamer more of a ‘core gamer’ vs. a ‘casual gamer?’  What is it inside of us that makes some people get DEEP into a gaming experience as compared to others who get bored after a couple minutes of a gaming experience?  Is it socialized behavior (Nature)?  Or is it just born-in personality traits (Nurture)?

    The big question I’m left with; which segment is winning?  There has been remarkable growth in the casual gaming world (particularly in mobile).  The big thing I’m wrestling with is: what does that mean?  Are casual games going to take over, or will they be the gateway drug that eventually creates more hardcore gamers worldwide?


  • How hunger factors into success

    I was enjoying dinner recently with an investor friend of mine and we got to talking about the importance of hunger when building a team. It seemed to make sense to both of us that you want to find people who are hungry – who really want to do something good. It seems only too logical that the more someone wants something, the harder they’re willing to work to make it happen.

    Being smart, having skills and the right kind of experience, are the fundamentals, sure. They’re the price of admission. But beyond that – or maybe even more important than that – is hunger.

    I had a few glasses of wine, so I was ready to start making contentious statements.  I said: “If I were an investor, I would invest based on hunger alone. I think it is the single most important factor to consider when building a team.” I left it that – for the moment.

    Not so fast.  My friend’s comeback was:  “yes, hunger’s really important, but you have to balance it with egos.  If egos get too big they get in the way.”  Touché.  Maybe not with just one person, but if you’re talking about a team, the clash of egos can be destructive to the point where you get bounced off the path to success.

    So, in essence, we’re talking about aggregate hunger level compared to aggregate ego level.

    The hunger quotient

    So I got to thinking – couldn’t this be represented mathematically, as a code snippet or maybe a combination of the two? Something to represent the idea that when the cumulative sum of hunger is greater than the cumulative sum of egos, great things happen.

    Here’s what it might look like.

    h=hunger level of an individual
    e=an individual’s ego
    ps=probability for success:

    if sum(h1…hn) > sum (e1…en)
    #ps = promising; start focusing on building a great business
    call greatness_building_methods
    #ps = doubtful; start arguing about stupid shit
    call self_descruct_methods

    In a chart, maybe it would look something like an aggregate demand curve does in economics:

    How Hunger Affects Success

    The 'Hunger Quotient'

    The takeaway

    Yes, hunger is very important for startup and team success. But when you start putting 4, 5, 6 or 7 hungry people together, their cumulative egos can cause real problems and derail the likelihood for success.  So when you’re building a team, consider this: aggregate hunger must be greater than aggregate ego.

  • Sometimes entrepreneurs need to downshift

    Most entrepreneurs I talk to seem to think there are two speeds when it comes to their business: fast and faster. The reality is there’s an appropriate speed for each stage in an entrepreneur’s journey. You really can go too fast at times.

    The early stages of a business venture are usually times where entrepreneurs find themselves in what I call ‘fast-wheel drive’. It seems like you can never do things fast enough. The excitement level is soaring and it seems like everything needs to get done yesterday. As the business takes shape, if you’re lucky enough to get traction and it starts to really take off, it pulls you along for the ride like front-wheel drive.

    I’ve been fortunate to have been involved with hyper-growth businesses for the past 4 or 5 years and I’ve been going really fast. It’s definitely invigorating, and sometimes exhausting. But there comes a time in your journey when you need to pull out the map and decide where you’re going next. You don’t want to go too fast at this point because you don’t want to make mistakes and you don’t want to overlook potential opportunities. That’s when you need to downshift.

    Downshifting is not a bad thing

    I find myself in downshift mode now because I decided it was time to move on and start another company. In downshift mode, I’m realizing I have to push things along like rear-wheel drive or they won’t get done. Nothing’s pulling me along right now. I don’t need to move at warp speed, so why would I?

    Downshifting shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. I know I’m at the point where I need to move carefully and deliberately. I know I’m in a time of transition where I need to embrace change. I also know I’ll get to a point where I get back into speedway mode and go much faster. But right now isn’t that time.

    Downshifting is just another fascinating part of the entrepreneurial journey. To me, it’s an important one.

  • Why what’s best for the person is ALWAYS what’s best for the company

    I often get asked, “What do you do, what’s best for the person or what’s best for the company?” Or, “What happens when what’s best for the employee isn’t best for the company?”

    In my mind, doing what’s best for each individual person in an organization is what’s best for the company at large. At least today. Here’s why.

    Times have changed

    If you think back in the days before America was discovered, on through the Industrial Revolution and when there was a boom in railroad construction and building skyscrapers in Manhattan this situation may have called for a different kind of thinking. Back then, maybe the kind of boat you had or the land you owned was the big differentiator.

    Today, we’re in a Knowledge Revolution where things are created based on knowledge and information. Brain power is the key generator. The business landscape is more complex than what it was because people are more complex and harder to manage. They have ambitions, hearts, minds, and families that are important. The brains you have can make or break your company’s success.

    It’s not a giant leap

    Since companies run on people, it follows that the best companies are going to have the best people. Therefore, the people within the company – its human resources – are the big differentiator.

    The performance of a company is often a lagging indicator of the quality of its people. Over time, you’ll start losing the quality of your product, culture, brand, and all the things that make a company strong if you don’t have good people.

    That’s why I believe that, in the end, what’s best for the person IS best for the company. You have to treat people like the most important asset they are. If someone says I’m moving to Timbuktu with my spouse because it’s what’s best for me, don’t fire them to protect yourself. And don’t throw more money at them hoping they’ll stay when you know their mind is made up. Life is too short for that. Instead, embrace what they need. Celebrate the work they did and the contributions they’ve made. Support them in whatever way you can in making the transition.

    What it all comes down to

    How you treat your people becomes part of your company’s DNA, part of your reputation. And that’s absolutely why you have to do the right thing by your people because your reputation is built on that. The future success of your company depends on a strong DNA and a stellar reputation. Companies who put their people first will have an edge on getting the best talent and will ultimately win because of it.

    What do you do when the interests of the company and the interests of your people seem at odds? I believe when you look at all the factors and weigh how important they are, you’ll come to the conclusion that what’s best for the employee is ALWAYS best for the company.

  • Why we don’t know what we want to be when we grow up

    Someone mentioned a research study to me that demonstrated people are terrible at predicting what makes them happy. If you survey them, they’ll list what they think would make them happy, but they don’t actually know.

    In fact, Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, talks about his research into what he calls ‘affective forecasting’ and how humans are so bad at it:

    “People make mistakes when they try to predict what will make them happy in the future—a process that Tim Wilson and I have called ‘affective forecasting.’ Anyone who has ever said ‘I think I’d prefer chocolate to vanilla’ or ‘I’d rather be a lawyer than a banjo player’ has made an affective forecast. And anyone who has made an affective forecast has found out the hard way that sometimes they are wrong…People dramatically and regularly mispredict the emotional consequences of future events, both large and small.”

    I’ve included a video of Gilbert’s presentation on his research at the end of this post. Although it’s a bit long, it’s very interesting and Gilbert has a knack for making his presentation entertaining, so it’s definitely worth the time.

    Why this makes transitions difficult

    As you think about, some of us get luckier than others. Right now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what makes me happy and I feel fortunate to have discovered my career happiness it at an early age. (I started my first company at the ripe old age of 14.)

    But all of us go through transition periods. As I talk to friends who are making transitions, I find that beneath the surface, despite what most of us say or think, a significant number of people don’t really know what they ‘want to be when they grow up.’

    You think the problem isn’t really that prevalent until you hear someone talk about what they want to do. A tell-tale sign of it is when someone lists a seemingly endless number of disparate options in response to the question of what they want to do. You start to think, “Those things aren’t necessarily related. What’s going on?”

    HCI provides a clue on how to overcome the problem

    The science of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) provides a model for resolving this dilemma, and other aspects of product development have learned from it. In HCI, it’s widely known you’re not supposed to ask users what they want, you’re supposed to observe their actions to get an understanding of what they want or expect the application to do.

    If you come right out and directly ask users what features they want, they’ll say A,B and C, but until they use the software they won’t really know. You have to see them in action to know what’s really going to resonate.

    Humans just aren’t good at predicting what will make them happy.

    The reality is that we are only a product of our experiences. If you haven’t experienced what makes you happy yet, how could you possibly know?

    Some takeaways
    • Most of us have a habit of committing too soon in life, very similar to premature commitment bias.
    • Only by experiencing something can you truly know if it will make you happy. I think once you realize this it can create a lot of clarity. The more you try things out the more likely you are to find happiness. It seems obvious, but in some ways, the obvious things in life can be profound.
    • We don’t get to try before we buy as much as we should. Sure, college students might be able to land an internship or get into a co-op program to try out a career. But older workers who want to make a transition aren’t usually given that opportunity.
    • The problem is more widespread than most people realize. Trying things out to see what makes us happy applies not only to businesses and careers, but to hobbies and even food.
    • If you can structure your life in a way where you can try more things in a risk-free environment, you’ll be better off.
    • Don’t speculate. Don’t try to predict what’s going to make you happy. If you get out there and do as many things as you can, eventually you’ll find it, although it may well not be what you expected.

    In some ways, this is what the Kemists is going to be about: putting talented people into different situations to find something that really works.

    Dan Gilbert: Why are we happy? Why aren’t we happy?

    And now, the Dan Gilbert video I promised: