When you find something that is counterintuitive, it's possible that it will create immense value to whatever problem you are trying to solve. Seek to interrogate your beliefs to build better explanations for what is true, and find those who disagree with you at an intuitive level.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
In what ways are my beliefs wrong? This is a question that will spur growth for your career. My name is Jonathan Cutrell listening to Developer Tea. In what ways are my beliefs wrong? This is simply, first of all, an expression of humility, recognizing that your beliefs, something that you have formed an opinion about. This is something that you don't necessarily have proof of fact form, but something that you believe based on evidence or feeling. Based on some number of factors that you've taken into account, maybe you've done a good job or maybe you've done a poor job of forming this belief. However, it has been formed, you have a belief. Let's say that you are analyzing a problem that your team is facing, whether it's a capacity problem or you're literally tracking down a bug. As you begin to investigate the problem itself, you start to form beliefs. These beliefs are often used in a pseudoscientific kind of process of forming a hypothesis, but there's a problem here. When you bring a belief and shove it into the place of a hypothesis, you have a biased first step. That's why I called it a pseudoscientific process rather than an actual scientific process. With this belief as a hypothesis, you're going to seek out things that tend to agree with that belief. And so I'm asking you to do the opposite, to look at the opposite side. Often our beliefs are based on what is typically intuition. And our intuition is often shared. If someone else were to face the same situation or be given the same facts, given a similar background to you or a similar culture or similar experience level, they're likely to have similar intuition. And so it's easy also when we have teams that are only marginally diverse that we're going to reinforce the same beliefs. And so the social proof that we might use is insufficient to break down our belief as a hypothesis. So I want you to explicitly ask this question. Take a belief that you have. Take one that you hold already. Some opinion that you have, that in particular language is better than another, a particular framework is better than another. And don't ask if you're right because the answer that we always are going to move towards is justifying our opinions. I want you to put on a different hat. This is the critical step in this particular kind of de-biasing that we're doing in today's episode. And what you're put on the hat of investigator, your success is determined in this particular exercise in the finding of flaws. Right? So this, hopefully this gives you a different motivation. And instead of giving you the motivation of proving that you're right, your investigation job here is to find the flaws in your own belief. And the truth is that virtually all beliefs are substandard. There is some flaw. There's some drawback. There's some nuance to the belief that is incomplete. And so the only thing that you have to gain here is an improvement. And all beliefs are fundamentally based in some explanation. An explanation of the way that things are, how they came to be, some reasoning for what has occurred. And when you start to do this investigation, specifically asking, how am I wrong? What am I wrong about? When you start to do this investigation, you start to generate better explanations that lead you towards the truth. Now, there's a key component that I want to focus in on for the remainder of this episode. And that is the counterintuition. And why counterintuitive thoughts are useful and why we should make more space for them in our day to day lives and perhaps we might do that. But first, let's talk about some responsible thoughts. This episode is sponsored by Launch Darkly, speaking of intuition. It is our intuition that production is not a safe place to do testing. Why? We should question the assumptions that we're making when we say that production isn't unsafe environment. The reason is because we don't want bad things happening to our real users. There's actually some stake in what's happening in production. But if we were to be able to test in production without affecting those users, well, that would be ideal, wouldn't it? We actually get to test against our real servers. We get to find out what that real load on our database looks like, for example, all of those things that make you want to test in production. Well, you can get them with Launch Darkly. Here's how it works. Launch Darkly enables development and operations teams to deploy code at any time, even if their features are not ready to be released to users. Rapping your code with feature flags gives you the safety to test those features and infrastructure in your production environments without impacting the wrong end users. That's the critical part. When you're ready to release more widely, just update the flag and it changes. Those changes are streamed out to your users in real time. Go and check it out head over to launchdarkly.com, get started for free. In a way faster, deploy fearlessly and make each release a masterpiece that's launchdarkly.com. Thanks again to Launch Darkly for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. What we often call assumptions is actually intuition. The assumptions that we make are implicit when we're using our intuition. We don't really think about the assumptions in their fully formed assertion format. For example, let's say that your intuition leads you to believe that humans can't fly. The reason that you believe this is because you've never known a human that had wings. You've also never seen a human fly. But if you were to assert this out loud, you'd probably change your explanation a little bit. Of course, humans have found a way to fly just not through biological means. And so usually the explanations that we have as a result of our intuition that implicit assumption, if we were to give them form, if we were to actually ask, what is it that I'm intuitively believing? How do I take that implicit belief and make it explicit so I can then ask questions about it? Those partially formed or intuitively formed assumptions, once we give them more explicit form, we can quickly see how we might poke holes in those assumptions in our own assumptions. And therefore, we can lead ourselves to better explanations and closer to the truth. Your hypothesis might change from, I don't believe that humans can fly to, I don't believe there's a biological means that humans use to fly. This might seem like a silly example and we probably all have the same assumptions that humans, of course, can find ways of flying that are non-biological in nature. But hopefully you can quickly connect to a situation when your intuition served you wrong. I know I have done this many times in my career where I believed I knew what was wrong and I was totally off, I was completely inaccurate in my assumptions, not only in technical situations but also, and most importantly, possibly, in people situations. I assumed I knew what somebody else was thinking or what they were planning to do and actually my assumptions were completely wrong. Additionally, as we mentioned before, when you have people who your intuitions line up with, you may think that you have a well-formed team, a team that seems to get along. But if you have a reasonable amount of experiential diversity on your team, then it's much more likely that intuitions will clash. And this is a very important signal to pay attention to. So your intuition and somebody else's intuition may be leading you both in the wrong direction, one of you in the right direction or the other one in the right direction, or perhaps, if you were to combine your intuitions, you could actually have something in the middle or something that is kind of multiplicative between what you're both saying. It could be that the problem that you're facing only happens when both things are occurring that you have an intuition about. But the important thing here is not to look at these intuitive differences as a competition to find out who's right, but instead to look at it as the resource that it is. Now speaking of intuitions, I can intuitively guess that many of you are sitting there saying, well, why are we relying on intuition in the first place? Let's do away with intuition and only look at the facts, right? But this is a critical thing to understand about your whole career. When you try to dig for facts, void of intuition, your fact-finding process is going to be incredibly inefficient. We don't need to walk the road of demonizing intuition out of the gate. Instead, what we need to do is recognize intuition for the blunt tool that it is. In other words, our intuition, while flawed and often leading us in either slightly wrong or perhaps entirely wrong directions, is still useful. Usually there is a reason why that intuition is there. There's a reason we're making those assumptions. Sometimes that reason is erroneous entirely. It leads us down the wrong path. But most of the time, most of the time, there's something useful in our intuition. Now, in order to sharpen this tool, we ask questions like what I presented at the beginning of the episode. How is my belief wrong? What we're doing with this kind of question is we're trying to balance our intuition with something that is counterintuitive. You've probably heard of counterintuition as some kind of special secret magic sauce or something. And it really isn't that. It's just something that is opposite of what your intuitive response would be. And the definition isn't even that precise. Something that is different, something that goes against what your intuition would be. A variation on that original exercise of kind of questioning a specific belief is to question a core belief or a core value of yours. For example, questioning something that you might believe is enduringly important, maybe on your team or in your company or in a given business, questioning those kind of core beliefs and wondering how things would be different if they weren't true. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to accept these musings, the kind of assertion that your core beliefs are not true. That's not what this exercise is for. Instead it's to entertain the thought. Once again, you're putting on a different hat. You're putting on the investigator hat. You're assuming a second identity for a few minutes if you want to think about it that way. So you don't have to attach yourself to all of those beliefs. The key idea here is that holding your beliefs tightly will lead you to overly depend on those beliefs. You'll start substituting them for things like facts or in the earlier case, you'll substitute in a belief as a hypothesis. If instead you can think about your beliefs as a set of assertions that you're willing to let go, which is a very hard thing to do, by the way, then you can begin to use those assertions for the things that you're actually trying to use them for. For example, as a hypothesis. Counterintuition is useful if only because when we talk about intuition or assumption at a grand scale where it's kind of culturally assumed, for example, then counterintuition is spending time thinking differently from the rest of the population. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that your thoughts are high quality thoughts or that it's even right, but it does provide you a potential for differentiation and provides you a potential to solve an old problem in a novel way. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developertee about intuition and assumption and why we should be questioning our beliefs and treasuring those who disagree with us. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Launcher Darkly, head over to launchdarkly.com to get started. For free today, that's launchdarkly.com. If you enjoyed this discussion, I'd highly encourage you to join the Developertee Discord. We've had a lot of really great discussion and debate about really substantive topics, stuff that I haven't really found in many other communities. It's amongst people that you start to get familiar with the names that you're seeing in the community because honestly, it takes a lot. It takes a lot to invest as much as some of these people are investing in this community. It's pretty awesome. If you want to be a part of the community that is investing like that in each other, then I encourage you to join. It's free in the monetary sense, but you definitely have to put something into it if you want to get the most out of it. I encourage those of you who are willing to do that, who are willing to put in investment in the community, and you want to see a return of back on that investment. Go and join developertea.com slash discord. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. And until next time, enjoy your tea.