Not Even Wrong – Minimum Viable Understanding and IF this THEN what? 8

May 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Pestana Rio Atlantica

Belief in truth begin with doubts of all truths in which one has previously believed
– Nietzsche 

What is it that I want you, the reader, to take away from each chapter? I have given this matter some serious thought (no actually, I’m making this up as I go along) and this is what I propose: I will experiment with a little something I like to call Minimum Viable Understanding.

The Minimum Viable Understanding is the high level take away from any message that I’m trying to convey. If we reach this – perhaps only shallow – understanding, I will be happy.
There are two reasons why I will resist diving too deep into the various theories, models and concepts that I discuss on these pages.

First, I want this book to be comprehensive, and so there’s simply not enough time to go any deeper than absolutely necessary.
Second, I believe that a high level conceptual “truth” can make a swift and rather impressive impact if accepted as valid and implemented.

I can get quite tired when I see long winded, and often heated, discussions where people debate minute detail regarding a high level concept, when the concept itself can most certainly be proven useful and beyond debate.

My general take is that anything that comes after the high level “usefulness”, or beyond the heuristic if you will, is so completely dependent on context that detailed debate is futile. When buy in exist, I favor local action, not further debate and nitpicking. Yet, some folk cannot leave well enough alone, and so they quibble.

There are cases when the debate is a display of genuine lovable geekery, the same kind of geekery you can see when Trekkies discuss:

Trekkie 1: When the Enterprise is relieved of its bulk, it can become an exceptional weapon!
Trekkie 2: You’re stupid! The fusion reactors cannot possibly provide that much power.
Trekkie 1: Oh, yeah! Well, according to the tech manual a Galaxy class vessel of the Enterprise D era has four impulse engines in each section, each engine having three fusion reactors. So go suck on that, you miserable P’Tok!

And on we go. Adorable.

But not all debate in our domain have their origin in lovable geekery. There’s a darker side, and I have come to the rather unforgiving conclusion that such behavior is a mix of misguided marketing efforts and sensitive egos. I’ve watched many good people fall from grace on their quests for the holy “thought leadership” grail.
I will try to avoid that here, and I must say that I anticipate great success in that regard. I am, after all, a strange man who cannot be taken seriously.  What I want to do is simply explain what I mean sufficiently enough for you to go “Yeah, that little freak makes sense here, as far as it goes”.

Let’s say then, that we end up with you agreeing with me, with the caveat “as far as it goes” firmly in place. We must be careful when we think, I get that.

The next step is that I would desperately want you to consider the consequences of agreeing with me. I see time and time again how people agree with advice and heuristics, but then end up quite frankly doing frakk all about it.
In order to adress this, we will make use of something I call IF this THEN what?

This then, is a device designed to sort out the logic, make you look yourself in the mirror and explain to yourself why on earth you chose to act against your better judgement. I want to gently encourage you to explain to yourself why you’re not acting or thinking in coherence with what you just said you agreed with.

Let’s see if we can find a good example how all this might pan out.

Minimum Viable Understanding

Reader: “Ah, yes. I see clearly now. Accepting work above capacity causes more problems than it solves. Not worth the cost. Yep, got it. I see that now.” 

In this case we assume that there are no lies involved, you the reader actually get it, and you actually really truly agree. I know, the assumption of truth is a huge assumption. We will discuss this in further detail in a chapter called “Everybody Lies”. But for now, just bare with me.

IF this THEN what?

IF accepting work above capacity causes more problems than it solves THEN what?

This is where you normally list a number of reasons why you think that over-committing is still necessary and how you couldn’t possibly follow that advice even if you agree with it fully. How thoroughly discouraging. How genuinely disappointing.

This is a clear case where it somehow doesn’t matter if we have reached Minimum Viable Understanding. Because for some reason that only you can explain, what you accept as “true” or valid, doesn’t actually matter.

How is it then, that sometimes “truth” doesn’t seem to matter? This is what I would like to explore under the Minimum Viable Understanding – IF this THEN headlines.

I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun with that.

Earlier posts on “Not Even Wrong”