Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Nature Teaches Us About Fear & Microsoft Being Brave

In Chapter 13 of my forthcoming book Corporate Bravery we talk about Reprogramming the Core of your organization. I begin the chapter by using a human biological example of what this is like,

The body, in fact, is built for reprogramming, even down to the cellular level. Physically, reprogramming can come through workouts. Mentally, it can happen through education. Emotionally, it can come through relationships or therapy.

We’re also susceptible to environmental factors. Being infected by viruses and bacteria or suffering an injury can — and usually does — happen to everyone. But our bodies frequently withstand these external factors. That is why diet and exercise are so important. Daily disciplines that strengthen the core improve our survival, not to mention attitudes and sheer enjoyment of life.

There is a biological impact from protecting or keeping yourself from harm in small doses as it often results in larger reactions later on.

I introduce this as a lead-in to the latest example of this from an article in Quartz about how your gut feeling isn't just a metaphor.

The article talked about a study in mice that simulated traumatic (fear inducing) events and using bacteria (in this case a tape worm) in the mice stomach prevented them from neurological shock that can often present itself in humans as neurological diseases such as MS. The article concludes:
"This kind of effect is called “biome depletion,” where a lack of exposure to infections causes immune systems to overreact to infections later in life. Thus exposure to some microbes can help avoid such a response, and, in the case of the rats, help prevent memory loss."
Yet another example where our desire to shield ourselves or others (children, employees, etc) from bad experiences creates more harm in the long run.

Microsoft Being Brave
The second article that points to how to be brave in the face of possible fearful situations comes from Microsoft of all people.

I am hesitant to hail this as a victory for bravery because every time there is a new major release of Windows they say they are doing it differently and it still ends up being the monstrosity that Windows applications become.

The story of Microsoft's development of Windows 10 marks a big departure from their traditional approach - and not just because they are offering free upgrades.

The biggest change is their change in approach. Take a look at how things were done in previous iterations from a Microsoft exec in charge of the development process.
"During the days of Vista, Microsoft’s lawyers ended up at my doorstep because I dared to write about prerelease versions of Windows. And while Windows 8 had a few public previews, it was largely developed with little consideration to feedback. Windows 8 shipped despite user concerns about fullscreen apps and a lack of attention to keyboard and mouse users. Microsoft’s management seemed to spend more time explaining every new feature in sprawling, technical blog posts instead of understanding why users hated the changes."
Contrast the fear and legal overlording to the approach that they are taking with the current development:
Microsoft now solicits feedback directly from users in a very public way: over the past nine months, the company has been testing Windows 10 with 5 million "Windows Insiders." Anyone can sign up to test, and the results of Microsoft’s work will go on display today as Windows 10 launches to millions of people around the world. 
Initially, "there was a lot of hand-wringing around what was that going to be like and were people going to form opinions too early," explains Gabe Aul, engineering general manager for Microsoft’s operating systems group. "I think we just decided to go for it."
Does that mean that Microsoft suddenly 'gets it' and is a changed company? Doubtful, but changing the culture from one of fear to one of making bold bets on doing things differently than they have in the past is a great start.

1 comment:

  1. While some of the things you've outlined about microsoft in this article are true (I'm a windows insider, too), the unfortunate thing is, this is not an act of bravery on their part, but rather a datamining operation. Windows 10 still is and will be remembered in Microsoft's history - or even computing history - as the biggest disrespect toward users and biggest "big brother" os that ever existed. Not to worry though, this mentality of not giving a damn about the user is prevalent today from browsers to operating systems and android and iOs apps, pretty much in everything tech.
    Chrome/Chromium and Firefox are blatant examples of not caring absolutely at all what users want, and the once famous "windows replacement", Ubuntu, has basically lost all its userbase due to the move from Gnome2 to Unity and from KDE to Kde plasma. The list could continue, but since you say that you've spent enough time in corporate environments, you know what I mean.

    Changes are no longer made to improve ANYTHING. Changes are made because of fear of becoming insignificant if you don't make them. And change for the sake of change is NOT development, but outright stupid.