You'll Never Have All of the Information
One of the things I love about being a software engineer is that I get to make information gathering a fundamental core part of my job as an engineering manager. The same mm-hmm is true information gathering presenting that information. distilling it finding ways that the information is important to be used and ultimately taking all the information that I have and solving problems with an empowering other people to solve problems with that information as well and talking about information is almost as fine as actually using that information gathering it because this information theory is so important to what we do as developers but sometimes our desire to gather information is misguided and at worst I it can hurt us it can harm our efforts. That's what we're talking about in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Controlling. You're listening to developer. T my goal on this show is to help. Driven developers like you find clarity perspective and purpose in their careers. We don't have sponsor for today's episode in lieu of sponsor. I'd love for you to go and subscribe and whatever podcasting APP. You're currently using. If you find something valuable in today's episode. I would never ask you to waste do your time and so if you think that this podcast is valuable today then. There's a pretty good chance that it's going to be valuable to you in the future. It's not for everybody because we ask for people to sometimes do hard stuff we ask for you to take a difficult road or accept a different a difficult so reality to accept the fact that sometimes things don't go your way for example sometimes unexpected events happen and so if if you think that listening to a show that's willing to accept difficult realities and still stays optimistic. That's what the show really is about. It's about staying optimistic. Stick in the face of uncertainty and to that point. Let's talk about our job. As developers and gathering information as part of the job many times we operate in this mode as developers. We have the mode of thinking. Our job is to find out what other people are. Unable to find out. I keep in mind. That information is not simply the data the raw kind of fact it's filtering those raw pieces of data ed are incoming into something usable. Something that we can actually act on or that we can build upon right so as developers part of our job is to have previous knowledge in order to convert that data into usable information on whatever. The efforts are that we're working on in our job ABS- sometimes this means translating for example from a A NON technical language into technical requirements and vice versa. Sometimes sometimes we have technical requirements that we need to translate and communicate in non technical language. So a lot of our information gathering is about understanding the inputs outputs that of that needed information and ensuring that we're converting the right data to the right information points but we can seek information sometimes in vain or for the wrong reasons we can get so addicted to seeking seeking information that we act in a mode by default we've talked about modes recently on the show. We can act in the wrong mode sometimes. Our the job is not necessarily to gather more information and this can really come to light if you ask yourself to specific questions when you find yourself trying to gain clarity trying to get more information trying to uncover something that seems to be obscured. Ask yourself these two questions number one. How will this information changed the way that I act right? How will this information change my actions and then the second question is how will will this information? The way that I feel. If you ask these two questions by combining them you can probably figure out what your motivation is for gathering this information for example. If you don't really know how it's going to change your actions but you do know how it might change your feeling that might make sense to ask yourself whether your feelings are the thing that needs attention if you are feeling nervous or perhaps you're feeling pressured but gathering information. You think that gathering information is going to help you feel less nervous or less pressured you should ask yourself why what. What is the function that this information is going to provide to you very often? We live under the illusion. That information creates clarity. UNCLARITY creates certainty. Certainty allows us to kind of reduce our anxiety because we can act more confidently. There's lots of words ending in L. Y.. Here but hopefully this theory make sense the idea that we can gather information to reduce our ambiguity in other words increase. Our clarity and that increased clarity can give us a better handle on certainty and when and we have certainty our anxiety goes down anxiety. Being the feeling that you're not sure what's going to happen and so your brain kind of goes into overdrive trying to predict what might happen and sometimes those predictions are scary. Sometimes those predictions are so scary that we respond blonde in ways that are more akin to survival instinct. Then they are to whatever's actually getting ready to happen. Our responses assist to anxiety are often way out of proportion to the real consequence of this thing even in its worst case scenario and most often worst-case scenarios are fairly rare. And so we try to seek information. Sometimes not all the time. Certainly as we've mentioned information-gathering can gathering is a core function of most developers roles. But sometimes we seek information. Because we're scared we want to reduce starring Zaidi and we live under the illusion that we can do that by finding information and therefore somehow gathering during certainty. And if you've listened to this episode this far you're probably nodding your head because you've probably experienced this exact thing. This happens on teams. It happens to individuals and it happens. Even in large groups of people entire cultures our brains means seek binary solutions we want things to be completely solved and solving something completely is much more valuable to us than solving it to a ninety nine percent level. And so if you've ever experienced this feeling on a team you know it goes something like this. You're not really sure how long something is going to take. And your manager may be pressuring you to figure out you need to figure out how to do this thing and you need to tell. Tell me how long it's going to take and so you get together and you try together to figure out how long it's going to take you break it down into its smallest just pieces you try to account for the unknowns and in the end you make some best guestimation about how long something's going to you take very often. Even these best guests. Estimations are way off now. That doesn't mean necessarily that trying to gather that information his in vain but we need to understand our motivations and a realistic picture of the simple reality and this is kind of the difficult thing to accept the the hard the hard truth for today's episode. The reality is that you will never unfortunately have complete eight certainty. This is really kind of a philosophy question at its core because it's difficult to know what it means to be certain. The certainty is the ability to know what's going to happen in the future and that's really kind of the specific thing that you can have certainty about is what's going to happen in the future and philosophically speaking. You may even be able to extend this to say you don't really even have certainty about what's happened in the past part of this is simply because of the vast amount of information that you don't have about your existence about the world around you about the universe about even the small details about What you're working on the amount of information that you don't have exponentially early outpaces the amount of information that you do have and so if you want to have certainty and you need to understand how so all of that information works together and on top of that you have to be able to predict what is fundamentally random so many events are I'm predictable in our lives very often? Those random moments those random events in our lives that are unpredictable shape shape so much of the other events in our lives and so we have to make good guesses sometimes in the face of uncertainty. The important thing here is to recognize. There's a break between clarity and certainty. These things are not the same. You can have clarity without having certainty. You can have clarity for example about the fact that you will not have one hundred percent uncertainty right. So it's important to recognize that these two concepts are separate and that as you gather information that your information gathering should be pointed pointed at creating clarity without seeking the illusion of certainty and by asking yourself what you will do with your newfound clarity. That's a more tactical response. And that's how you can actually use that time in that energy in finding that information mation most effectively if the problem at a fundamental level is based on fear and gathering information is only stopgap. It's a temporary solution. Fear is something that has to be dealt with in a different way entirely. Of course that's outside of the scope of this episode of developer. It's something that we may talk about in the future. So if you'd like to hear US talking about fear than a couple of things number one don't miss out on those conversations nations go ahead and subscribe as we already mentioned earlier in the show but secondly reach out to me you can find me on twitter at at Developer T. My personal twitter is at j Cottrell. That's let's the letter J. C. U. T. R. E. L. L. and you can also email me a developer t at g mail DOT COM. Today's episode is a part of the SPEC network head suspect that if undefined other shows episodes from developer T. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Today's episode is produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cottrell and until next time. Enjoy your teeth.