The Planning Stage

The planning we do before developing a product includes research, definition of the problem and the scope of the solution. But no matter how confident we are in our vision of what needs to be done, we must align it with the management & relevant stake holders. Everyone has their own opinion and making tradeoffs is hard — we need to compromise on certain things and decide which ones to tackle first.

So how do you know you’re not leaving out important features out of your scope, in favour of momentary whims?

Availability Bias
This heuristic refers to our tendency of judging the magnitude of an event based on the ease with which it comes to mind.

When prioritising features and deciding what are the most important ones to do, we’re likely to prefer things that come easily to mind. Things we hear about recently and frequently (“frecently”).

For example, if there’s a feature a user asked for in the past week and was also mentioned to you by a colleague, you might think it’s something you should include because “everyone are asking for it”. But in fact, it‘s the availability bias that makes it seem like so. We need to overcome this assumption and rely on data to make the right decisions.

Affect Heuristic
The affect heuristic is a type of mental shortcut in which people make automatic decisions while influenced by their current emotional state.

Sometime, emotions can cloud our judgment and influence our decisions. This may happen when we are under stress and don’t have time to consider risks vs benefits so we trust our “gut feeling”. We might think a feature’s cost is low and the benefit is high just because we like it. When this happens, we tend to overlook relevant information and act only upon how this feature “makes us feel”.

It’s important to maintain an objective point of view backed up by research and data with clear pros and cons when making decisions.

Optimism Bias
This bias causes us to believe that we are at a lesser risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others.

This causes us to underestimate the costs and the duration of a project we are about to start, failing to take unexpected things that might happen into account. Personally, I can’t remember when a project I was part of went exactly according to plan.

This can also be reflected in a decision to release an unfinished or bad product, hoping your users “will adapt” and use it anyway.

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