Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’
As you may know, the company I work for was acquired by one of our American competitors.
So last week we had a marketing team arriving from US, in order to interview all the different projects we have right now and decide whether they are interested in them or not. We had some early “intelligence” saying they were really interested only in a couple of projects, because there is a lot of overlap between what we do and what they do, including the project I work for. Still, we tried our best to prepare great presentation and demo of our product. Our “angle” was that while yes, the products are superficially similar, there is a different positioning for them – like how you have Mercedes and Toyota making cars but targeting different markets.
So we met them on Thursday and what we got was more or less this:
There were 4 people on the team we met – after introduction, 2 of them immediately pulled out their smart phones and started playing with them – basically ignoring us and not participating for the full 2 hours of the meeting. Another person was on and off, showing some mild interest, and the last one was actually trying to follow and ask some questions.
Now the point of this is not to complain or whine or whatever. They are the buyers so regardless of how we feel about our projects it is their right to decide that they do not care. It maybe their loss, or they actually may be right about not caring – it does not matter.
The point is that in order to actually communicate with someone about any topic – you need to have similar “level of interest” in the topic, without which no matter what you do you won’t be able to connect. Imagine a thirsty person in a desert and someone who just drank couple of litres of water – that’s what it was like in that room. We were very interested in the outcome and our project – they could not care less and were more interested in getting that over with. No matter what we or they were saying we could not get any connection. I mean even if Steve Jobs was presenting our stuff I don’t think he would have any success.
So I guess the lesson for me was that it is important to understand the ‘level of interest’ in the topic of other person when trying to talk about it. And if those levels do not match – there is no chance you can succeed. We weren’t able to create or find any interest in those people at that meeting – and thus no amout of cool demoing could change their mind. You won’t sell the refrigerator to the eskimo – unless you realize it’s warmer inside 😉
Some time ago I got interested in Ruby and one of the things that I was extremely impressed about was RSpec. RSpec is a library that allows to define a testable specification that can be run similar to unit tests. Let’s say I want a write a Stack implementation (for some reason BDD people always use stack as their “hello world” alternative). So before I begin I can define some specifications for that Stack class, like this: given empty stack, size() should return 0. Now, the beutiful thing about RSpec is that because of power of Ruby it allowed writing specs like this almost in a natural language, and then run those specs to verify the code behaves correctly. This concept is called Behavior Driven Development or BDD.
By the way, if you think this is almost the same as normal unit testing, you will be mostly right. The difference is in the “user-friendliness” not in the technology. With unit tests, you get the spec, than you need to think of ways to test it, then you implement the test, then if it breaks you need to reverse-lookup what part of spec that test was testing anyway so you can fix it. BDD is mostly the same, but just more straightforward – right spec in English, extend it with code, when it fails it will tell you in English what failed.
Anyway, this was some time ago, and I remember that I got a bit jealous of Ruby people for having this tool. Fast forward to now, and turns out that like most good things in Ruby (RoR to Grails) RSpec was also imported to Java, or more specifically Groovy. It is called Easyb and from examples on the website it looks fantastic. I haven’t used it yet, but I am looking forward to it.