Context Setting Constraints

Day 049 Week 08 Q1 Monday, February 19, 2024

Having too much freedom can lead to not converging on results. In the world of product development, there’s a big difference between research and development. The differences are time and deadlines. The development process usually has to ship a product by a certain date, and this can be scheduled because development is about what is known. Research, on the other hand, is fairly impossible to schedule. Breakthroughs are not schedulable, and if they were, they wouldn’t be research; they would be development.

There used to be trade shows where products were displayed, orders were taken, and business was conducted. There still are some, but there are many products that are not introduced in this way but online instead and without deadlines because an online introduction doesn’t require a lot of people to book flights, rent cars, and book hotel rooms.

Artistic expressions, such as books, music, and paintings, frequently only have earning a living as a deadline, but this is generally a softer deadline, not that it isn’t hard to make a living in this manner. This is why having a steady gig is helpful. If you are a musician and you know you are going to perform every week or two, then you have a bunch of mini-deadlines to prepare for and a choice to make. You can choose to perform what you already know, or you can learn some new material, or you can even compose some new material and then learn it. Musicians without a gig have much less incentive to complete new work or stay in shape.  As the saying goes, if you miss practice for one day, you know, if you miss practice for two days, the critics can tell, and if you miss practice for three days, the audience can tell. If you are a writer, having an editor or a publisher also provides a deadline.

But there is more than time as a context-setting constraint; there is an audience. If you are designing a product, knowing who the customer is should have a big impact on what you are designing. It always helps to know who the audience is, who the customer is, or who it is that you expect to benefit from your actions, and if you cannot identify who this is, then you are probably wasting your time.

It is not time that is the most major context-setting constraint it is who you are trying to provide value to. The beneficiary is the single most significant constraint, and as such, it is the dominant context.  This does not mean pandering and changing what you’re doing just to police somebody. It means delivering legitimate value to the people you want to help.

If you have no context-setting constraints, you had better go and get some because it means that there are no consequences for what you are doing, and that is not a good motivation for productivity for anyone.