The Default Option

Saw the following via Avinash Kaushik on Google+. Too good not to share, and on so many levels.

If internet explorer is brave enough to ask you to be your default browser, you're brave enough to ask that girl out.

It is worth highlighting that the power of the “default option” is a very real one.

Organ donation is a good example. Whether organ donation is an “opt-in” (i.e. the default option is not donating), far fewer people tend to go for it, as compared to when it’s an “opt-out” (i.e. the default option is donating).

I’m a big believer in this effect, and use it often when scheduling meetings, among other things.

For example, when scheduling meetings, I like to give options, but always ensure that one of them is the “default” or “preferred” option, even though there’s no reason for it to be (“We can meet either Thursday 2pm or 5pm, though I would prefer 2pm. “)

It helps expedite things: if the recipient can’t make it at 2pm or 5pm, it’s an easy choice, the recipient just chooses the alternative. If the recipient can make it for both, the recipient just chooses the default (2pm).

Without the default option, if the recipient can make it for both, it’s likely the recipient would wait till the last possible moment before responding, keeping options open in case another meeting crops up.

I’m an analyst. I analyse.

Tired and socially exhausted after a very nice company dinner (a common predicament for introverts), I was looking forward to some me-time on the taxi home. But it was not to be — the taxi driver was a little chattier than I’d hoped.

Having seen me catch his taxi amongst a group of foreigners whom presumably were my colleagues (yes, they were), he was curious as to what I did — “what do you work as?” I told him I worked in the education industry, and briefed him a little on what my company did.

I then went into a little bit more of the specifics — what my role entailed (“I’m a sales/business analyst. You know… business, IT, data, analysis…).

But I saw he wasn’t really getting it (“you analyse?…”)

In the end, I went on to the fall-back option of saying, “I work in sales and marketing.” (I’ve faced this issue many times before. See my post “What do you do? I’m an analyst.“)

And he got it. It seems he got it real good.

A most unexpected look of shock followed by abject pity came over his face. “Boss,” he told me, “I used to work in marketing. But look where I am now.”

I noticed we were in a taxi.

“Boss,” he continued (“I’m a boss!” I thought to myself), “before I started driving a taxi, I used to work in marketing. Earning big bucks. Then my company restructured and I got retrenched. I earned too much.”

He paused, as if reminiscing of the good ol’ days rolling in dough, then said, “You know, in marketing, as long as you earn money by only talking, anyone can take over your place and do your job. Let me give you some advice: don’t just stick to marketing. Go out and learn more.”

I realised that no, he didn’t really get what I did (yes, I work in sales and marketing; but no, I don’t do “marketing” per se).

And I couldn’t help but debate in my head if he meant “sales” and not “marketing”.

My head pounded. Was it the wine? Probably not.

I half-opened my mouth wanting to say something. But you know what? He looked so happy (1) reminiscing about his glorious past; and (2) revelling in the present dispensing career advice to a chap who desperately needed it; that I couldn’t bear to break the spell by saying “you got it all wrong, sir.”

So I nodded in silent agreement, and promised to look beyond marketing. A promise made good as soon as it was made.

I’m an analyst. And I’m bloody glad I am.

A little plug for my Brother (Labeller)

Here’s a little video from Brother that you should definitely check out for two reasons: one, it’s funny in a dry humour kind of way; and two, if you care for it you can participate in their promo.

Fyi, I’d actually gotten my wife (then girlfriend) a Brother labeller a couple of years ago (I think). And though we weren’t as trigger happy as the lady in the video up there, we haven’t been too shabby either.

Here’s our Brother labeller that I’d bought:

Image of our Brother labeller
Bought for her birthday or Valentine’s. How practical, right?

And here’s a couple of stuff we’ve labelled. Notice the plug for iPad? I once plugged in my iPod with this, and felt a strange numbing sensation as I turned the power on. Realised it was the current travelling through my fingers 😦

Labelled to make sure we don't plug iPods with this!
Labelled to make sure we don’t plug iPods with this!

And maple syrup (yum!) that came with me from Canada after my business trip there. Brought back two tins. Totally worth it.

Image of maple syrup
Travelled with me all the way from Canada after my business trip.



Efficiencies at the Watercooler

My bottle was half-filled with water, but since I’d pass by the watercooler while on my way to the washroom, I decided to fill it up.

After filling my bottle to the brim, I took a few gulps and refilled the amount that I’d just gulped down. But for some reason or another, before I made my way to the washroom, I found myself asking if what I had just done was the most efficient way. I took a seat and started thinking.

The hypothesis: The fill-then-drink method is the most efficient way of achieving two things: (1) to quench my (immediate) thirst; and (2) to fill my bottle fully

I had filled the bottle up before taking a few gulps, after which I re-filled the bottle. But what if, I asked myself, I had drunk the water before I filled it up? Would that have been more efficient?

Imagine for a moment that the bottle is halfway filled. To drink the water from a halfway filled bottle would mean you’d have to tilt the bottle at least 90-degrees in order for the water to come out in any reasonable measure. To drink the water from a fully filled bottle would require a tilt of less than 90-degrees: quick and easy.

It seemed to make sense, and I was pretty certain my initial procedure was the best. The efficiency of fill-then-drink couldn’t be denied.

But I hadn’t yet thought about bottle-refilling, the second part of the equation. In terms of filling a bottle, their efficiencies should more or less be the same. To refill an empty bottle, water has to travel the full length of the bottle. To refill a halfway-filled bottle, water only has to travel half the length of the bottle. However, this is done twice: once before any water is drunk, and once after the water is drunk.

Whatever way you choose, water has to travel approximately the length of the bottle in total.

However, to fill a bottle twice requires an inefficient duplication of effort. You have to move into “water-refilling” position twice in the fill-then-drink method, as opposed to just once in the drink-then-fill method.

Will the efficiencies of less drinking tilt in the fill-then-drink method then not be negated by the inefficencies involved in having to fill the bottle twice? Actually, if you ask me, they’re more than negated. Refilling twice is a terrible efficiency waster.

Then there is the fact that water in the drink-then-fill method enables you to have the freshest possible watercooler water in your bottle. I don’t know if this is important to you, but it is to me (mixing different batches of water somehow makes me queasy-uneasy).

So perhaps I was wrong: Drink. Then fill. It’s the way to go.