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Weekly I/O: 70-20-10 rule for company and individual, XY problem, AI is ideal description language for biology
#69: 70-20-10 Rule, XY Problem, AI Describes Biology, Technology and Story, Envy is WiFi
Greetings from Santa Clara!
Here's your weekly dose of I/O. I hope you enjoy it!
Here's a list of what I'm exploring and pondering on this week.
1. 70-20-10 Rule: Spend 70% on your core business, 20% on adjacent or nearby things, and 10% on wild bets.
How to organize resources in a company for the long term? At Google, Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin said they should spend 70% on their core business, 20% on adjacent or nearby things, and 10% on wild bets.
You need 70% on the core business to sustain innovation because you need revenue and growth. You need the 20% to explore adjacencies to extend your franchise. And you need the 10% on wild bets to build transformational initiatives, which is vital for what you want to do 5 or 10 years from now.
We can apply the 70-20-10 rule to personal development too. We should allocate our time to look up, down, and up. We spend 70% looking down and focusing on delivering work within the deadline, 20% looking around and talking to other functions in the company, and 10% looking up and gazing all the way further to our ultimate mission.
2. The XY problem: Avoid focusing on the attempted solution rather than the actual problem. People don't want a faster horse. They want to get to their destination faster.
Ever been stuck in a situation where you thought you had a solution to a problem, but only after asking for help to debug your solution you found out your solution is unnecessary because there's a much better and stupidly simple way to solve the same problem?
This is the XY problem. We believe our solution Y to problem X would work. So when running into trouble when solving X, we ask about your particular solution Y instead of giving the context of X. In other words, we focus on the attempted solution rather than the actual problem.
Think of it like the famous apocryphal Henry Ford quote: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." We can spend our whole life figuring out how to make the horse run faster through some genetic modification. However, the real issue is people want to get to their destination faster. Therefore, instead of getting fixated on making horses faster (solution Y), he came up with a better solution - the car (problem X). Another quote from Theodore Levitt is also a good example: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"
To avoid falling into the trap of the XY problem, we should provide sufficient context about the problem when seeking help for a proposed solution. While unnecessary details should be avoided, we should communicate the essence of the problem.
3. If Math is the perfect description language for physics, AI might be the perfect description language for biology.
Deepmind has been using machine learning to advance many fields in biology, most notably with AlphaFold. Demis Hassabis, CEO of Deepmind, stated, "If you think of mathematics as the perfect description language for physics, AI might end up being the perfect description language for biology."
Because biology is so messy, dynamic, and complex, it's hard to believe we would ever get to something as elegant as Newton's laws of motion to describe a cell. It's just too complicated. Therefore, the nature of artificial intelligence can make it the right tool for biology.
4. No amount of technology will make a bad story good.
"Everyone's going to talk about the fact that this is the very first computer animated feature film, but the computers are just tools [the computers] didn't create this picture, it's the people who created the picture."
Technology is essential, but what makes a story fascinating is the storyteller. And with technological advancement, the ability to generate great ideas becomes much more important than technology and technical skills.
5. Our envy is like WiFi. It is usually limited to a hyperlocal network. We are jealous of our friends, but not celebrities.
I found this analogy interesting. Envy is hyper-local. It's like WiFi that works only in a local radius. Therefore, for those who are very competitive, it might be good to change their social circle constantly. If their WiFi network range of comparison drives them, they can always be growing.
However, we should remember that growth fueled by competitiveness oftentimes will make you fall into the trap of a hedonistic treadmill. Instead, we should find something unique so we don't have to compete with anyone. If we need someone to chase or get ourselves motivated, we can find somebody in a different stage of life that we won't compete with and shouldn't follow the people we most admire but should follow what they admire.
Photo of the Week
That's it. Thanks for reading. I'd appreciate it if you could share which input you found the most helpful or intriguing. Just reply to this email with a number—it's quick and easy!
And as always, feel free to send me any interesting ideas you came across recently!
Looking forward to learning from you.