Vitamins and pain killers

A while back there was a thread on Hacker News asking why there is no search functionality, Paul Graham responded with:-

What makes users happy is not features, but the quality of the submissions and comments. So I focus on the latter instead of the former …… This is a classic example of how one should give users what they want, not what they say they want. Lots of people say they want search, but I would be surprised if there was a single user who’d left HN because it lacked search. Whereas if I let the front page get filled up with crap, or the comment threads filled up with mean or stupid comments, people would start leaving pretty quickly….

The point being that the absence of some negative behaviour can be more valuable than the  presence of some positive behaviour. The more effective you are at removing negative behaviour the less people will notice your efforts since the pain point is hidden from them.

I think management is great example of this, sure there will be times where your actions are highly public and obvious to all, but you really earn your bread and butter by working furiously to maintain a state where your team can simply get things done. If anything, too many active interventions should be a warning sign that you are not picking up on things quickly enough.

2 thoughts on “Vitamins and pain killers

  1. I agree with your last paragraph. “Active interventions” is indeed a great phrase for capturing an attribute of a team that isn’t as effective as they could be in their mission within the organization. If you are “actively intervening” then you probably haven’t empowered your team with the use of non-tech. tools and mentoring to work effectively without your frequent intervention.


  2. @jfbauer
    Yeah I think if someone is a perfect manager who can see into the future and past simultaneously it would be possible to pre-empt absolutely everything. For the rest of us it’s a case of limiting occurrences and working on the basis that your team will allow you a certain amount of leeway based on trust built up over time.


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