The Crystal Garbage Can Method

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A crystal garbage can from Etsy.

Maybe it’s a sign of the Singularity’s approach — it’s getting harder to keep up with new tech developments, especially in the voice space. The combination of new Skills / Actions, new features available to API developers, new interaction modes, new third party integration SDKs and features, new front end processing technologies… it can be overwhelming.

Compounding this problem is that hardware product managers are typically looking at design freezes for products that might be in market 18 months from now. This means predicting consumer trends, looking at component costs, keeping up with vendor roadmaps, understanding lead times, and keeping a list of alternative components. Oh, and what to do when a competitor releases a similar product mid way through your development and production cycle?

Now being in consumer electronics for a number of years, it seems like most products stick closely together with the occasional outlier grabbing the flock towards it.

A decade ago, I took a course in Organizational Behaviour and one of the modules on decision making discussed the Garbage Can Model. It can be tempting with the shear overwhelm of decision points to just ready, fire, aim. In these circumstances, the loudest voice, the most charismatic supporter or the HIPPO (HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion) can have much more weight than the facts.

What might be a better approach is to look for the constraints first, or at least the certainties, and then slowly crystallize decisions around these points. Yes, there might still be some unknowns that you need to make a leap of faith around but at least there will be some sounding in reality. Tada… the Crystal Garbage Can.

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