Life Development Through Intelligent Reaction

I came across this great talk by Adam Bosworth, VP of Engineering at Google about Intelligent Reaction. In it, Bosworth explains the evolution of software development from the “Ivory Tower” mentality of software developers being the resident experts on what customers needed to today’s model of Intelligent Reaction – listening and learning from customers in real time what their needs are and then developing to those needs.

Here are some of the basics of Intelligent Reaction, according to Bosworth:

  • Learn from your users in real time. Don’t be obsessed with the grand plan, because grand plans can’t survive reality.
  • Start with creating the basic application, then evolve it based on user reaction. Listening to others will make the end product better.
  • Customize the experience (tabs, UI, widgets, events). This means lots of releases, lots of chances to get closer to getting it right.

That got me thinking…could intelligent reaction be useful to more than just software development? What if people started to live their lives this way? Here are my thoughts on Life Development Through Intelligent Reaction.

Don’t Be Obsessed with the Grand Plan
Too often, we are so worried about getting to the result we desire, that we forget that the process is just as important. Why? Because each little step along the way is our chance to learn from others. Intelligent Reaction means taking a real-time approach to achieving your goals. Each day, as you strive to reach your goal, pay the most attention to the little steps you take on that path. This helps to ensure you don’t miss anything. Watch for those little signs, those circumstances that can become opportunities. And most importantly, learn from what those around you are teaching. Those people are there for a reason. Don’t step on their heads on the way to your goal.

Bosworth is right. Grand plans can’t survive reality. Only by taking each step as it comes can you properly adjust along your path.

Listening to Others Will Make the End Product Better
Want to achieve something? Take a step. Afraid it’s not the right one? Take it anyway. Then listen. You’ll know pretty quickly based on the reactions of people around you whether you’ve taken the right step. If you have, then great. Keep going. If not, then listen some more. This is what Intelligent Reaction is all about. Listen. Do. Listen. Repeat. Unfortuately, many of us get so swept up in our own fears, trapped inside our own egos, that we can’t just stop and listen and learn.

Who do you listen to? Seek out people whose opinion you value. LISTEN to what they have to say, whether it’s advice, words of encouragement or connections. But don’t just listen. Turn those words and gestures into action. If you don’t know, ask. If you still don’t know, ask again. Then guide your actions based on what you hear. Your end result will always be the best result possible.

Create Lots of Releases
In software development there are no perfect releases. With every new version, bugs are fixed, features are added, usability is increased (hopefully). But it’s never going to be perfect. There will always be new bugs. There will always be new features to add or improve upon. There will always be better ways to make it usable. With every release, there’s improvement, but it’s never complete.

Each day when you get up in the morning, you have an opportunity to build your own new release. You can make adjustments based on the previous day’s bug reports, add a few new cool features, and open yourself to more feedback. Once a software bug is fixed, the users quickly forget about it. It’s the same in life. Did you seriously mess up yesterday? Well, do what you can to fix it, then forget about it. Today’s the only day you’ve got. Focus on improving today’s release, not on dwelling on the imperfections of yesterday’s.


Intelligent Reaction is about more than just making something greater and bigger. It’s about making yourself open to feedback and being willing to make adjustments based on that feedback. It’s not about taking over the world with the latest greatest thing. It’s about taking small steps and adjusting as necessary in pursuit of that goal. In the end, not only do you stand to achieve more, but you will have truly made the journey worthwhile.

What do you think?

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