Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thoughts about doing the impossible

Happened on a beautiful autumn day at Kangasala, near Tampere.

We were having a get-together with our friends. Kids were nicely playing outside, when my friend and I were tasked to lure them back in.

And out we went.

While persuading the loud lot to seize their sandbox adventure, in favor of sitting around the table inside, the topic of something being impossible somehow popped up.

Saying that something is impossible is very easy.

People default to impossible all the time when they don't care to think about it. When Jolla first came out with the news of continuing from where MeeGo had previously fallen off the grid, many reached out for the default reaction.

To build a new operating system, with a smaller crew than what Samsung has people for making coffee, was treated as nothing short of hilarious.

It was a good laugh. People from all over the technology industry stood up for a chuckle. Important people. Powerful people.

Impossible was contagious. Once someone said it, it was easy to agree on. All you had to do, is repeat it.

We got told it's impossible without 100M€ investment and serious commitments from industry partners. The emphasis was on impossible.

When repeated enough times, it turned into a truth. It was now officially as impossible as it was hilarious.

I don't like the word impossible.

Improbable is much better. Because that's how it usually is. Things have varying degrees of probability.

When you think about the word impossible, it's a stop sign for your thoughts. You're not allowed to proceed. It really is impossible. However, if you replace the impossible with improbable and think again, you're allowed to take a closer look.

I like to take things apart. In my opinion, many things are more beautiful on the inside. For me as a kid, it meant great fun.

For my parents, property damage.

Taking thins apart is a good way to judge probability? Up-close, you can identify things that increase or decrease the probability.

For Jolla, the improbability factor was in the insane ratio between the amount of work and the amount of people working on it. Since we couldn't really help the people part, only the workload remained.

Let's summarize it.

It was considered improbable for a small start-up company to be able to build an operating system by themselves.

Now, that's already pretty well defined. Then all you need to do, is to increase the probability of building it. And that happens by focusing on what you're going to build.

What counts as an operating system?

Do we automatically imagine Android or Windows, both of which have accumulated an unhealthy amount of complexity over the years. Building something like that might be very improbable for Jolla. So, can you leave something out to increase the probability. To design something that counts as an operating system, that can be still built with the few people we had available.

All of a sudden you're talking about what is important, in what order and who does what.

A huge step from impossible.

When the news started to flow in, about global operators and retail chains signing partnerships with Jolla, the chuckling suddenly stopped. People from all over the technology industry stood up to look at each other. Important people. Powerful people.

With a question on everyone's lips: who said it was impossible?

Not to mention shipping also a phone running that operating system.

Only 10 days late of reported schedule.

With less than 100 people.

With around 30M€ of total investment, instead of estimated 100M€.

Be careful what you label as impossible. Because if you do, someone is bound to prove otherwise. What you deem impossible today, will most likely be only improbable tomorrow. And when that happens, it doesn't matter how important or powerful you are. It doesn't change the fact that you're mistaken.

So, every time you wish to dismiss something as impossible. Don't.

Just replace the word impossible with the word improbable, and think. Work your way with increasing its probability. Wonderful things can be achieved with an open mind and a positive approach. And if it's not probable enough today, pursue it tomorrow.

At the end of the day, negotiating kids to stop all the fun and go inside to wash their hands, wasn't impossible.

Just improbable.

And that we could already work with.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.

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