Do you really need that new feature?

I recently caught this gem while tuning in to an Adam’s Grant podcast episode on bureaucracy. There’s this original experiment they talked about: when tasked with enhancing a Lego masterpiece,everybody tend to throw more blocks in the mix and almost never strip some away. Even if ditching a few blocks would effectively make it way better, they still bulk it up. Wild, right?

In the world of software crafting, this natural urge exist. We’ve all felt—the itch to add, to augment, to expand. It’s like the Lego-building reflex, ingrained.

This inclination creeps into software like an unwelcome guest overstaying its welcome. Think about it: when did your favorite app say goodbye to a feature? Google’s the master pruner of its own apps, yet that “I’m Feeling Lucky” button lingers, largely untouched despite its ghostly existence.

As a developer, I had this eureka moment: cutting code was akin to decluttering a room. It’s not just tidying up; it’s elegant design. Most developers have it at some point.

But, if I’m real with myself, when a challenging feature looms, I don’t instinctively mull over its necessity. I dive into the “how-to” before even questioning the “why”. Priority might cross my mind briefly, but if the implementation sounds like a hoot, I’ll conveniently convince myself it’s urgent.

Yet, awareness flips the script. Knowing this bias is like catching your brain taking the easy route. Now, I’m hitting pause. A feature needs a goal—a measurable one. Admittedly, defining metrics can feel like a chore, but ignoring it isn’t setting a standard—it’s allowing biases to gnaw at software quality.

It’s about flipping the switch. Instead of just tacking on what seems shiny or thrilling, I’m all about a different game plan. Features need purpose, a goal you can measure. It’s not about squashing innovation; it’s about steering it with intent. This mindset tweak challenges the norm, urging us to pick purpose over piling up.

Scrutinizing the allure of new features against their impact and necessity—measuring their goals—becomes the name of the game. Embracing this shift isn’t just about resisting biases; it’s about weaving purpose into the software DNA, fostering a culture that values deliberate design over gratuitous growth.