WA 2020 #4: A Secret of Perfect Taste

"I found a secret." She said, after perfecting the taste of her potato salad / mashed potatoes. "To make the taste perfect, you can keep adding salt to the salad while tasting it and stop right before it gets too salty."

"It's like the Microsoft strategy for winning." I responded. "In their days they were said that their strategy was to keep running the business until they won, pouring money into it until competitors gave up." Twenty years ago, it sounded like a perfect strategy. Looking back, however, I cannot help but wondering - How many businesses had they won through this? Maybe their game console deserves the exemplar position. On the other hand, there are numerous counter examples. Think about their server market, which has lost to Linux, or mobile. A lesson from this quick lookback is probably something like this: The words from the winner sounds like the truth but you cannot tell.

That being said, I still have some respect for their commitment to the business continuity. My employer is famous for the business discontinuity. I used to think that it is reasonable, or at least make some sense. I'm not sure anymore. Instead I now believe Microsoft indeed won some ground with the strategy, and it must have paid off overall. It is just not a perfect strategy. There is no such thing.

Of course I didn't keep talking like this. That is not how couples talk. Here is what actually followed: "I think I read the same idea in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I followed that advice for a while, but then noticed that it doesn't work on some occasions: Think about marinated chicken for example. You cannot taste the marinade, especially when you use some alcohol. You have to commit to some recipe, and all you can do is adjust it for each iteration."

In a sense the continuous-tasting secret resembles Agile Software Development, or Lean Methodology. You experiment, measure and adjust. In some cases, this works perfectly. For some others though, this doesn't make a lot of sense. There are software counterparts of the marinade - You have to commit. You can iterate only slowly. The perfection takes time and the early in-market does create the moat. Should you avoid software projects that's hard to experiment with? Now you know this a silly question - It's like asking you should avoid marinade. Fine. You can. But are you happy with it?

Of course I didn't keep talking like this. That's not how couples talk. Here was what actually followed: "But it works perfectly when it does. Give me a scoop. Wow this does taste perfect!"