Minty Fresh Flavor

Luca Dellanna: Yes. Rory Sutherland has a great example about this. He asks: Why do most blends of toothpaste have mint flavor? And, the reason is that mint flavor has nothing to do with keeping your mouth clean, but it has everything to do with getting the habit on. (from an EconLib podcast).

This quote from a podcast about the book The Control Heuristic by Luca Dellana led a colleague to ask how I set up that “minty flavor” experience for clients. I don’t really know how. This was my answer.

I have rarely seen anyone of the folks tagging along with me get the “minty flavor” sensation without some kind of ‘Aha’ moment. I have many anecdotes around those moments. It is very hard (impossible?) to orchestrate them, however.  The best we can do is establish conditions where they are likely to happen. We must also accept that in many cases they will not happen and the minty flavor will be weak or missing entirely.

If we would have had tests around that function which returns an incorrect calculation a couple of years ago, we would have saved several million dollars.”

Now that we are getting the full development team in regular contact with the folks actually using the product, we are seeing it converge to useful more rapidly with fewer large missteps.

I did not believe it would work, but letting teams pair and ensemble has reduced our overall defect rates and improved the overall cycle time even though story completion times have slowed slightly.

We did not see the value of spending time developing all those tests until we had that undocumented hardware interface change come from a vendor. The detection and turnaround time to align with the change was a day instead of the several week it would have been otherwise.

Wow, that test saved my butt on that refactor. I would have sworn the change had to be correct, but it would have broken several things.

Since we’ve been using TDD, I have rarely used the debugger to step though code to figure out what is going wrong. I just write another test to explore it instead.

The more direct answer about how to set up those conditions for me is by doing the work with them and showing the path I would take, trying to explain why I go that way, and then hoping for the mint bush to shows up regularly on the trail to encourage them to continue that way to the destination.