Episode 0068 · August 24, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Against Solutions

[Unedited Transcript]

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Hey, Rich.

Rich Ziade: Hi, Paul.

Paul Ford: How you doing?

Rich Ziade: Doing well.

Paul Ford: So look, I’m going to throw a word at you.

Rich Ziade: Mm hmm.

Paul Ford: Solutions.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: So,

Rich Ziade: As in, chemistry?

Paul Ford: exactly.

What, what I’ve noticed, so we’re building a software tool, you and me, and we talk to people a lot about software. And when I go in and talk to people about software, When you and I talk about software, this is what we talk about. You gotta let us in there.

You gotta get in there, man. Somebody’s gotta go in and just figure out what you guys are actually doing. Because nobody knows. And it’s, it’s clearly, you’re in a lot of pain. And your stuff is all over the place. And nobody’s been able to show me a single bulleted list anywhere in your organization.

That’s how you and I sell. It actually turns out to be a great strategy, but most people would say that’s the worst way to sell something exciting ever.

Rich Ziade: It’s not [00:01:00] very

Paul Ford: We basically hold up a mirror and say, It looks like a mess. So, you know, let’s, let’s start there. That’s what most people do. Most people walk into the organization, they go…

I got something for you. I got a solution.

Rich Ziade: I’ve got a solution.

Paul Ford: you know what, that feels a lot better than somebody like you and me going in there and going like, Yeah, it looks pretty bad. Cause we’re like the doctors, we’re like, Well, that leg’s gonna take a while to heal.

Rich Ziade: Yeah and people want pain relief. So when they hear a solution they

Paul Ford: gonna have you play a basketball in no time.

Rich Ziade: Exactly, exactly. That’s what people want to hear. Um, and uh,

Paul Ford: I will point out our only buyer was someone who’d been burned about 500 times before.

Rich Ziade: look I think most of the serious buyers of things don’t know a hell of a lot about The inside of the thing if somebody sat me down and said you made an [00:02:00] excellent choice on This roofing material. Let me tell you why I Kind of don’t know what they’re talking

Paul Ford: Actually, hold on. We could take this back to a direct experience that you had. How did you choose your neurosurgeon, and how did he tell you he was going to do a good job?

Rich Ziade: My neurologist said We’ve got really good surgeons here, and I think you could do this

Paul Ford: had a highly treatable brain condition. We’ve talked about this before. You had a neurologist. So a professional who really understood the discipline, is well credentialed, looked at you and said, You should do this thing.

Rich Ziade: You seem low risk in the grand scheme of brain surgery.

Paul Ford: So you had, it’s like my, my endocrinologist saying there’s never been a better time to be obese, right? Uh, so, so this guy looks at you, a consultant, I said, literally a consulting doctor says, [00:03:00] Hey, uh, you, I know what you need. Let me give you a plan.

Rich Ziade: Yes, yes. And, and, you know, to hear someone take that leap in, as a doctor is very, very unusual. He’s probably my eighth neurologist in my life,

Paul Ford: yeah, sure, sure.

Rich Ziade: And most don’t want the liability or the responsibility of making such a suggestion.

Paul Ford: want to get you in for 20 minutes, make sure you’re not falling down the stairs and get you out of there.

Rich Ziade: That’s right, and I gotta tell you something it was like the 10th visit and then he kind of sheepishly said it he was like I Gotta tell you you may want to just deal with this and I think you

Paul Ford: We can get you off these beds, but you have to do surgery.

Rich Ziade: If to surgery and he he was not gung ho it took this guy metabolizing my case for weeks and

Paul Ford: This is the most perfect, perfect metaphor for software delivery in large organizations.

Rich Ziade: he, he, this was not a matter of like, Oh my god, your appendix is infected, we gotta get it out. This is very [00:04:00] complicated. It needed time to really understand all the dimensions of it.

Paul Ford: Well, risk, right? You aren’t going to die. You’re not, there’s no, you could hold on and keep taking the meds for an indeterminate amount of time.

Rich Ziade: Yes, that’s right, but what he saw was that the debt I was in like the debt I was paying for being on the meds was like kind of eating away at my quality of life every

Paul Ford: you were much less healthy. It was out of your control and you were much less

Rich Ziade: mean for those that don’t know anti seizure medicine is very toxic like it’s it’s essentially It’s strong chemicals to mess with your brainwaves like that’s what it is

Paul Ford: wobble walking down the hall. Like

Rich Ziade: was bad as till they were trying to get the meds right and all that and he’s like, you know what?

You’re gonna be dealing with this for a while but I gotta tell you, the real answer might be invasive surgery because you, you happen to be a very lucky case, the actual issue is right on the surface, we don’t have to dig deep, we don’t have to, this doesn’t have to be about my brain surgery. But, you’re [00:05:00] highlighting

Paul Ford: but he didn’t say, I have a solution for you.

Rich Ziade: No, no, he really… He, it was about, I’m going to say three months into a dozen visits for him to finally say what he thought was the right

Paul Ford: Then you went and talked to the head of engineering.

Rich Ziade: Then we’ll,

Paul Ford: the CTO of the brain, the neuro, the neuroscientist. The neuro, yeah, neurosurgeon,

Rich Ziade: in place. The recommended next steps were in place.

Paul Ford: So now the engineering team’s coming in.

Rich Ziade: Engineering team’s coming in, right? And it’s throwing me off because they all have gamer chairs. And the mouse they use isn’t like mine. It has 12 buttons on it. So it’s throwing me off, the whole thing.

Paul Ford: Right. This is real, like, it’s a very software driven thing. Where they cut into your brain meat.

Rich Ziade: actually is. Yeah. So I meet the surgeon and he’s like, No biggie, we got this. This is not the one that keeps me up at night.[00:06:00]

Paul Ford: That’s a good feeling.

Rich Ziade: That’s a good feeling, right? And I knew that all the work to get to that decision was probably just as hard as the Procedure I was about to have

Paul Ford: Yeah, I mean, there’s literally years getting up to this point, right? Okay.

Rich Ziade: right. And so

Paul Ford: And now we have this huge body of knowledge. We have a file on you that’s like as long as a phone book.

Rich Ziade: it’s very long. There’s a I found this out by the way. There’s a board meeting not a board meeting It’s like a committee or whatever where they look at each case and it’s all the surgeons in the hospital Talk about its viability

Paul Ford: know, we had that, my wife, I have twins. We had that because our pregnancy was very high risk as a result.

Rich Ziade: they meet and they consult and they want not and then my my neurologist Did something else interesting? He said I have a friend who is a neurosurgeon in Columbia, Presbyterian. I was not, I was in Northwell, [00:07:00] uh, uh, Lenox Hill.

Paul Ford: so bizarre to live in New York City where like,

Rich Ziade: It’s a concentration of the best surgeons in the world.

Paul Ford: medical care is like two subway

Rich Ziade: And, and my neurologist asked the surgeon that was going to do the procedure if he could sit in.

Paul Ford: Whoa,

Rich Ziade: asked if the other surgeon, do you mind if he sits in on this? Which was, I appreciate it because that, that other surgeon specialized in some aspect of it that this guy didn’t.

Paul Ford: Right.

Rich Ziade: And so, okay,

Paul Ford: they’re assembling a team to solve your problem.

Rich Ziade: they’re assembling a team to solve the problem. And you know what? I felt at that point was, these are people who.

And you know, we live, this is one of the positives of, of it, we live, living in a very litigious society, is nobody wants to get it wrong. I, the, the malpractice insurance for a neurosurgeon is hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, like it’s a ridiculous number because it’s so high risk. And so the fact that we were here made me think these people have deliberated this problem [00:08:00] and pinpointed the solution ad nauseum, like it’s been weeks upon weeks.

Almost months at this point, where the discussions and the planning and the thinking around all of it had been so thoughtfully done that now the execution side, like, so much had been de

Paul Ford: There’s another thing here, which is your insurance has approved it, right?

Like, they’ve looked at it and been like, yeah, this will make his

Rich Ziade: In like, they were, I remember the, the, the administrator who got, who called me with the approvals, like, usually takes a couple of weeks, and it took two days.

Paul Ford: a lot of these systems are not set up in a way that, like, makes life easier for people, but in this case, all the systems are confirming your path of operation.

Rich Ziade: Exactly. And so, so much thinking and planning. And so why are we talking about all of this?

Paul Ford: Well, did anyone ever say, I got this for you, it’s done, we’re gonna solve it?

Rich Ziade: Mmm… I got this for you in [00:09:00] terms of…

Paul Ford: yeah, man, don’t worry, it’s brain surgery, all done, you’re gonna be good. What I remember hearing, you might not remember this because you had brain surgery, is that your neurologist, everything is potentiality, everything is, is sort of likelihoods, and there’s no promise.

Rich Ziade: Yes. Yes. That’s right. That’s right. There is a bravado that comes from the surgeon for some, I, I think it’s his own coping mechanism. He’s like, yeah, it’s a piece of cake. I’m gonna do this and then I’m gonna go get an omelet. Like, it’s all good. And, and, uh,

Paul Ford: I’m going to bet neurosurgeons don’t have the most successful dating lives.

Rich Ziade: most successful

Paul Ford: Dating

Rich Ziade: I think it’s like, uh, you know how I, uh, I compare them to, um, like war correspondence? Yeah. , it’s,

Paul Ford: off of the incredible thing, but you know what, but, but they’re really bad at getting little gifts for anniversaries, like it’s not,

Rich Ziade: oh, yeah, yeah, it’s high octane stuff right and he’s addicted I Distinctly remember the visit afterwards. He was done with me.

Paul Ford: oh, he’s not baking you [00:10:00] zucchini bread,

Rich Ziade: Afterwards he came in he checked a couple of things make sure the stitches look good and he was like, all right, I gotta

Paul Ford: Your relationship is over at

Rich Ziade: Our relationship is over at that point. And so Why are we talking about this on Ziade and Ford podcast where we often talk about software?

Yeah, and whatnot a lot of software product is sold in the

Paul Ford: It’s sold like this. Hey, Rich,

Rich Ziade: like this. Hey, Rich. Have I got a solution.

Paul Ford: got this screwdriver. I’m gonna jam it in your

Rich Ziade: mean, you’re never

Paul Ford: and you’re never gonna have another bad day. No more seizures, nothing. Go off the

Rich Ziade: real quick.

Paul Ford: And you go like, well, let me see the screwdriver. They’re like, hold on a minute. First of all, you got to fill out all this paperwork.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. And then

Paul Ford: then, you know, you’re kind of, they get you into it.

Rich Ziade: get you in

Paul Ford: And then you’re like, all right, and then they’re like, okay, actually a screwdriver. Here’s what they really do. Here’s the one two move. You’re like, all right, I guess I got to go with the screwdriver. And then they get you in there. You fill out the paperwork.

And then they go, actually, hold on a minute. This isn’t the right screwdriver. We got, we got to actually, it’s going to be like a team of 60. And we got to like really get you, we’re going to have [00:11:00] some other tools. We got to customize the screwdriver.

Rich Ziade: Almost every software effort is walking into history, politics, legacy, interdependencies of the strangest kind.

Paul Ford: is a document the size of the full book. You might not find it. It might never have been compiled, but yeah,

Rich Ziade: So when, when a buyer shows up is like, I, I can’t take it anymore. Like I just can’t take it

Paul Ford: my life to get better

Rich Ziade: want my life to get better. The thing that most people do with software, right, is they say, this will make your life better. We’re gonna migrate everything over. It’s gonna be a clean slate, and it’s gonna get better. And then what ends up happening is,

Paul Ford: In the first meeting.

Rich Ziade: In the first meeting, we’ve got the solution for

Paul Ford: would be like your neurologist. You walk in, you sit down, and he goes, before you say anything, I know what you need.

Rich Ziade: Yes. [00:12:00] Exactly. And, and, what ends up happening is that team of 30 lives with you for the rest of your life.

Paul Ford: Yes, you’re never done. The surgery is never done.

Rich Ziade: It’s

Paul Ford: You are on the table for the rest

Rich Ziade: It’s never done. It’s never

Paul Ford: They never, ever sew your brain back up.

Rich Ziade: That’s a dumb analogy to shift away from my brain for a second, even though it is quite

Paul Ford: Yeah, what a brain.

let me take us down a different path really fast, Rich. You and I have built a software tool.

Rich Ziade: We have.

Paul Ford: called Aboard. It’s the sponsor of this podcast.

It’s really good. I think you’ll

Rich Ziade: It’s a solution.

Paul Ford: That’s the thing. Here we are. We’re playing at this game. So tell me why our solution is better than the other solutions or how we’re gonna, because what we believe, what you and I truly believe, is that you don’t solve cultural problems by just spackling software.

Rich Ziade: Correct.

Paul Ford: So why is this product, [00:13:00] and I’m not asking you, like we have not had this conversation before ever, why is this not a solution? Like, why is this something that, like, we could go in? Because we’ve just told the world that we don’t believe in instant solutions that you can turn on to fix everything.

Rich Ziade: There is no instant solution. Like anyone who tells you there’s an instant solution. I mean,

Paul Ford: so what the hell, what the hell did we build?

Rich Ziade: I, I think we built a platform that has the malleability to be a solution.

Paul Ford: If anything, look, if we’re gonna, what do we do? We built something where it makes it possible for people to kind of build their own.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, I mean look, and this has been a promise for the last 10 15 years around low code and no code and all that. But I, I think that… Dream is sort of fizzled out a bit, mainly because um, the idea of point and clicking your, pointing and clicking your way out of a problem, it doesn’t

Paul Ford: Well, it just ends up being code, but it’s point and click code. Like,

Rich Ziade: point and click code.

Paul Ford: problems are hard.

Rich Ziade: Problems are hard. And, [00:14:00] and if, if you have a, I think a better way to look at it is look, the business stakeholder just wants to parachute something new in and make all the pain go away and it doesn’t work that way. Instead what you should look at is A, study the landscape, visit the doctor a dozen times, first of all.

Second of all, you look at where you can stem pain and reduce friction at different points in the whole picture, in the whole environment. If you, if someone comes in and you know, there are very good sales people out there who will be like, I’m going to brush all this aside and give you the one stop solution, right?

That is the first warning sign.

Paul Ford: You know, I hurt my back in my 30s, and I got painkillers, and they were great. I had my back kind of healed. I was younger. Uh, I’ve had the same injury. It’s sciatica. It’s normal. And, I was at a different doctor, not a painkiller type of doctor. He’s like, you’re going to physical therapy.

Rich Ziade: [00:15:00] ol

Paul Ford: And, Physical therapy solved it and it sucked.

It hurt. It took a long time. I had to go back. I was on a cane. I had to go and like, you know, a guy named Kyle would tell me about how he just moved into a new apartment with his girlfriend while he tortured

Rich Ziade: hours of

Paul Ford: now when I feel the twinge in my back, I reflexively do this little exercise. I do it a lot.

I try to do it in the

Rich Ziade: the

Paul Ford: hurt. You know, not very much. That is, it’s still a solution. But it’s not like, the opiates felt like a solution at the moment. But about two weeks in, they’re no longer a solution. You’ve just gotten some relief, and now you gotta, you gotta taper off the opiates.

Now you have kind of two problems. And now you’ve trained yourself like, I just need more drugs when I’m hurting. And like all the horrible politics in America about opiates aside, that’s a bad scene. You want physical therapy for as long as you can get it until you really need pain meds.

Rich Ziade: And [00:16:00] then you treat yourself. Like all the physical stuff. You know, if somebody sells anything to solve people’s problems is kind of hard to hear. It’s not very, like, this is pretty anti marketing. Like, this is not the sizzle that closes the deal. But this is the reality. Then we’ve seen it time and time

Paul Ford: I’ll tell you where you and I come in. Is that you and I tend to come in with everything we do well after everybody else went home. So I’ve, you know, why did the agency work? Well, everybody bought the same product five or ten times. It was like, I can’t do that anymore. I gotta do something else. And we’d show up.

We were older, we were expensive, and we had a good track record. We said, I’ll fix it for you. It’ll look exactly like this. You know, you would, in particular, go sit in a room

Rich Ziade: At first we’d spend time.

Paul Ford: Yeah, always.

Rich Ziade: spend a lot of time understanding what the situation was.

Paul Ford: a contract, nothing. Just let’s go, let’s figure this out.

Rich Ziade: yep.

Paul Ford: I think also people realize that that’s motivating to us.

We like to look inside and see how it works. I [00:17:00] feel that we’re doing that with this software as well. This is the, we are not trying to create this radical new AI wonderful machine.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, even though we use AI. Yeah.

Paul Ford: we do. Yeah, you know,

Rich Ziade: No, we use it thoughtfully. Yeah.

Paul Ford: have solved the world’s problems.

Instead we’re saying… We have seen the same problems 50 billion

Rich Ziade: We do… That is the dirty little secret. It’s the same problems over and

Paul Ford: I call this, it’s a Goldilocks product, right? It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold. You know, we’re a family of bears.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And we just would like people to use it and see what they make of it.

Rich Ziade: What is this product you speak

Paul Ford: Well, we mentioned before, it’s called Abort, abort. com, check it out. It’s great. If it wasn’t so congested, I’d be more excited.

Rich Ziade: I think I want to… Add an asterisk to everything you’re saying here. They’re going to go to Aboard. com. It looks like a personal, like, lifestyle tool.

Paul Ford: Well, until next week.

Rich Ziade: until next week. And, and, and, but even then, it still looks like kind of fun. [00:18:00] Uh, but there’s a lot of power underneath

Paul Ford: Oh, we’ve, we’ve built a generalized data platform that we’re committed to for quite a while. But, it looks like fun bookmarking. You know why?

Rich Ziade: It is!

Paul Ford: because I love fun

Rich Ziade: Why

Paul Ford: Yeah,

Rich Ziade: It’s also very visual, which is cool.

Paul Ford: So thank you for listening. At Ziade Ford on Twitter. Hello at ZiadeFord. com if you need us. Anything else, Richard?

Rich Ziade: No, but I think the next podcast or the one after it is, uh, is, is dedicated to the launch of a board. We’re that

Paul Ford: yeah, here we go. All right.

Rich Ziade: a lovely

Paul Ford: Bye

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