Outcomes vs. control

Make sure your future is (mostly) in your hands.

Outcomes vs. control
"What if <big tech company> decides to copy what you're doing?"

This is a common question for any team building something new. And while it's important to consider the risk, I think it's dangerous to frame your goals against the competition. There's no way you can control what other people are doing and patents are rarely the answer. Worse, the more successful you are, the more you'll attract competition.

Focus on outcomes that you can control

Control is a spectrum. You can pretty much decide everything about how you want to build your feature, but you can't force people to use it. A good experience will put odds in your favor, but the user is making the end decision. And then, there are things that you can do little to nothing about, like influence the weather or stop a pandemic – and it'd be dangerous to base your strategy around that.

Make sure you're not just waiting on the goodwill of people external to your team to make progress. Mix things up every week to retain some control over your future.

Different strategies, similar results

Control is also about the tactics you use to get to a specific outcome. If one approach seems to be getting out of your hands, there might be a better alternative to execute on. Here are some examples below:

Personal savings

  • Easy to control: cut costs
  • Hard to control: get a raise


  • Easy to control: increase price of product X for existing customers
  • Hard to control: convince customers of product X to also buy product Y


  • Easy(ish) to control: build a product people love
  • Hard to control: prevent others from entering your market


  • Easy to control: send great pitches to many journalists
  • Hard to control: convince a specific journalist to write about you

You get the gist. The idea is to reframe your goals to increase your ability to get the results you want.