‘Attractive’ Work?

This is a Guest Post from my dear friend and ex-colleague, Majd, from whom I have learnt and shared a great deal over past 10 years. An excellent manager of knowledge workers and one of the best software testing minds you can find. He maintains a blog at http://knowledgetester.org/.

It is a lesson from a barber shop approximately twelve years ago but it still sticks to my mind. I was spending my days in those years at a bachelor flats accommodation in Lahore (those flats are Pakistani equivalent of an US condo), and there were many shops around those flats. One of the barbers was my point for the haircut and beard trimming. The master of the shop had a worker boy and the two of them seemed to have good coordination but on one of my regular visits, I found out that the master had fired that worker. I asked him what was the reason as that boy seemed to be a good help for you and now you are all alone to do your work. The barber replied: “his work was not attractive” (in Urdu/Hindi: uss kay kaam main kashish naheen thee). From that day since today, I want to do work that is attractive and I go to barbers who have attraction in their work.

I cannot be as philosophical in my thoughts as Ather has been here (or here) but let me try. Human minds are wired to be attracted towards beauty both in their outlook and from within. All of us dream of visiting snow-capped mountains, lush green meadows and flowing waters. And all of us follow thought leaders on their subjects because we like their views and admire so as how beautiful their minds are at describing it.


(Lower Kachura Lake, Skardu. Photo by me)

Now as knowledge workers we keep applying our knowledge to produce work. How much attractive is the question? Are we producing stuff that people fall into love with? Let’s take one example.

Apple has one of the most loved logos of all times and you’ll see vehicles that have nothing to do with IT business, but carrying a sticker of Apple logo. Why? Simply because they like it and that is why this logo is there in any study of the popular logos. Compare that to Yahoo and Marissa might be correct in saying that traffic has increased since her arrival, but their recently launched new logo is perhaps miles away from being attractive.

So how barber A produces attractive work compared to Barber B where as both have more or less ‘same problem’ to solve, they have more or less ‘same requirements’ by the client and they have more or less the ‘same toolset’.

Can you think of ways that we – the knowledge workers – consider to produce attractive work?


8 thoughts on “‘Attractive’ Work?

  1. Interesting topic really. Though I think the post ended abruptly and likewise didn’t try to put it in a “model” as Ather would do. Its a vast topic and really great to see it being brought up. I really hope we can expand on it further.

    An oft quoted verse is : “usko chutti na milli jis ne sabak yaad kiya”. It is usually used as a depressing statement… with a connotation is that “if you work hard, you’ll have to stay late… so chilll out. Don’t work hard. Let them think you can’t do it and they’ll let you go so you can enjoy”. But the real essence of the verse is lost… as it starts with

    “Maqtab-e-Ishq ka dastoor nirala dekha,
    usko chutti na milli jis ne sabak yaad kiya”.

    The thoughtful among us can now understand the phrase even better in a positive light of “love” 🙂

  2. So the story ends the same way as always.. “Let Reader\Audience think for further ideas”.
    Bottom line here seems “Perfection” with “Style and Presentation” (would be bit difficult in fashion as illustrated in the end)… Best wishes for this culture to flourish esp in general as well as in software industry

    • Thanks Sohail for the comments! It’s important to keep standards and expectations high, specially for knowledge work, to really excel at it. Progress is based on dissatisfaction with how well you can do things now.

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