How I tweaked my individual OKRs to be less like goals and more like a system

We use quarterly OKRs to set goals and measure progress. When we define them we remind ourselves to focus on outcomes rather than output. That means to describe a desired effect rather than the artefacts that get produced. Think 2k unique visitors instead of 3 blog posts.

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By doing so, we allow ourselves to experiment with different outputs to achieve the desired outcomes. This works well for OKRs on department level, which help us align our efforts towards a common goal. In terms of individual OKRs, though, I found it hard to plan 3 months ahead and very limiting when I did.

Also, it was always hard to cut out time for them. They seem to compete with my day-to-day tasks and they are the first thing that get postponed when time gets tight. This leads to OKR fulfillments of 10% at the end of the quarter, which is disappointing and frustrating.

Instead of using specific goals as key results I find it more helpful to define a system. This lets me keep the flexibility to choose what to do specifically at the time when I am doing it. While these “key results” are very unspecific they **increase the odds** that I will achieve my objectives.

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This paragraph from a blog post by Scott Adams sums it up nicely.

My problem with goals is that they are limiting. Granted, if you focus on one particular goal, your odds of achieving it are better than if you have no goal. But you also miss out on opportunities that might have been far better than your goal. Systems, however, simply move you from a game with low odds to a game with better odds. With a system you are less likely to miss one opportunity because you were too focused on another. With a system, you are always scanning for any opportunity.

You can’t really call this OKRs any more because there is no results. You may call it objectives and accompanying system.

I think, what makes systems so powerful is that they help form habits. Doing things once to reach a goal is useful, doing things habitually to continuously improve is more effective in the long run.

By making this change I won flexibility at the cost of focus and direction. For me personally that is worth it for tracking my personal development. YMMV.

Meet the Future of Retail

Our friends at hybris opened their lab to us today.

Meet Sven and Lars, technology strategists at hybris labs. Learn how hybris blends the latest technologies to shape the future of retail. Ever dreamed about combining Raspberry Pi, BLE modules, embedded NodeJS, beacons and commerce API?  Watch this, and also make sure to check CloudHackFest, a huge hacking event organized by these guys, over the next week end in Munich.

In the first part of the video, Sven and Lars showcases the Smart Wine Shelf, which can make wine suggestions based on your tastes. The shelf interacts with the user through LED lights and pressure sensors to detect which bottle is being picked up. Upon choosing a bottle of wine, the client is given a description of the wine on a tablet screen. The retailers gets detailed analytics on which bottles are picked the most.

Then we get a demo of the “Funky Retail” project, which feature some smart retails stands with pressure and proximity sensors. When a customer approaches, the proximity sensor detects the event and light up the stand. Upon picking up the object, the pressure sensor triggers a product video on the tv screen.

Fancying some Microservices, IoT and Commerce API hacking this weekend? Hybris is organizing CloudHackFest, a 200+ attendees hackathon happening in Munich at TUM from Oct 9th to Oct 11th.


How we run brown bag lunches

Our brown bag lunches (bbls) take place in our atrium at the center of the office where many people eat their lunch anyway.

We collect the topics in the kitchen on sticky notes on a flipchart where lots of people pass by throughout the day. This keeps the events in everyones minds and lets everybody see which topics are coming up.

brown bag lunches poster

The bbls are Wednesdays at 12:45. Always at the same time to allow people getting used to it. On the morning of the bbl a reminder with the details is sent out via email. This email includes the presenter, the topic and a short description, plus the following text at the bottom to remind everyone why we are doing bbls and that everyone can speak at one.

The purpose of brown bag lunches is to share knowledge and interesting topics with your fellow Stylighters.

You have a topic you are interested in and would like to share with other Stylighters? Great. This could be absolutely anything really. The new tool you are working with or the zen in bee keeping. Whatever you are into. Grab a postit and put your name down for a brown bag lunch slot on the poster in the kitchen.

The format is entirely up to you. You prepared some slides. Sure. You want to write on a flipchart. Great. You want to show a video. Lovely. You got a completely different approach to get your points across. Excellent.

You should have something to say about the topic
You should leave time for discussion
You don’t have to prepare a perfect presentation
You don’t have to be an expert in the subject
You don’t have to do it alone – feel free to prepare sth as a group

Some speakers record their bbl, some send the slides around afterwards, others don’t leave a digital trace. We leave this up to the speakers.

Behind the Scenes of Our Ship-It Day

Last week we had another Ship-It day – But this time, instead of doing an engineer-only event we opened our internal hackathon to the whole company. Mission: Build something useful in 24h.

A ship-it day at Stylight generally follows this pattern:

    1. Gathering of ideas: Everybody is invited to create one slide on a shared Google presentation, describing the idea, and which problem it solves.
    2. Pitch session: We go through the deck and everyone pitches his/her ideas to the participants
    3. Groups are forming: Every participating Stylighters is invited to join a group. Ideally groups are composed of several complementary skills
    4. Hacking time: groups have 24h to work on their project with one single constraint: Delivering a working project.
    5. Presentation: After the 24h and too many coffees and Club-Mate, groups present what they managed to build like in a mini-faire atmosphere.
    6. Voting: Everyone is invited to vote for projects on a number of predefined criteria
    7. Awards time!

A few projects that were built during this ship-it day:


  • Problem it solves: Finding new places and colleagues to eat around the office
  • What they built: An Android app that uses GPS and the foursquare API to find
  • Technical highlight: It uses a peer-to-peer library to discover who’s around and manage the communication with other devices, so no server needed.
  • Challenge: Sergii, our data scientist had to learn Android :)
Stylight Face Game:
  • Problem it solves: In a fast-growing company it’s hard to remember everybody and what they’re doing
  • What they built: An Android and web app that present the player with pictures of employees associated with a name or a job title. Swipe right or left, Tinder-style and get on top of the leaderboard by making the right guesses.
  • Technical highlight:  BambooHR API to retrieve picture, names and job titles of the employees. SwipeCard was used to provide the Tinder-like card swiping functionality, Volley was used for managing HTTP requests and Picasso for image loading.
  • Challenge: Finishing a full blown app in 24h.

Google Group Management

  • Problem it solves: Our infra team has to do a lot of manual work to subscribe employees to internal Google Groups, so they want to empower them to do this task on their own
  • What they built: A web app that plugs uses Google Groups and associate user’s permissions to what he can subscribe to.
  • Technical Highlight: Rails was used to connect to Google Group API. Lot of work accomplished for a one-man show.

Stylight Roulette

  • Problem it solves: Discovering new colleagues by going for a lunch with them.
  • What they built: A web app that has a “Slot Machine” style and select 4 people to go to lunch with.
  • Technical Highlight: The app was partially built as a previous Ship-it Day project but not finished. It was rebuilt in Python and uses Tornado web application framework and SQL Alchemy db toolkit for the MySQL backend DB. For frontend, bootstrap templates were used:  In the backend logic, API wrapper for the BambooHR API was built, where we can retrieve certain public employee data.
  • Challenge: Coding CSS is always tricky for backend developers!

This was the first ship-it day to mix non-engineer with engineers and the outcome was definitely positive. Some teams will open-source their project after a bit of code cleaning!

Here is the video recap:

First React Meetup Munich

We organized the first React Meetup in Munich. The first event was a success, with 95+ people registering and about 70 showing up.

Another React meetup group was created around the same time we created ours, so we decided to merge our respective meetups, which means the next React event is right around the corner.

For this first gathering we covered the basics: Johann gave a short introduction to ReactJS, and Johannes Stein gave an intro to React Native with a cool demo of the React Native for Android which was released just a few days ago.

Johannes slides can be found here and Johann’s below:

Short video recap of the event:

Meet the founders of Hackevents, the Hackathon Search Engine.

Because at Stylight we believe that everyone can benefit from a stronger tech community, we are starting a “meet the founders” serie, covering German startups. We are getting started today with the founders.

If you want to pitch your startup in front of our camera, just drop a line to

Last week, The Hackevents founder swinged by our office to talk about their next big hackathon that happens as a side event of Bits and Pretzels, and also about the hackathon search engine they created. More about the hackathon in the video. Stylight will be at the hackathon as a supporting partner, and Johann will give a workshop on Docker.

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