Outliers and niche requests can often push us over the line from a simple solution to a complex one.  We commonly can get that eighty percent of the cases addressed in our initial code.  However, an outlier gets into the far more difficult final twenty percent mentioned in the Pareto principle.  These “new” requirements or missed details can cause headaches and missed deadlines.  However, they have a bright side as well.

A Stronger Solution

First and foremost, the more cases our solution is tested against (and it supports), the stronger it is.  In an extreme example, consider a calculator that only adds single-digit numbers.  That is not very useful.  It needs to handle a broader range of numbers and include “outliers” like adding negative numbers to be something worthwhile.

A Way To Build Problem-Solving Skills

Any time we are asked to stretch our skills, we have an opportunity to grow.  You do not grow much by doing the same thing repeatedly.  Instead, you build on past success to step into new challenges.  That is almost the definition of niche requests.  We have a standard solution and then are asked to modify it also to support the additional need.  This request can be as time-consuming as sending as back to the proverbial drawing board.  It can also be something that requires us to alter the existing solution to make it more flexible or scalable.  In either case, we are likely to grow.

A Source Of New Products

The best ROI on these niche requests is when it leads to a new product or feature.  We may have to spend additional time to expand on our solution.  That is ok when it can be paid for with a new product or increased sales.

Episode Challenge: What did you learn from the last outlier you had to provide for?

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Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is a founder and principle of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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