His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals –
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
over and over again, filling half a page.
He could not help feeling a twinge of panic. It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dangerous than the initial act of opening the diary, but for a moment he was tempted to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether.
He did not do so, however, because he knew that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed — would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper — the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed for ever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.
It was always at night — the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.
George Orwell’s 1984
Spending “our time in the desert” carries a long-running history in Western religious and philosophical literature. The desert provides clarity of analysis to the Observer by escaping the subjectivity of densely-populated areas. Whether prophet or philologist, escaping the world of privileged life to find an alien world without our feelings, fears, and troubles; this has long been a clarifying moment. However, as we will find, even the “desert of the real” no longer holds the same significance. We have experienced to many living deserts, too many virtualizations of false lifelessness, smiling at us and walking around out of habit.
In Western philosophy, the desert represents a partial answer to what the world might be when it is absent of life. Many of the problems of philosophy emerge out of linguistic or stylistic flaws, existential particularized instances that thought transforms into generalization prematurely, or abstractions that take on a “life of their own” and run amok in the civilized mind. The spectacle of human society is too full of symbols and signs, leaving the philosopher in search of “bare life” in the wilderness, to at last secure a hold on the sublime. There is immediately a textual question, were one to note it: why the desert? Nietzsche, like his own retreat to Switzerland, has Zarathustra retire to the mountains. Henry David Thoreau escapes to Walden pond, painting a scene of a small cabin among American pines, praising self-sufficiency. In similar fashion, we may try our own hermitage to mountains or forests to escape the confused misrepresentations of society and fashion. The desert, in contrast, represents an alien reality, one that does not welcome us or praise us, a physicality that humbles the consciousness that believes reality manifests for life.
In the process of enduring the desert, we see an escape of the noise, light, and concerns of Others. Yet this escape requires there be something to escape into as well. The desert holds the appeal of an absence of signs, representation, and symbolic exchange. The comforts of the mountain or the forest still let us believe we can make a home, then construct a metaphysics that justifies our selfish human privilege. The alien forms of the desert, self-sufficient without the presence of human mechanization and machination, reveals the Observer’s alienation. The unintended consequences of society become clear in the desert of the real. The alien landscape of human lifelessness reveals the alienation of human society. Then we see that enclosure within the social machine encroaches upon individual moral systems of valuation and signification.
For this, we must strip representation down to bare life, then even forget life itself. At the extremes, the cosmos is a lush paradise, phenomenon created by the human mind and for the human mind; else it is an enormous desert, a system of objects that entraps us, an enormous machine in which matter is more real than our lives ever might be.
The inescapable social machine creates the need to distance thought from its comfortable privilege, opening the individual value system to the experiments of alien reality. The long-running contemplation of inhuman reality as a desert represents a stance on metaphysics. The weight of our decisions in the desert are the moral responsibility of bare life; every metaphysics carries extreme implications for moral systems.
Plato told us that there is a perfect and sublime realm of pure forms, triangles, circles, concepts, and virtues, all complete and wholesome in the full light of the sun. Meanwhile human existence is a sad misrepresentation of the true reality, like shadows cast on the wall of cave, create by puppets and trifles in a flickering fire. The allegory of the cave inspires a long lineage of mathematicians, astronomers, and rationalists, all trying to wake up from the dream of this world so that they may see the true world in all its sublime glory. This effort to deny the significance of bodily life makes its way to the Rationalists, like Descartes and Spinoza. The rationalists insisted that a perfect reality lay outside the material reach of humanity, except through total conceptualization and pure reason.
Aristotle takes a more encyclopedic approach (an apt description of the method by William James). Describing the attributes of human experience, cataloging the ideas found in agreement, and attempting to summarize the most probable and consistent explanation for the full sum of human belief, Aristotle established the framework for the division of our major sciences. The lineage of Aristotle, ending with the British Empiricists, insist that the material perception of humanity is the only reality upon which we can base our judgements. Anything abstract is either self-evident, as the result of a system of abstract machines like 1+1=2, or they are generalizations of experience, hypotheses that must undergo continuous experimentation for validity.
Insisting on exclusively a priori grounds, Descartes builds out a moral system based on the perfection of axiomatization, aspiring to find God-given precepts as pure as mathematics. Descartes wants an ontologically self-evident deity, with a moral code as self-contained – in the absence of any believer – as Euclidean geometry. Insisting on exclusively a posteriori grounds, Hume insists that human nature and justice must arise from probability, experiments, and patterns.
As good literary critics, we must look to the context of these arguments and read between the lines. The foundations of metaphysics and physics, its implications for ontology and epistemology, these were the formal concerns of their arguments. Between the lines, the first modern philosophers were finding that the “pagans” of Rome and Greece were not so different from Europeans and that the divine right of kings ought not trump the sovereignty of individuals. On the one side, the rationalist denial of the validity of human life and the Christian attitude toward worldly pain and desire, whatever the intended consequences, had resulted in abuses of despotism, outlandish inequality, disposability of slaves and peasants, as well as a long series of wars, killing and torturing lives in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Hume’s skepticism laid out a groundwork for methodical naturalism that had terrible implications for personal beliefs about the burden of moral responsibility humanity bears. By what means do we justify enslavement, castration, starvation, domestication, or carnism – there is no grounds for any of these injustices without a social machine producing it. Empirical logic dictated that the ontological argument for a deity only gave the cosmos itself the name of God. All the injustices of human life, and many abuses against nature, originate in human prejudices, perpetuated by justifications provided by organized religion.
Hume awoke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber” and likewise startled into action all Western philosophy that followed. Hume stated, “All knowledge degenerates into probability.” Indeed, centuries of improvement in stochastic econometrics proves above all that the average human keeps economics and statistics as far away from their domesticated habits as they can. Probability of two united representations of the senses provide us with increasing certainty, but generalization of correlation into causality can only be an optimism bias imposed by the mind itself. Necessity, power, force, causal agency are thus projections of the mind superimposed on the consistent union of representations in the constant conjunction. Like heat, color, weight, sound, taste, and smell gain signification relative to the context of the Observer, Hume closes the book on generalization from certainty of probability. There is no cause and effect, nor causality and causal agency at all, only a probability we forecast and trust based on consistency of experience; “Anything may produce anything,” and by implication, any king, master, government, or religion who tells your otherwise are deluding you for the purposes of undeserved access to resources, labor, and moral hypocrisy.
Kant takes the extremes of the two approaches and attempts a “Copernican Revolution” by embracing both sides wholesale. Kant argues that the mind produces causality, not as a forecasted probability, but as a category of the mind itself. The representations of the senses, cause and effect, are all produced by the mind, as are space and time, but the mechanical determinism we see outside the mind tells us nothing about the freedom of the will “inside” the mind. The machine may look predetermined and predictable from the outside, reactive within a chain of causes and effects, but the ghost within this shell is free and moral. While causality is consistent beyond a reasonable doubt, the feeling of freedom of the will and moral valuation is likewise consistent beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, he argues, it must be the mind itself that adds everything other than freedom of will and pure reason to our representations of space, time, appearance, and causality. This lensing applies to the perception of other rational agents, and any of our interactions among intelligent beings, so their determinism and our freedom cannot contradict one another.
Based on this approach to bridging the gap between free will and determinism, Kant builds causal agency upon the synthesis of internally true freedom and externally apparent determinism. Without insisting on the rationalist freedom necessary for moral choices or insisting on the naturalist determinism necessary for moral consequences, Kant breaks the world in two. On one side of life we find the phenomena that the mind generates, but on the other side the mind builds this upon the numen of metaphysics, the thing-in-itself about which we can reach no conclusions. This separation is essential to the moral agency we take for granted anyway, because in a purely deterministic world we would have no ability to make choices, and therefore bear no burden of responsibility; while in a purely free world we would have no control over the outcome of our choices, and therefore bear no burden of responsibility. When we begin with the axiomatics of Western philosophy, it is only if we are both free to make choices and the world contains enough determinism to link our choices to consequences that we bear any moral responsibility for actions.
Kant short-circuits the arguments for either extreme by separating human reality from actual reality. This allows for the belief that each choice is its own causa prima without undermining our responsibility for the consequences in deterministic perception. However, this separation, and the postulated numen as a thing-in-itself devoid of human perceptions, built a wall between humanity and the metaphysical realm. The intended consequences of this mechanization lay in finding a logically necessary system of morals. The unintended consequences of this machination are precisely where philosophy finds its desert: a world of numen in which mind refuses to live.
While Kant placed a wall in the individual mind, separating the senses and intellect from the metaphysical reality of the thing-in-itself, Hegel takes this license into senseless material abstraction, under the premise that any narrow view of the material whole may find through its self-reflection the complete understanding of the whole.
Schopenhauer criticizes the entirety of Kant’s approach, saying that it is recycled Platonism. Ironically, it was only Kant’s popularity that drew so much attention to Hume’s methodological naturalist skepticism. Schopenhauer surveyed the full history available from multiple cultures for the first time since the fall of Rome, finding new insights in Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucius, and Taoism. In practice, Kant’s method was too convenient for the morality that submits to the prevailing ideology. If the creation of phenomena occurs in the mind of every self-conscious rational observer, and moral imperatives only apply to self-conscious intelligence, Kant’s prioritization of human valuation over the will expressed in all forms-of-life violated the principle of sufficient reason; instead, Schopenhauer argued our physical experience itself alienates us, the world of representation separates itself from the metaphysical will as a lonely expression of selfish altruism among the collective desire for consciousness.
The will was Schopenhauer’s thing-in-itself, and the will-to-live was far more coextensive than humans or civilization. In the world of will and representation, we experience thorough determinism of signs and even the choices we believe we make are representative interpretations of the movement of the one will; as generator of the forces driving all representational things. Finally, we arrive at the desert of Western philosophy. Stripping away the layers of representation, removing the system of values, both in concept and precept, and anything specific to the strategic goals of the human species, he lands upon the will by wandering into the desert, realizing the will cannot stop willing. Simply, being cannot stop becoming even throughout infinite revolutions and recurrence:
But let us suppose such a scene, stripped also of vegetation, and showing only naked rocks; then from the entire absence of that organic life which is necessary for existence, the will at once becomes uneasy, the desert assumes a terrible aspect, our mood becomes more tragic; the elevation to the sphere of pure knowing takes place with a more decided tearing of ourselves away from the interests of the will; and because we persist in continuing in the state of pure knowing, the sense of the sublime distinctly appears.
– Schopenhauer, World as Will and Idea Vol. 1
The inescapable desert of pure knowing led him to immense pessimism, and he believed even the honesty of systems like Stoicism and Buddhism were insufficient for this desert. At one point he articulates this as a conversation among two friends, one wishing to be certain of the eternity of the soul, the other explaining the foolishness of wanting such assurance. In the end, the two call each other childish and part ways with no resolution; this may have been the underlying insight of all his philosophy, that all representation is childish non-sense. The will-to-live expressed in any one life was helplessly biased, and only self-conscious intelligent humanity was fully aware of the terrible burden of moral responsibility implicit in the recurrence.
Supposing anyone agrees to the groundwork of the pessimistic view reacts in the negative, treating its conclusions with any level of anger, indignation, and indolence, where might such a warrior take his passion? For this we find Friedrich Nietzsche, ready to reject the asceticism of any collective religion. He paves the way for a new method of nihilist existentialism that requires individualist positivism. While religious systems had long founded their origins on the ideas of prophets spending their time in the desert, seeking the truth-in-itself, Nietzsche rejected the notion that anyone may meaningfully appropriate these insights from another.
Going even further than Feuerbach or Schopenhauer, Nietzsche deploys his powers of literary criticism to show how the organization of religions around the insights of prophets provides us with the opposite guidance exemplified by their embrace of the desert. We ought to echo these as free spirits, creating our own system of values, not follow blindly the dogma institutionalized complacency. Within the mechanization of an ideological, dogmatic, axiomatized belief system, built in the shadow of these warrior-philosophers, we find the machination of the priests and clerics who, too weak to spend their own time in the desert, prevent all others as well.
The only answer for Nietzsche is to run into the desert, like a camel that has escaped with its burden, shrug it off, become a lion, and battle the enormous dragon “Thou Shalt” so that one may become a child, making new games and values:
“In that the NEW psychologist is about to put an end to the superstitions which have hitherto flourished with almost tropical luxuriance around the idea of the soul, he is really, as it were, thrusting himself into a new desert and a new distrust […] he finds that precisely thereby he is also condemned to INVENT—and, who knows? perhaps to DISCOVER the new.”
– Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil
Nietzsche sets the tone for the personal responsibility to become our own prophet in the desert, a warrior-philosopher far removed from the falsehoods of entrapment in the social machine. Albert Camus, who fought as a rebel during the Nazi occupation of France in WWII, took this moral responsibility as the essential meaning of human existence.
In the face of immense human suffering and depravity, surrounded by casualties of war and hopelessness actualized through countless suicides, Camus likewise found a desert in which we must fight for meaning and purpose. He called this desert the “absurd” – the self-consciousness speculative reality we experience, that is neither the material objects nor pure representation of mind. Representation distances us from the simple possibility that consciousness can distrust itself for some strategic reason; or that humanity repeatedly utilizes abstractions to justify murder. Therefore, we must revolt against the absurd and continuously fight for meaning.
It is here that the full history of philosophers rejecting naïve realism, with comprehensive skepticism that we may ever attain objectivity, finally reaches its absurd conclusion from the phenomenologists, that nothing is certain, “evoking after many others those waterless deserts where thought reaches its confines. After many others, yes indeed, but how eager they were to get out of them!” The desert of the real is the end of the power of thought, a limitation few philosophers were willing to accept.
This inability to find justification in knowledge of reality forces the burden of responsibility for our actions on our own shoulders. Thought will not attain certainty of material determinism or spiritual unity. We can only look to other humans for the depravity of the absurd. The mechanization of institutionalized values, which machinate unintended consequences, should not become our complacent acceptance.
“At that last crossroad where thought hesitates, many men have arrived and even some of the humblest. They then abdicated what was most precious to them, their life. Others, princes of the mind, abdicated likewise, but they initiated the suicide of their thought in its purest revolt. The real effort is to stay there […] to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions. Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue. The mind can then analyze the figures of that elementary yet subtle dance before illustrating them and reliving them itself.”
– Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
When we reach this realization, that nothing human can be certain, that nothing behind or under perception justifies our life, pleasure, suffering, or death; this is where all the interesting and dramatic intricacies of systems of living representations occur.
The absurd is a desert of the mind, the distance or distortion that lies between what the material of the cosmos might be without representation in consciousness and signification by intelligence. The absurd is everything that painfully fails to make sense, such that we reject the validity of our senses, or even put an end to sensory experience. The revolt against this denial and delusion described by Camus, as well as the reality of our moral systems within the social machine, reflects the prophetic independence of Nietzsche’s warrior-philosopher.
Camus concludes that if the absurd is the quintessential defining attribute of human life, he must maintain the discipline of methodological naturalism in his authentic appraisal of the system: “I must sacrifice everything to these certainties and I must see them squarely to be able to maintain them. Above all, I must adapt my behavior to them and pursue them in all their consequences” (Ibid).
He likewise takes stock of the problem of re-valuation of all values and the cowardice to do so. While Nietzsche treats this fear with disgust, Camus treats it with empathy. The desert of the real, the fact that we and all those we love will die, that the world will forget us and everything we ever hoped or desired; to fear the reality of this supposition is only natural:
“But I want to know beforehand if thought can live in those deserts. I already know that thought has at least entered those deserts. There it found its bread. There it realized that it had previously been feeding on phantoms. It justified some of the most urgent themes of human reflection.” Ibid.
For Camus, there is no doubt of how difficult and terrifying it may be to reconsider everything once held valuable, meaningful, and true. An individual re-valuation of all values must proceed when we finally strip away the mechanization and machination that filter our reality. Our time in the desert reveals the alienation and denial that it has brought us, that we are party to the machine, and it prevents us from prioritizing with any lucidity or acumen.
Bertrand Russell summarizes the long-running battle for objectivity similarly in Some Problems of Philosophy, and the alienation it represents, saying, “If we cannot be sure of the independent existence of objects, we shall be left alone in a desert — it may be that the whole outer world is nothing but a dream, and that we alone exist.”
Unfortunately, we have a new problem today. The same mechanization of general intellect implicit in capitalism is a machination that undermines virtuosity and moral responsibility. The interlinked supercomputers in our pockets free us to access more information than ever, but too much information too fast leaves us unable to find any significance in it. This is the decisive step in the process of alienation humanity pursued with the successive objects placed between us: tools, weapons, religion, governments, enclosure, property, currency, contracts, machinery, corporations, computers, the spectacle. The “war of all against all” described by Hobbes, the social machine can finally reduce our natural state of civil war to isolated individuals, so long as they carry their own chains of self-enslavement in their pocket.
We no longer find enclosure in the social machine mechanization of labor, we enclose the machination alienation within our personal machine. The spectacle and virtualization prevent us from reaching any desert of thought and any authentic life. In Simulacra & Simulation, Jean Baudrillard calls this problem hyperreality: “Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” When social engineering precedes our understanding of rational normative valuation, when the full globalization of economic Oedipalization leaves us with no unaltered experience, we are only able to recognize patterns that Others created ahead of time for us to recognize.
Hyperreality is the universally unauthenticated life. It represents a loss of significance by managing all mystery ahead of time. We do not experience any event authentically because the genuine physicality experience is not the anchor, a virtual experience anchors us ahead of time. If we go camping, virtualization anchors us to what camping is and who campers are through movies, commercials, and social media. To be certain, this is not a new and unexpected result of technology, it is the very essence of technology. Where we once spent time in the desert to escape the representations of the social machine, now we recognize its total inescapability.
Philosophers once inspected the distinction between the world of the mind and the world the mind perceives, some claiming everything was virtual, others claiming everything was machines. Repeatedly, some dualism became established, such that our virtualization, though developed and enclosed by machines, we could feel confident we could escape them. Today our understanding of either loses its innocence, precisely because we finally know how to engineer the patterns. It is no longer a few power-hungry men and the herd instinct of the masses that develops the unintended consequences of our morality, we can no longer claim ignorance or escape. Today we are all party to the data, the algorithms are intentional, and intelligent people fight to manage or mismanage the collateral damage.
“The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — it is the map that engenders the territory […] It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself. – Baudrillard
Just as the chains of hyperreality prevent us from knowing the distinction between the real and the virtual, between our mechanization and our machination, the desert of the real is no longer a problem between us and material physicality, nor between us and the social machine. Now the absurd reality is within us. As we trace this lineage of the desert, we come full circle to the machines and automata from which self-consciousness attempted to distance us. The remainder of our philosophy will face the ethical and political dilemma in which we awake, to understand the moral weight of decisions, even if these we pursue in a dream within a dream, even if our awakening is only to another dream. We must establish what moral values ought to carry significance regardless of how deep in Plato’s cave we might be. Any mechanization that prevents this personal responsibility to life and existence is a machination.
Regardless of its original evolution, the intended consequence of formalization in written language was to bring humanity together. Abstraction became a powerful tool, trading on the currency of truth-values. Generalization allowed anchored, consistent existential instances to become probable patterns that we could exchange and test against reality. Once language became typography, the rules of grammar formalized and analyzed, and the lexicon of significations network into a matrix of signs, we realized the tool meant to bring us together resulted in our separation. The signs of language are simulacra, words that have definitions prior to our experience of an object. Together, full literacy creates a simulation of the world that we project upon it, distorting its significance. The signs of images in media do the same, so that instead of recognizing an object as a particularized word, we have experiences the name, the image, and the normative reactions of others in advance. Finally, we take all these simulations and place them on our own body, first in the pocket, then as wearable, with a goal to achieve further integration. Virtualization consumes us prior to any experience of reality.
Our time in the desert of the real means that we cannot look to a higher or lower plane of existence, or base our morality on the significance of rules outside ourselves. Now there are no rules outside us, only the axiomatization of our simulations, rules which we either manage or mismanage. For Schopenhauer, the desert was our capacity to resist the will and engage in pure simulation. For Nietzsche, the desert was the struggle to create new systems of significance and new patterns of understanding. For Camus, the desert was the absurd distance that alienates us from objectivity. In Baudrillard, we finally face our desert of the real, that the loss of any objectivity leaves everyone equally speculative, in a simulation we create and cannot escape. We are party to all the unintended consequences of the system and must build a better machine.
As I described this weekend on Snapchat using the example of my house, Root Cause analysis – or asking the 5 why’s – is essential to lean scalability and a thriving culture of relentless improvement. In complex systems thinking, you must see problems (lack of quality, decreasing sales) as a symptom of the system as a whole.
I bought my first home in November in a north suburb of Chicago. Naturally, that means finding little issues here and there as I go. It was originally built in the 1950’s and I knew it was in a neighborhood that had flooded a bit a few years back. I was excited from the first tour to see a fantastic dual sump pump system in the finished basement.
Unfortunately: The previous homeowner had treated the symptom, not the problem.
A house (like a software product or tool in its context) is part of a complex adaptive system. It is inserted into a biological ecosystem, and integrated with multiple networks (cable, electrical, plumbing, roads). What the previous homeowner did is a mistake many of us make when it comes to eCommerce, marketing campaigns, enterprise software, you name it – the symptom was treated in the context of a system in homeostasis without changing the ability of the system to adapt to deal with a chaotic event.
SO – my basement has flooded, just a little, three times this spring.
Enter the “5 Why’s” Analysis:
1- Why is the carpet wet in the basement? The sump pump didn’t pump out the water quickly enough. If I were to continue to treat the symptom, I might upgrade the sump pump, which is expensive and might not work (and what we tend to do in the workplace).
2- Why didn’t the sump pump handle it? There was too much water around the house, building up hydrostatic pressure. The second time we had flooding, I noticed that the water appeared to have come in from all sides, not from the sump pump reservoir overflowing. (i.e. without “going to the place” I might have continued to blame the sump pump)
3- Why was there too much water around the foundation? I have a negative grade, meaning my lawn on one side slopes slightly toward the house. Again, easy to blame that and spend a fortune on a re-grading (legacy system migration anyone?) but I had the joy of really, really “going to the place” and spent an 1hr flash-flood storm OUTSIDE, managing the flow of water in non-normal conditions. After all, the yard may slope slightly, but there are 4 basement egresses with drains in the bottom that run to the sump pump…
4- Why did so much water flow to the basement window wells that the drains couldn’t get the water to the sump pump quickly enough? (notice that we are finally getting somewhere in our root cause analysis!) Once I was out in the storm, it was clear that the rain on its own was not the issue: despite having cleaned out my gutters hours before the storm, the winds that blew the storm in kicked lots of new leaves onto my roof, blocked the gutter, and a waterfall of water came off the gutter onto the negative grade instead of going down the downspout system that drains the water in a safer direction. What I also noticed was that the sidewalk gradually filled with water from the downspout nicely – meaning there was a certain amount of in-yard flooding that could occur before the water would pour unchecked into my window wells. (note, I could invest in LeafGuard or something as part of a total replacement of my gutters, but have we really found the root cause?)
5- Why doesn’t the system (my house in its context) handle a the flow of water in that quantity? Now we’re down to business. The soil has a high clay content and hasn’t been aerated recently. The previous homeowner removed bushes on that side of the house but not the roots and stumps. The downspouts eject water 3 feet from the house, but into an area of the lawn that can be easily filled with water that will then flow back to the egresses.
Root cause – The system is not prepared to handle the flow of unwanted inputs under non-normal conditions.
Oops, I slipped into discussing emergent leadership in complex adaptive systems. What I meant was, nobody had bothered to look at what happens to the flow of excess water in flash-flood conditions. Just like I frequently see no one planning for “storms” in their agile or devops culture, their social media presence, or omnichannel efforts.
To round out the story, now that we have a ROOT CAUSE. I can come up with a….
Solution – Create a sub-system that encourage adaptation to non-normal systemic conditions.
Sorry, I did it again. But you really can’t tack on a new tool or process if you have underlying cultural factors that need to be addressed. For my house, the answer is simple, add a French Drain system that will handle excess water during a flash flood.
Now, with my years in custom app development consulting, the parallel is really quite striking. Investment in a bigger pump, a total re-grading, or new and improved gutters would have been an expensive way to deal with emergent properties of the system without helping it adapt properly to non-normal stress. The french drain and dry well implementation I have started will require some hard work (i’m digging it by hand!) but potentially no cash (I already have more river stones than I know what to do with).
Identify Existing Alternatives
When you’ve identified a pain that is shared by a sufficient group, don’t start solutioning yet! There is actually another crucial step. Identify the existing alternatives. If a pain is already perfectly met, it may not make sense to add that new feature, create that new product, or start a new company.
With Emphatic, some existing alternatives were Tweeting just a photo of the book with a caption, typing notes or quotes manually while fumbling with the book, and (for the research paper student) Microsoft Word does have a tool to help with your citations.
Each of these cases are examples of a workaround, since none of them really solve the key pains – frustration and wasted time typing notes, citation grey areas, relying on my brain’s “file system” for tracking and relating insights over time.
If you have ever emailed a document to yourself, that was a workaround. AirDrop is an amazing solution to the specific pain “I want these three photos shared from my iPhone to another device Apple device.”
To find workarounds, you need to take a gemba walk. Go to the place where the pain occurs. Observe, ask questions, listen. The closer you are to the pain you need to solve, especially if it is as critical to you as it is to your customers. This isn’t all user experience fluff. The workarounds and nearly-good-enough products you see today are the “Threat of Substitution” part of Porter’s 5 Forces after the new feature/product/business exists. If you make scissors and someone cannot find them or afford them, tearing the paper is a viable substitute.
The usability and customer interview part of competitive research is both easier and harder than ever due to the internet. Where there is pain that is significant and shared by a group of people, there is guaranteed to be a place on the internet where you can observe what has been said, what people advise each other to do, etc. Don’t fall into the temptation of trusting this as the only insight you need. You need to get involved in the discussion, ask open questions, and listen (even on an internet forum).
As it turns out, Emphatic does have a competitor. Although I had searched for a direct solution to my pains and found nothing, this week while searching for a workaround I found Quotle. This is very exciting. You see, Quotle is exactly what I had initially thought I’d build to solve my pain before I read Rework and Running Lean. It is an OCR scanner for paper books that looks like Instagram.
I had envisioned artistry and community and got a technical proof of concept.
Unfortunately, that’s the disconnect that accumulates into a product/market misfit as a demand to alleviate a pain moves from the user through the stakeholders and Product Owners to the development team and back to the user. More on that later: in the mean time, download Quotle, try it out, and send me what works and what doesn’t work about it. I’ll be asking the same of people at the library.
Scratch your own itch.
Maybe you want to start a company. Maybe you are at a company but you need to drive a new product to market, with very little guidance on what that product is. If you are still at the “I bet I can build something great but I don’t know what to build” phase – where I have felt stuck for the last three years – take the advice of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals (they make BaseCamp):
“The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use. That lets you design what you know—and you’ll figure out immediately whether or not what you’re making is any good.” Via Rework
That’s exactly what I’m doing with Emphatic. Full disclosure, this post is an elaborate backstory for an app! I write about agile and product innovation, but I’d like to think the product backstory is as topical as the product backlog. The scope of the MVP isn’t as interesting as why I chose to build it. After all, software is part of the human social dialogue. An artifact of our organic will-to-power, collectively, when we come together as superorganisms.
You see, I found my love of writing again with this blog. I found my love of reading again because I ran out of knew ideas to think through and write about.
In the process, I found a pain.
Freshly laid off, I knew of a few great books – the source material for other great things I’ve read or seen presented – so I picked them up from the local library. While reading two of those books, The Lean Startup (Eric Reis) and Show Your Work! (Austin Kleon) – I was frustrated by how difficult it was to get in the zone reading the words on the page fully engaged when I so desperately wanted to capture notes, quotes, insights, page references, other books and authors mentioned, and tangential ideas to look up later. As a proud millennial, I’ve gotten accustomed to doing everything on my iPhone – emailing, applying for jobs, taking notes, reading news, social media, etc. I’ve written entire blog posts in the shade of a nice spruce tree using just my two texting thumbs.
So there I was, fumbling with my phone and a physical book and trying not to lose my train of thought or intense focus on the words on the page, I started taking pictures instead. Thats when it hit me. This is a pain. I’d solve it even if I were the only user.
To go further back, once upon a time, I was completing a philosophy degree and had to read hundreds of pages per week and write dozens of pages per week to show my understanding of complex ideas. In hindsight, whether in literature or philosophy, the biggest pain has always been attribution and annotation. I get so consumed by the book that I forget to write anything down for later. I write it down but forget the page number. Or I lose track completely of where I found something.
The pain of switching between “reader-response author” and “disciplined researcher” led me to over-compensation – as most people do with a flawed workflow – by separating the two completely! If proper citations was a requirement, I’d research sources and quotes and build out a bibliography and write whatever I came up with based on my predetermined attributions. If I was reading Camus for fun, I’d underline and dog-ear the book and never take a note, then write up my thoughts without judgement or attribution!
In other words, however mundane this pain may seem, is it really a necessary fact of life? No. A solution could be created. So when I see this advice, it really resonates with me:
“When you build a product or service, you make the call on hundreds of tiny decisions each day. If you’re solving someone else’s problem, you’re constantly stabbing in the dark. When you solve your own problem, the light comes on. You know exactly what the right answer is.” Via Rework
All of my time in custom application consulting and delivery, everything I have ever said about agile, innovation, and leadership, is fundamentally related to what they are talking about. At one end of the spectrum you know the pain personally and need almost no documentation. At the other end of the spectrum, no amount of documentation will create engagement and inspiration to build the software.
Laura Klein said it like this:
The first tool in any sort of design is truly understanding the problem you want to solve. […] The vast majority of time I talk to entrepreneurs, they present me with solutions rather than problems. They say things like, “I want to add comments to my product,” not “my users don’t have any way to communicate with one another, and that’s affecting their engagement with my product.”
By rephrasing the problem from you user’s point of view, you help yourself understand exactly what you are trying to do before you figure out how to do it. – Via UX for Lean Startups
So while I’ve been Tweeting out product backlog items and I will soon blog about how targeting and user persona validation dictates product roadmap, I wanted to share the product backstory first. If you can empathize with what I’ve said, you’re my target user. If you’d like to help solve this pain we share, sign up for the email list here.
Photo via Łukasz Popardowski
I know I talk about valid metrics. Ad nauseum. I won’t stop anytime soon – and seriously, you do need to get your act together. That said, I empathize with where you are coming from. So many numbers yet so little time!
You have my permission to enjoy your vanity metrics.
They feel good. When you’re winning, and they seem to scream SUCCESS!
Getting more Twitter follows, higher site traffic, increasing revenue – focusing on whatever metric makes you feel better about the direction of your product, division, or company can be the little push that keeps you enthusiastic about your work.
I love my vanity metrics too: but this isn’t a “have your cake and eat it too” thing. This is a “don’t eat cake when you’re dying of dehydration” thing.
So have fun and brag about them – to yourself. Do not make any decisions based on them. More importantly, as a leader, don’t let your followers waste time and energy justifying their decisions based on them.
If you don’t know the one or two metrics that are an actionable, VALID, driver for hypothesis-based product innovation – find an expert who does.
“Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure.” – Russell Ackoff
Photo via Luis Llerena
I’m going to launch a product. I’m going to start a company. I’m an entrepreneur now.
I see clearly that grabbing my best intellectual ally(s) and applying the combined, multifaceted, full-stack, full-spectrum brilliance we have is far more powerful than huge enterprises can compete with. They are weighed down. They can’t stop siloing. They have enough money to survive their blunders for decades – that’s the only advantage they have.
With the inspiration of Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work! behind me, I will show anyone willing to listen exactly how I progress. By doing so, I hope every potential user can be involved in the process, not just consume the product.
I’m not worried about having my idea stolen. I care about it because it solves a pain I have and you might have it too. I am building it based on selfishness, love, and empathy.
“The special challenge of being a startup is the near impossibility of having your idea, company, or product be noticed by anyone, let alone a competitor.”
– The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
If you want in, Tweet with the mention @keenerstrategy and #ShareLighter to send me questions, requests, or ideas.
Image via Kaique Rocha
Last week, a colleague and I were discussing the gap in information and training materials surrounding a commonly reported challenge in agile product delivery: Stakeholders who have no experience succeeding with agile.
In Defense of Stakeholders:
The “stakeholder” role in Scrum has no training class. This is because the “stakeholders” in Core Scrum is not a role, it is a symbol that signifies “that which causes demand-backlogs”. There are multiple ways this emerges in agile processes:
- Core Scrum: The “Heroic” Product Owner is also the Business Owner. The stakeholders are paying customers. Here, stakeholders don’t need training, the need a voice.
- Single Organization, Multiple Programs: The “stakeholder” is one or more Product Marketing Manager that plans and advertises what the delivery organization with create. The Product Owner must drive heijunka or “level loading” to balance out the demands that can be intelligently fulfilled by the teams available.
- Vendor Organization, Multiple Clients: The “stakeholder” is one or more decision-makers for one or more external clients. The Product Owner is plays a consultant role, facilitating prioritization and backlog decomposition.
- Large Scale Scrum: The “stakeholder” is a business owner for single emergent product offering delivered by multiple teams. The Product Owners either become specialists on specific features or may be responsible for specific platforms.
Why is there no “role” for the stakeholder? Let’s define what a “role” is:
Unlike a position or a title, a role is the single-most important “thing” at the confluence of responsibility, empowerment, and accountability.
In each of the scenarios above, the stakeholder is not responsible for the product, has not been empowered to produce it, or does not have final accountability for what is produced. However, whether one or many people play the part of stakeholder, there are several Lean Enterprise concepts that can encourage alignment and effective product planning.
Lean Concepts as a Stakeholder:
The first concept to grasp in Lean planning as a stakeholder – as I discuss at length in Applying Lean Kaizen to your Enterprise Mobile Strategy – Kaizen is the process of continuously breaking down a process, removing unnecessary effort or waste, and rebuilding it as a more efficient and effective process. In manufacturing this progression has been underpinned by technology: specialization around tools, mechanization of movement, automation of production. With mobile solutions, we minimize the time and effort in turning social information into actionable data.
As a stakeholder starting the kaizen journey, use these Lean principles to guide your ongoing investment in a portfolio of mobile application programs.
Just In Time
A delivery team uses “just in time” in the Scrum framework as an approach to ensuring the most valuable features are produced “next” by delaying commitment to user stories until it is necessary (Sprint Planning). This allows the shortest possible feedback cycle between demand and supply so that the Product Owner can adapt feature delivery to the most recent information from stakeholders. Just-in-Time is a central concept from the Toyota Production System:
Supplying “what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed” according to this production plan can eliminate waste, inconsistencies, and unreasonable requirements, resulting in improved productivity.
Just-in-Time (and just-enough) is not only a useful principle for the delivery team, it is central to effective feature and user experience planning, at the product, program, and portfolio level. Conveniently, your target audience is increasingly mobile-first, but mobile solutions are fundamentally Just-in-Time! Social information becomes actionable data on demand and on the go using a highly focused and intuitive user experience. The ability to ignite a chain reaction from 3 taps of an iPad is an incredible time and cost saving.
PRO TIP for Stakeholders: The most important way a great agile stakeholder can encourage Just-in-Time principles is through comfort with uncertainty and an understanding of “priorities” versus “prioritization”.
- Don’t promise more certainty than is justified by market conditions. The mobile strategic landscape and technological environment rapidly evolves – if you have planned ahead more than six months, have realistic expectations that some of those longest-term plans and promises are likely to change.
- Plan to Pivot – The more short-term your commitments, the easier it will be to change the plan if market demand shifts. Over-promising long-term plans to users may restrict the ability to pivot in the future.
- Know your industry – What level of documentation do you really need? Do you need comprehensive documentation at the end of the delivery process for regulatory compliance? Do you need a user manual or should that time and effort provide training and cues in-app?
From the Toyota Production System, the concept of jidoka – “automation with a human touch” means that machines are “smart” enough to identify their own failure, empowering human operators to rectify the problem before faulty parts enter the production line. Typically, these were only tested at the end of the production line, so a single machine creating bolts for engines could make an entire day’s work unshippable! As a stakeholder, think of features that support a safe-to-fail environment rather than a fail-safe environment. Construction workers wear helmets because the ability to create a fail-safe environment is impossible. Instead, the helmet reduces the overall risk of failure. Everyone has a responsibility to be careful, but the consequences are minimized.
PRO TIP for Stakeholders: In mobile, the ability to focus a user on completing a single workflow quickly and objectively is your goal. This creates a powerful ability to lead subjective observation into objective judgment. Anywhere your employee is asked to supply critical information, drive what is captured toward Business Intelligence that can inform them and your organization about decisions being made and their impact on safety and profitability.
Because the mobile enterprise user is able to follow an established workflow of interactions, this is a time to analyze current best practices and standardize them. Standardizing what is done, how it is done, and consistency of output not only reduces the necessity of identifying and addressing under-performers, it creates a context for the employee in which output quality is held constant for them, reducing stress. Even more importantly, once work is standardized with a mobile application (e.g. instead of a document template) the consistency of output and capture of Business Intelligence will allow an objective review of “best” practices, removing some of the emotion and politics from the kaizen process.
PRO TIP for Stakeholders: One changes are identified, effective MDM enables your organization to control the shift to a more effective practice by simply releasing a new version of the software. Build any training (using interstitial screens) and feedback (with modal feature ratings) directly into the application.
Heijunka (level loading)
The Lean Lexicon, 4th Edition defines heijunka as:
“Heijunka is leveling the type and quantity of production over a fixed period of time. This enables production to efficiently meet customer demands while avoiding batching and results in minimum inventories, capital costs, manpower, and production lead time through the whole value stream.”
For an enterprise mobile solution, it is important to know a) what element of a process is most time consuming and b) when separate applications make more sense than adding features to an existing application. In Lean Enterprise consulting, we compare the “Cycle Time” of each process block to the “Takt Time” of the workflow. For a mobile application, cycle time is often the time spent per screen while Takt time is the total time from launching the app to completing the workflow that would need to be achieve in order to meet productivity goals. If any step “as is” in the workflow is exceeding Takt time, its complexity must be reduced, it should be divided into separate features, or your may need a separate application.
PRO TIP for Stakeholders: Clearly, you will not know any of this without including analytics in your application! The testing completed by the product team and key stakeholders already familiar with the application will not show which features are causing a bottle neck for your actual users. Use analytics!
Minimum Viable Product
While I touched on how to plan investments in the original Minimum Viable Product in Lean Startup Principles in Custom Application Development, this is narrow view in Lean Startup theory. Once the initial release is live, the true principle of Minimum Viable Product – meaning anything that is produced by a process, not just the “product” you intend to market! As a stakeholder, it is important to understand that you are not driving a single minimum viable product, you are part of a process that must maintain minimum viable production. This is why we focus final testing on the user’s value from the workflow and look for sticking points in completing the desired output. Minimum Viable Production Planning will means that throughout the delivery cycle, every increment is the confluence of minimal effort and highest viability. In Scrum this is represented by the Product Backlog prioritized by the Product Owner. Working software every sprint is the ultimate test and highest priority for the Scrum team, so Sprint Planning must establish the Minimum Viable Product (Increment).
PRO TIP for Stakeholders: The goal is not to deliver less – the goal is to invest only the amount needed for any given product increment before diminishing marginal returns begin to erode the investment. The goal is to invest in as many high-ROI production increments as possible rather than expending immense investment on process waste. The more you are able to align with the idea of 2-week mini-projects (Sprints), the higher the overall ROI on the aggregate product.
The concept of the “User Story” originated in Extreme Programming in the late 90’s and has become the fundamental building block of product planning and delivery across various forms Agile, Scrum, and XP adopters. Learning to write effective User Stories is an art that takes time and must adapt to the team and product for which the stories are written.
The basic structure of the user story defines the user’s role, necessary action, and expected outcome:
“As a [role] I want to [interaction] so that [outcome].”
Here is an easy example of the traditional “post-it note” User Story:
“As an online shopper, I want to share my purchase on Facebook so that my friends see it on Timeline.”
Each of these are important to the developer:
- Outcome – the result expected by the user is the most important element of the user story. The focus on user outcome was the major drive in Scrum and XP to adopt the User Stories – software developers wanted to know what value for the end user was being created. If an outcome is not testable by new user (“hallway” testing) with minimal ambiguity of expected outcome, we have failed the user! By aligning the User Story around a valuable outcome expected by the target user, the development team (including testers) and the Product Owner can easily align around what is being built, why it is being built, and whether or not it creates value. As highest criteria for business value creation, it is the outcome that drives the Product Owner’s prioritization of the Product Backlog.
- Interaction – the outcome lets everyone align around the goal of what is developed, while the interaction necessarily defines how the user does it. In new product development, while the Product Owner works with the stakeholders to define the most valuable outcomes for the target users, the Well-Formed Team works cross-functionally to define how the user creates the valued outcome. This is where the “ideal state” of 3-minds-and-a-whiteboard ought to be able to define user experience, technical implementation, and testing approach with a few conversations.
- Role – role can define two things quickly and easily. 1) The relationship the user has to the product (admin, owner, end user). 2) The business context that helps define the Interaction design. In the above example the “online shopper” in the story is loaded with important information that can be quickly assimilated: the user has made a purchase, so they are on the last screen in the check-out workflow, they are not an admin or owner, they have likely registered in the past and are now authenticated due to the necessity of payment system security. A wealth of business context is alluded to in a few words. In a narrowly-focused product, this might be left off completely because the role does not change across stories.
As I described in Incremental AND Iterative Product Delivery the effectiveness of a User Story is driven by its “nimbleness” and user focus. Once an architectural runway and design paradigm are established, new vertical slices should be easy to add with minimal refactoring. Vertical product slices follow the I.N.V.E.S.T. criteria:
- Independent, end-to-end, “shippable” increments of the emergent whole. The slice could be delivered fully tested without any other product increment and create value for the user or owner.
- Negotiable, in planning and expectations with users and stakeholders, allowing delayed incorporation of enhancements or, if a major pivot becomes necessary, easily removed from the product roadmap (without previous over-engineering, over-planning, or over-documentation).
- Valuable to the user or owner, likely in a way that is sufficiently noticeable that it is monetizeable.
- Estimable by the delivery team because the User Story does not generalize or hide uncertainty. An inestimable story is often an Epic. It is either complex enough to warrant a technical spike or compounds enough feature work that it should be broken into independent, smaller, user stories.
- Small enough to be estimated by a team, with certainty, and deliverable fully-tested within a single sprint.
- Testable by virtually any team member because the expected outcome is qualitatively or quantitatively noticeable (as part of its being valueable) to the target user.
The I.N.V.E.S.T. method for user stories ensures that planning and development occur just-in-time so that the emergent product can regularly evolve in response to changing stakeholder demands. More importantly, in the fast-paced markets in which digital product programs compete today, incremental delivery maximizes the freedom to release the Minimum Viable Product and pivot in a new direction based on real-time feedback from users.
Conversation Starter, Conversation Reminder
In Scrum and XP circles a User Story is succinctly defined as “A reminder of a conversation.” It should be simple in focus but rich in context as a reminder for conversations that have been had and conversations that need to take place. Note that this definition contains nothing I wrote above! This was done intentionally as it aligns with the tenets of the agile manifesto:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
Lengthy documentation about “business requirements” and “product specifications” created several unhealthy habits in Waterfall organizations – the “requirements” often had nothing to do with making the life of the user better, the specifications often were no longer relevant by the time an engineer needed to build the product, and the multiple decision-makers made conversations impossible! A user story is conversation starter and a conversation reminder because it is intended to encourage interaction, collaboration, responsiveness, and tangible progress.
If you are going old-school and using actual cards or post-its, the User Story (role, action, outcome) should easily fit on the front. This is enough for a Product Owner to prioritize the stories and remind him and the team that a conversation needs to take place. During Sprint Planning, if interaction or technical implementation decisions are made, these can easily fit bullet-point-style on the back a reminder of what was already discussed.
This method works great at company like Spotify, where static feature teams can become subject-matter experts and the business context is understood by the cross-functional, self-contained team members. If you are writing stories for Rapid Application Development, especially as a contractor to another firm – more details captured in a tool like JIRA may be appropriate, and “just-enough” additional documentation can be useful until the new product achieves the normal team velocity.
Looking for more insights? Feel free to ask questions in the comments, attend a Scrum User Group Event or connect with me directly.
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Agile philosophy represents the embrace of the near-chaos of the tech industry. Scrum provides an empirical process control framework to keep good practices and outgrow bad practices. Extreme Programming ensures that this framework is supported throughout development by fast feedback loops, high-quality code and minimal information asymmetry.
Where does Lean come in? Lean practices to ensure that not only great solutions are created but they are created as part of a rational but “unplanned plan” that can emerge as new information is discovered.
Custom Application Development:
Companies in the Custom Application Development space provide a mix of consultancy and production in creating software solutions. By taking a Lean Startup consulting approach, the often tight budget and big dreams of a new client can be embraced, prioritized, and realized. Why treat an application requested by a mature company as though it were startup? Whether an application is consumer or enterprise, built for web, mobile, or both, every new solution has a “seed” budget, its owner is typically new to the space in which the app will compete, and the client’s subject matter expertise in their field does not fully prepare them for driving new technology solutions to market.
Defining the MVP:
While the “big dreams” white-boarding session is an important first conversation, the Minimum Viable Product is the primary goal of a new and emergent application strategy. This consulting process takes a whiteboard full of priorities and turns them into a backlog that is prioritized. The broad ideas of value that could be created are turned into independently deliverable product increments. In Scrum, the development team’s goal is to create “potentially shippable” software every sprint. A clear understanding of real versus perceived dependency and necessity is essential. After all, when developing new applications there are often features that lay the foundation for the solution: though they could be independently shippable they are not independently valuable without the rest of the product. Once this minimal foundation is laid, the most important features are delivered first to minimize time-to-market. At that point the client can “inspect and adapt” – either continue investing or pivot.
We can represent this graphically using statistics:
This is a positively-skewed probability distribution. In this case we are estimating the probability that any given product increment can independently create value to the user that can be captured by the owner. For custom application development there is always a positive skew because the Lean Startup principle in software roughly follows the 80/20 rule. The mode here is the point at which the first 20% of features are delivered it is the highest action that is most likely to create value that can be captured by the owner. Everything after this point is a long tail that represents follows the Law of Diminishing Returns. A well-planned MVP should be released at roughly the halfway point in climbing the value curve
As I have noted above, there is a difference between consumer applications (creating revenue in a marketplace) and proprietary enterprise solutions (creating cost savings internal to a business). In consumer applications, additional enhancements beyond the first 20% are focused on retention and engagement of a user. The rate at which these increments are delivered should slow drastically while revenue is captured and a new product is planned. In the enterprise, investment should typically continue to the median because the first 20% serves the most users and the next 30% serves the job satisfaction of the application’s “power users”.
Naturally, a Six Sigma Black Belt is not necessary to find the MVP or “stop and pivot” point. By repeating this process thousands of times as a company, a good Custom Application Development partner has the expertise to discover the right decision “just-in-time” to build it, while delivering “just-enough” to gain feedback from the client and (eventually) the user as quickly as possible. This is not about cutting corners, but about reducing waste.
Avoiding Perfectionism and the Importance of Pivots:
Perfectionism – as a fear of commitment or judgement – is the most dangerous habit to avoid as the decision-maker of when to release a product. While Lean Startup principles apply to any new business, the technology industry moves so fast that time-to-market is always key. In software, within six months, what you are building, how you build it, and who you build it for will change! This is why the MVP – and the “pivot or persevere” point – needs to occur at the halfway point of what a client originally perceived as likely-to-capture value. By the time this foundation has been established, the market may already demand a different feature the product can easily provide. By prioritizing and staying lean, your solution can capture value and feedback, inspect and adapt, and evolve to fit the ever-changing market.
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