The world around us has become exceeding complex. Writers at The Guardian emphasized this while highlighting the book entitled The Collapse of Chaos, written by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart. The article is but a brief glimpse into the underlying research presented by therein. “Complexity produces unpredictable results from the interaction of a whole host of actions, which by themselves, seem simple,” according to the op-ed authors. The global marketplace clearly illustrates a highly complex system operating at all times with countless players vying for influence and limited resources.
So how do businesses cope with said complexity? The fact of the matter is that most don’t. In 2011, Brendan Sheehan at Business Insider astonished everyone by revealing that the largest 500 companies in the US lost nearly $14B through failed technology projects. Those figures were astronomical at the time and, unfortunately, things have not progressed much since then. The only major difference now is the stakes involved. Project failure is likely to cost much more than seven years ago. Prudent business leaders understand that reality and they have learned to adjust their practices accordingly. Innovative responses aren’t difficult to find for anyone curious enough.
The first obvious example is the rapid rise of agile business practices commonly and colloquially referred to as “agile.” Those who actively work in the technology sector are all too familiar with with the phrase. Race Crain at AdAge stressed how imperative agility was to winning the modern marketplace. Only the best companies could keep up with the quick pace of change and those that fell behind were destined for failure. The philosophy had the dual advantage of being both accurate and easily adopted, which is precisely why we can find its influence almost everywhere.
Software development is probably the most recognizable use case that embodies the agile mindset. Mary Pratt at CIO did everyone the favor of not only explaining why IT projects still fail but also describing how agile and automation could be the antidote. Those businesses willing to embrace the agile approach and utilize it aggressively are the ones most likely to prevail. Leadership ought to recognize, of course, that adoption is a lot easier said than done. The good news is that there is no shortage of pioneering companies that have paved the way already.
Rapid prototyping is quickly becoming a mainstay in the software development community. The rewards outweigh the possible risks by so such large margins that it is a wonder that the practice was ever questionable in the first place. The objective of prototyping is testing a fundamental hypothesis in the fastest and most simplistic way plausible. In other words, prototyping lets experimenters deduce whether or not what they think is happening is, in fact, happening (and to what extent). Those readers skeptical about such endeavors should know that entire industries have emerged explicitly to help businesses excel at prototyping. For instance, organizational leadership could elect to test feature flags not with their own developers, but instead with a 3rd-party service. That wasn’t an option even a few years ago.
Vera Burckhardt at UX Design drew attention to the slew of psychological advantages associated with prototyping. The grand majority of the literature already published on the subject focus mainly on material gains and enhanced efficiency. According to Ms. Burckhardt, there are psychological factors to take into account, too. Motivation and self-confidence were the two most immediate characteristics that saw improvement thanks to prototyping and those were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Suffice it to say that the global marketplace demands the utmost excellence from anyone striving to emerge victoriously. While success is never guaranteed, the ability to make informed decisions under duress and with the pressure of constant change seems to be the recipe for incremental progress. Only the strong survive.