@johncutlefish's blog

Check out Iterate.fm, my podcast with friend and coworker Tareq

The Way of Ways

Published: December 04, 2017

It is easy to get caught up in the evolution of ways. I do it all the time. I’ll rattle on about the “abuse” of some way, only to realize that abuse is just part of the way of ways. Or I’ll stress when someone rants on about the “right way”, without considering the bigger picture.

I’ve found it helpful to think of ways from the standpoint of hype, adoption, diffusion, borrowing, commodification, teaching, etc. This is by no means a new idea (I recommend Simon Wardley’ Medium book), but I still enjoy exploring it individually. Taken from this perspective, I’m less likely to take things personally. I see the forest through the trees.

Note: The image below could be improved by exposing the cycle. I didn’t have time… but hopefully you can imagine commidifed ways triggering new practices/combinations.

1 L2Io7L2Y3hskzA5yu Nuow 2x From the perspective of the folks who “invent” new ways (more accurately, stumble into new ways), it kind of looks (and feels)

like this:

The Early Days

  • This does not seem right. Let’s improve it!
  • Hmm. How have other people solved this problem?
  • OK. That seems applicable. And that old way … not so much.
  • Let’s try a bit of this, and a bit of that.
  • We’re doing something … it seems to be working.
  • Hah. We kind of reinvented the wheel there. Oh well. We’re learning.

    The New Thing

  • We’ve tweaked this so much that … it almost seems to be “new”
  • Let’s adapt it a bit. OK. It’s working even better!
  • But…we’re having trouble explaining it to people. There’s resistance.
  • What are we actually doing? Let’s put some rigor behind this.

    Spreading the Gospel

  • We’ve told some other people, and they seem interested. Cool!
  • How can we teach those other people to do this?
  • Hmmm. They’re using it in a different context and tweaking it.
  • And there’s a range of starting conditions.
  • That’s ok. Let’s abstract out some core principles. Let them adapt it.
  • Now we’re responsible for teaching it, the “change” to it, legitimizing it, and making it work in different environments. This is tough.

    The Movement

  • But it is working! We’ve got a movement on our hands.
  • There’s an explosion of interesting practices and tools!
  • An informal cottage industry is growing to actually teach this thing.
  • Even even more people are trying it.

    Abuse and Silver Bullets

  • Some see it as a “silver bullet”. It isn’t.
  • And, sadly, some people are abusing it.
  • Maybe we need certifications of some sort? So the people teaching it stay true to the principles and don’t abuse it?
  • But dang, we’re losing the spirit of this. And more abuse.
  • Crap. Now there are teachers teaching teachers. And tool vendors? Huh?

    The Defense

  • What do we do? Do we ride the wave, or go rogue?
  • Now our way is inspiring things that seem so tweaked that they don’t even resemble the way. But they’re stealing the way name. Respect your elders!
  • They’re calling it something new. Crap. Well it ISN’T. It isn’t new. It’s repackaged.
  • No no! That new thing they’re proposing IS new (but only the bad parts). We can’t be responsible for those ragamuffins.

    Long Live the Way

  • We need to get back to the basics… back to the True Way.
  • But we can’t. We can’t undo this progress. It is what it is.
  • Way is dead. Long live the Way. See the cycle?

Seen as loops, this might look like this:

1 NdyBerCbJ3APu77j YIRHw 2x