• Charles Edge

Sometimes It's About Evolution, Not Revolution



For those in newer fields, the scale of growth in a given profession can feel like a revolution. We’ve gone from a world where organizations mostly get by without a discipline to that discipline driving us towards a better world.


That world is increasingly about trying hard to listen and develop empathy for the people they serve. Still looking for productivity gains but also allowing for custom workflows.


The thing is, revolutions don’t happen overnight. It has takes years, arguably even decades, to develop - and the more substantial the gains from new ways of thinking, the longer it can take. To the point where it ends up being evolutions in thinking that are revolutionary over time. Because it turns out that shifting organizations to have a new mentality is hard, especially for those stuck in a cycle of reacting to a torrent of customer requests by shipping updates as fast as they can.


We know that integrating new evolutions throughout the business and product lifecycles can break cycles of reactivity. It helps to understand the deeper "why" behind all the changes. Unfortunately, we still face many challenges convincing our colleagues of evolutionary changes and getting budget to fuel innovative approaches towards new directions. And then just as we convince everyone what we're doing is necessary, the demand for our not-so-new-anymore disciplines grows, and we struggle to find talent and secure budget. We are forced to do more with less.


Because of this pressure, we can easily get caught in the trap of always feeling behind, unable to catch up. Let’s not get overwhelmed with what can feel like a lot of operational debt! We don’t have to do everything at once.


A big piece of the puzzle around scaling the use of automation and central repositories is that a lot of organizations wrestle with an inability to make good use of existing assets. They're stored all over the place and in a variety of formats. There’s no one place to search and to find out what's been done.


So, what to do?… Centralize all the things.


This impulse to do everything at once is reasonable. We see the problem and we want to fix it. However, when the solution takes on the form of a large initiative requiring significant organizational change, we increase the risk of failure. People resist change, our champions get “reorganized”, and the whole thing gets delayed and delayed and delayed. We've seen this across tons of new and innovative approaches across hundreds of industries.


Instead of this type of revolutionary approach, think of continuous evolution. In our example, instead of centralizing all assets spread across all systems, one might consider taking an inventory first, just to get a sense of the scale and scope of what’s out there. One might also consider identifying a particularly valuable area of the field or data and and centralizing that work first.


Show the value of an increment in order to gain more resources for the next wave of effort. A great benefit of organizing a smaller, more focused area is that it can help us quickly establish a place for future assets to go to be better organized from the start.


This understanding of the value of evolution over revolution is a key area for investors. This means looking at how long it takes for industries to shift into a revolutionary approach vs how long to make a small step, get some gains and then increase the value with the next step (often with costs correlative to productivity gains or insights and so the potential to grow within existing customers).


This also means getting to market with products faster. Pick one thing and do it well.


This might mean allowing a single member of a team to use a tool with a freemium account, and nurture them into a paying customer. As more people can do more, they can convert when the cost makes sense. And grow into "enterprise" customers when that makes sense.


Those enterprise features often mean supporting a given discipline at scale. Enterprise customers end up needing a lot of infrastructure features though. They often need secure access through single sign-on (SSO). Or compliance. Or tiered account types not previously supported. Or professional services to help teams successfully evolve their practices over time. Larger organizations are unique snowflakes and have unique needs. But it's a great problem to have when we get there!


While planning for the future can be tricky, using tools that grow with organizations gives everyone permission to think incrementally. Find a pace of adoption that works for the target customers, their teams, and the rest of the organization. Get some early wins and build on that impact.


We like to see revolutionary new ways of thinking. But putting a plan together to get to a utopian future state incrementally and become self-sustaining along the way... We LOVE seeing that!

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