time lapse photograph of car headlights driving through a tunnel
PHOTO: Marc Sendra Martorell

"Yes, there is local pride. Of course there’s local pride. You’d be a fool to argue that local pride isn’t essential,” Paul Rouse states in a documentary about the Irish game of hurling. “But it’s not just local pride,” Rouse continues. “It’s about winning and it has always been about winning.”

Historically, the club that won the county championship went on to represent the county at the national level. However, as Rouse explains, such a club “packed out its team with some of the best players it had played against in the local club championship. And you got the evolution by the bending of the rules, in the great Irish way, to the point where a new rule is made. And that new rule means it’s no longer the club that represents the county, but all the clubs who represent the county.” This was how the county team emerged.

In any healthy system, rules are always being tested. However, are they still fit for the purpose? Some rules get bent until they are broken while others give way to new rules as well as new ways of doing things.

Digital allows us to observe and participate in the evolutionary landscape in a much more nimble and flexible way. Furthermore, organizations that are thriving today can participate most effectively in this sped-up evolution. Accordingly, they have an evolutionary mindset, which allows them to start out as one thing and, where necessary, rapidly evolve into something else based on environmental feedback.

Tote failed as an ecommerce app. However, the founders noticed that people really liked one feature, which they turned into Pinterest. Glitch never took off as a multiplayer game, but the collaboration tool created to help develop Glitch was turned into Slack. SnowDevil was a snowboarding site with a cool ecommerce platform that became Shopify. YouTube started out as a video dating site.

Even the products and services that haven’t radically changed, based on feedback, are being constantly refined. Apple has been known to review up to 50 different refinements for a single hardware button. A new change happens on the Amazon website roughly every 12 seconds.

Stuck in the evolutionary mud are the organizations that see a truck of the future coming towards them from afar and still can’t get out of the way. Some organizations need to go through 20 or more steps just to change a piece of content while others have reduced costs by outsourcing flexibility. As a result, while trying to save money, they’ve become afflicted with organizational arthritis.

Old and outdated management models are based on the false assumption that the manager has an answer. Good managers today possess tools and methods to get answers by creating, testing, and refining hypotheses in the most rapid, collaborative, multidisciplinary and iterative ways possible.

Digital is speed. Digital is fluid. To keep up and stay ahead, don’t try and invent the future or have an answer and rather, watch, listen, learn and do. Never stop doing based on what you’ve learned. The game changes faster today than it ever did before. So embrace uncertainty and be prepared for randomness by being as flexible and nimble as possible and always reaching out beyond your discipline, peer group and comfort zone.