Being an Alien on Earth

So I thought several times if I should or should not write this blog post. First of all, I did not want all to make this post a kind of complaint. Companies have structures and roles. People tend to FIT people in the structure they have which makes all the sense. So let's say you want to build a boat, so you better like engineering and water, right? If you want to build better boats them you have 2 paths pretty much, first, you can know more about boats and get deeply involved in every aspect of the boat and therefore meaning being more technical. There is an extremely technical and deep example today of a company that does that which is Amazon. Amazon is extremely successful not only because of that but for sure they pay right attention to technical detail and really know what they are doing.  However, that's not the only path.

The second path is Innovation

Innovation is not only achieved by getting deeper but also by getting "wider", which means, learning different stuff and combine things that were not combined before. In order to "combine" things, we need to break some rules. Like Einstein once said doing the same things and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  Lean & Agile are all about breaking silos. DevOps is about Lean and is also about breaking silos. DTA(Dual Track Agile) is also about breaking silos between dev and UX. There are no advances without different approaches. However to innovate is hard and requires disciplines, There is no great unicorn startup with less them 10 years, YC guys say that a lot.

Breaking the Rules

Innovation means doing something that nobody did. I'm not talking about your uncle's innovation which means you copy-cat and North American idea and implement in brazil like 90% startups we have in brazil right now. What means breaking the rules?

Accept Risk: There is no way to innovate without failure. Because nobody di it before. So basically you dont have anyone to copy. So if you trying to AVOID RISK, which means you are avoiding to make mistakes, you are avoiding to get out of the comfort zone,  you really can't innovate, and you will end up delivering the same as you did before. Failures and Risk are your best friends because it means you are experimenting. However, as you fail you need to drive lessons learned from the failures, otherwise, you are just failing.

Effective Learning: This is the tricky part. Most companies did not get it yet. There was Lean, Them Agile, Them DevOps, Them Digital Transformation and will be a next transformation-anti-pattern for sure. All these "movements" end up failing at enterprise companies because companies are not "setup" for effective learning. Effective Learning is the KEY in order to really improve things. Most companies just use "labels" and "terms" but they do not UNLEARN their old mindsets and they are too busy to improve.

Psychological Security: Google talks a lot about it. PS does not mean you can do anything you want and people get whatever they want. It means you have a safe no politician environment where your team/company can FIX things like grown-ups. PS does not mean you will NEVER fire someone but it means you should not fire someone for BS reasons and always try to FIX the problems as much open, honest and fair as you can. PS dont not mean to make you feel "COMFORTABLE" it means you are SAFE which is the opposite of comfortable. A security belt is a safety mechanism to crash a CAR and you will see is not comfortable at all but it may save your life. So security is not comfort and remembers you need to get out of your comfort zone which means "things you dont master and will take time for you to master it".

Resilience: Innovation are not for the weak. You will need to have a stomach, not everybody is ready for this kind o rides where you are learning things every day, you way of work changes constantly and what you are doing is just a SNAPSHOT which will change every day, every week. Remember it will be failures, because you are learning and because you are doing things nobody did it. So you cannot be stressed in your first dance because you will dance a lot. Resilience is super important, you need to be able to embrace chaos and dont let the ups and downs affect you. Working with Lean / Agile teams, if you are doing it right, you will have a strong feedback culture and things will be said by chats, emails, 101s, retrospectives, at any moment of the day and you will need to have maturity and resilience to go thought this ride.

Being an Alien

You might remember the babel engish TV ad about the alien. Which was having a bad time to commute, to check-in in the hotel, to have dinner which his friends(how he has friends if they cannot talk? well thats tv markething problem :D). People dont want to be aliens. Which means they want to get things right. So they want to be able to be in "conformity" with society, language is just a way to do it. As corporate workers, we create several layers to make sure people are in "conformity". What are the things we create?

  • Process and Structure: What and How you do it.
  • Roles: What you should and what you should not do.
  • Scope: What is my problem and what is not

We need these constructs dont get me wrong. However, being 100% rigid with these constructs also is a recipe for a factory of robots that cannot think. If we dont have process, structure, roles, and scope we will have more chaos which is not 100% bad so as to close as you are to the discovery as more chaotic you need to be as close as you are from the delivery as less chaotic you should be(Talking in DTA terms).

So you need o to be an Alien. Wich means losing your compass. So the right will be wrong the wrong will be the right. Be an alien, my friend, because there is a place where you will learn and discover great things. However, software development is not only about "discovery" we need to deliver software in order to learn things as well. Thats why we need to split Delivery and Discovery because we need more aliens in discovery which does not think with same old standards, we need rebels and people who think outside of the box who can be Data-Driven and at the same time pay attention to the smallest details on the user experience because of the user / customer matters.

An alien by nature has resilience because he is outside of his planet full of challenges and let say he lost his spaceship so there is no coming back. Immigrates are like aliens they have lots of resilience and they often thrive where others dont. Be an alien my friend. I always felt like an alien, because I never did just one thing. My main role was always as a software architect but also an Agile Coach, Devops Engineer, Cloud Engineer, Frontend Architect, and many other things, so what I an? An alien for sure and I'm proud of being an Alien :D

Cheers,
Diego Pacheco

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