“Do It Yourself” (DIY) vs. “Do It Together” (DIT)

CENTRALIZATION = DIY

Once upon a time, at the beginning of the online world of the Internet, it was our goal over the next 15-20 years with technology and business to silo and centralize everything. From software installations, information security tools and strategies, design teams, distribution systems and supply chains of all kinds, and also our money, we worked diligently to accomplish this while training everyone to think this way. Even in our personal lives, happening in parallel, there was a huge movement around Do It Yourself or DIY. We were even silo-ing our individual learning experiences.

There are no coincidences. Everything influences everything else. How things have changed.

We’ve reached the end of doing things in isolation, of thinking that way. We’ve seen the challenges caused by that approach, the weakening of our security, the erosion of our resilience, and the way these isolated ways of thinking and working haven’t put our best foot forward. We’ve seen the same outcomes from the same way of thinking about the problems. It’s time to move ahead. Gratefully, the silo’d information era, or the age of DIY, has reached end-of-life.

Nowadays, not surprisingly, back in the maker world, the way we design and deliver products and services in technology using new approaches to working together like Agile and DevOps, it’s no longer about Do-It-Yourself (or DIY). Nope. Now, the new hotness is all about Do It Together or DIT.

decentralizationDECENTRALIZATION = DIT

Decentralization is the predominant theme across industries now, in direct opposition to all the work we did in previous years to centralize everything. Even with many slow to catch on, the smartest people in the room are committed to it because it means optimizing our businesses by capitalizing on the way distributed information creates the most opportunity. Anyone who is paying attention knows by now that it’s all about setting the value of our ideas, data, tools and teams free from the silos of our own creation.

Decentralization is the reason Elon Musk isn’t silo-ing his technology in patents. Tesla shares information freely so others are free to iterate, compete and build better products and services.

This is happening across contexts, too, not just where patents and sharing of information is concerned.

In the context of communication and process, this is happening across sectors, fields and disciplines: in design, engineering, sales, all driven by technology’s impact on providing new tools and new ways to think about how we work best together. From blockchain, Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, IoT, whether we like it or not, our world is increasingly becoming more and more decentralized.

light bulbs sketched on chalkboard Many small ideas make a big oneAGILE and DESIGN THINKING

It can be argued that Agile Methodology and Design-Thinking have helped drive this shift, ideas that making something shouldn’t be driven by a single person but rather by the whole team. This is a definitive move away from centralized, or silo’d, thinking about problem-solving to a decentralized one in order to most effectively realize a creative vision by making sure everyone is riding the same wave.

In short, thinking about and designing the things we make is no longer a single-person’s role. It is a collective responsibility. Whether our company is big or small, a certain adaptability is required for creating valuable products and the processes that produce them require that we leverage the talents, interests and skills of the whole team.

Sounds lovely but it is disrupting a lot of people’s mojo in direct proportion to the amount of information, process and procedure they have hoarded into tidy silos over time where none of it, or only incomplete sets of it, are accessible to each their respective collective.

This is why most processes should be agile, unless we’re building Legos, which requires a predetermined linear process. If we are building something that is known and only requires granular refinements, waterfall might be a better choice, especially if the rationale for why we are doing it is not known. Agile isn’t great when the purpose isn’t clear.

My pals and clients are prolly tired of hearing me say it:

“Agile is a social contract, an agreement that we’re going to use our skills, time, all of our resources to the best of our ability to make something great.”

In that social contract, we agree on the purpose, the timeline, the tools, work ethic, and all the details that teams need to make clear before they set off to team (Yeah, ‘team’ is a verb now). None of the work is done in isolation but rather in complete transparency and ideally in a united fashion. In many cases, agile work best to do something that hasn’t been done before in a specific but intentional way. And yes, sometimes it’s just as simple as that. Agile is about people more than tools or technology. It’s like forming a club that is committed to doing this thing. While we’re in a club, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve it.

Do you remember being a kid and forming a “club” with a couple of pals? Same thing. Maybe your “club” only liked grape lollipops or required that all members double-tie their shoelaces and like the color blue. Those details mattered and defined the club’s own, specific agile approach to creating rules of play when engaged in games or building the clubhouse, etc.

If I try, I can find the sensations of those early experiences still breezing around in between the rooms and hallways of my mind. Can you?

Agile is great if our purpose is clear but our process is not. If our reason for doing something is well-defined, an agile approach makes a lot of sense. It is often argued that it is this tendency of silo-ing that fostered the idea of agile in the first place, in order to de-centralize knowledge of specific processes and procedures, to create and drive a truly shared vision.

Decentralization is actually counter-intuitive that way, in how it opens up those silos so the whole team can participate more readily in the entire process of selling and bringing products of all kinds to market, including all manner of media, games, Websites, apps and other connected experiences, to the infrastructures and hidden machinery that protects, powers and delivers them.

no more silosDECENTRALIZATION = DO-IT-TOGETHER

The way decentralization removes silos, it also fosters more do-it-togetherness, but there are other positive side-effects. In addition to offering more business resiliency across the culture through the sharing of knowledge, doing-more-together improves team morale through collaboration. As a result, the collective is empowered to communicate better, reduce waste and deliver more, better, faster and in more meaningful ways.

DIY is fine. DIT is better.