Every morning I start with a bike ride. A high-speed bicycle path connects my house and the office, such paths probably exist uniquely in the Netherlands. Usually, it is a wide asphalt road that lays far from roadways, the one I take goes along a canal, through a park and there is even a bicycle bridge across the river. Most of the day it is not very busy, but not during the rush hours! In the morning you could see tens of cyclists crowding in front of the traffic light. As soon as the green light turns on they start moving in four lines to both directions. It might look extremely dangerous for someone who is not used to it, but in fact, accidents are quite rare. Bicycle traffic follows a set of sophisticated rules, that are nonetheless very logical and natural, therefore easy to follow. Even dazed tourists learn fast from their mistakes.
Every healthy society acquires a system of rules. Traffic Laws is only one of the layers of the society rules, what about the most basic ones? For ages, religion took responsibility for regulating them. The God, the supernatural punisher, was invented to take care that the rules were followed. Fundamental principles of any World Religion are basically the same — do not kill men of your tribe, do not steal, work in full force, accept what cannot be changed etc. Gradually, religions became overgrown with superstitions, rituals, free interpretations and additions made to achieve the personal goals of specific individuals at a particular point in time. They became more complex, lose their naturalness and logic. As a result, violations were not accidental. If the rule is violated all too often — it is necessary to reconsider the rule. If traffic is too often ignored — may be a problem in the traffic lights. No one would argue that it is foolish to save up to 30 camels so that they exchange them for a partner for DNA reproduction, but in some countries, it is still the only way to create a family.
Atheism is a natural step in the evolution of society, like minimalism in art. When something becomes too bulky and cumbersome, it is better to get rid of everything entirely, leaving only the most basic.
It is easy to trace in the history of art: when the Gothic style became too intricate and cumbersome, the Renaissance with its rigorous antique principles took over. The Renaissance cut off redundant relicts of Middle Ages to return to the origins of Ancient Greek and Latin philosophy, but at the same time getting used of the knowledge accumulated during centuries. It has cleaned up a lot of space for innovations in art, technology and culture. Gradually the art and architecture styles have transformed into more sophisticated Baroque, after to playful Rococo, and eventually, it simplified again to Antiquity-inspired strict and geometric Classicism.
Same in the social evolution — to evolve, we need to cut off useless and meaningless prejudice and destructive rituals, to leave only bare facts.
Another layer of society rules — State laws. Why in countries with the most flexible and liberate lows the crime rate is the lowest? Maybe because those lows got revised and adjusted continuously to benefit society and got changed when becoming meaningless.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
― Steve Jobs
How does all this relate to etc. product design? Directly. The standard nowadays approach to create new product starts with creating an MVP (Minimal Viable Product). After an MVP of a new feature gets added, then another feature, then another one until the product resembles a Christmas tree hung with very useful, but often poorly implemented features that do not always fit one with another. Does not it make sense in such cases to get a break, to evaluate all the experience and opportunities for growth, and just do it all over again, but this time well. Or instead, incrementally iterate to improve what there is? There is no silver bullet. Not every business can afford or be bold enough to make such a big step. It would slow the money-making machine down, the risks are high, it’s a massive responsibility for the leader and his team to make it right. But such a total revision can be the only way to get rid of excess and speed up for a longer-term. “Agile” with its micro-iterations can be miss-leading, sometimes to get to the next level we need to be brave to get back to the origins.