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There is an interesting technique in wall-building called a ‘crinkle crankle’ wall. These walls, despite being curving back and forth, actually use fewer bricks than straight walls. This is because straight walls have to be two layers thick in order to not be easily toppled.
In our work, when is the curvy path more efficient than the straight one?
Agile development encourages responsiveness, small increments of work and pivots along the way. We know that trying to set up a work plan that goes from point A to point B relies on our guess of how to get from A to B - all from the perspective of Point A! Since we never have enough knowledge at Point A, we should instead anticipate curves and even build the curvy path into our planning. A small, nimble team can pivot easily. A large, resource-intensive team trying to go in a straight line is a daunting proposition.
The coaching we're doing at OpenTent, especially within the Accelerator, reflects the fact that the most effective coaching flows in a curvy line around what the participant knows already, what they want to know, being mindful of important detours that come up along the way. We could have built this program in a straight line with a ton of resources. We could have said "this is the best way to do x, y, and z” and provided a bunch of polished materials to show participants. Instead, we are aiming to serve as guides along a dynamic journey, meeting participants where they're at and encouraging them to explore whatever curves come up along the learning path.
Our business is built around the idea that we should approach volatile, unknown and complex situations (i.e. life and reality in general) with customized and hand-crafted solutions rather than pre-packaged, mass produced assets. A rigid set of products won't empower our clients and all the wildly differing impacts they seek to have in the world. Because of this, our engagements naturally develop in a curvy way, following the path of highest value to our clients. This doesn't mean mission creep or chaos. We can take solace in the fact that the crinkle crankle analogy seems to carry over from the structural integrity of walls to the evolution of consulting relationships. The idea is simple: a curvy path is actually the strongest one to take for a small team.
And of course, our lives are best lived with a wide embrace of the curves. To try and live life in a straight line is resource-intensive (not to mention less fun!). Linear trajectories require constant reinvestment and doubling down as unexpected obstacles are encountered. While straight-line lives seem to be most effective for becoming a star athlete, when it comes to creativity innovation and exploration, it's the curvy lives that bring together disparate ideas in new ways.
What do you think? Where do you see the advantage of the curvy path in our work, or in your life?
Are there times where you prefer to take the curvy-way? We would love to hear what’s working for you - reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.