To be honest with you, I really struggled writing this edition. Ideas are easy, but executing them—keeping my ramble short and pointed—has been difficult. The answer to my troubles was staring me right in the face for five days. (There’s more on purposefully paradoxical Chinese Strategy below.)
Rather than to attempt a difficult feat, we start with something easy; rather than to create something big, we start with something small. This makes sense because even the most difficult task can be broken down into simpler steps, and even the grandest achievement must be composed of smaller parts.
— Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63 (via this excellent translation)
In LL07 last month I spoke about why we should use the best tools for the job. Rationally, why would you not? Thing is we’re mostly not rational. We’re all quite good at using the shortest known route from A to B. If it works, it works. Why change? Why bother spending the time, money and effort to test out new tools?
I wrote up some thoughts that relate to this bias and put them in the context of what I see as the changing paradigm of web development tools & publishing systems. It feels to me like many of the clients I work with know only one website publishing possibility I think they’re missing out on, well, the best tools for the job.
Turns out I’m not the only one who feels the need to tell people about theses new web publishing tools:
It was as fast, as custom, and as free of plugins as I could possibly make it, but WordPress is cumbersome, and there’s only so fast and pleasant to use you can make it.
— The End of an Era: Migrating from WordPress
Read: The paradigm shift in website publishing.
Strategy through the lens of conditions and consequences
Designing better systems, choosing the right tools and overcoming bias—all these things start by questioning an initial intention, phrasing a problem statement and coming up with a plan to achieve a set of goals. That is, it’s about strategy.
Strategy is just another word for being as intentional and well-informed as you are ambitious.
The problem-goal strategic understanding is universal, isn’t it? It’s at least not wrong. But what if there were a completely different way to understand strategy?
I’ve been doing a reading club on strategy. We read books and pool notes on them. One book that has particularly stood out for me was “Deciphering Sun Tzu: How To Read ‘The Art Of War’” by Derek M. C. Yuen. I’ve always enjoyed the poetics of ancient Chinese philosophy and, by extension, Zen Buddhism. Whereas friends just didn’t get “The Art of War” or “Tao Te Ching”, they were obvious & favourable to me on the very first reading. ”Deciphering Sun Tzu” helped me understand the poetic paradoxes of ancient Chinese Philosophy as an alternative and coherent strategy to how we’ve been raised to think in Western society. I had some fun condensing and tangentially rewriting the book-club notes into a mutated summary.
The Western model of Strategy is a rational means–end efficacy. In opposition, the Chinese mode can be described as paradoxical condition–consequence. … Opposed to the means-end mode where a goal leads to direct action in order to achieve a result, the condition-consequence mode is a process which transforms the situation by effects.
Read: Notes on “Deciphering Sun Tzu”.
That’s a wrap
Hey Callum, I thought you said you were a designer? Where’s the cool visuals?
Although design is often elided with problem solving, the latter is not unique at all. Many vocations solve problems every day, from accountants to mechanics. Engineering is particularly good at it. Design, however, can be focused on the harder process of question asking as much as problem solving. Design’s instinctive reach for synthesis – “how to frame what we can do” – and then visualisation – “what things can be like” – is increasingly understood to be of value in understanding, conveying and communicating.
— Dan Hill, Strategic design for public purpose
Finally, thanks for reading. Please pass this on to anyone you think might find it interesting. Thank you.