Three Years Onward...
"From crisis comes opportunity" should be the motto of Enable Innovation.
Enable Innovation was born from crisis with the goal of creating opportunities using engineering as a foundation. And over the last three years we have faced our fair share of challenging crises, and supported some exciting and innovative projects.
As we celebrate our third year of business, we're neck-deep in what could be best described as a "compound crisis", as the health and economic wellbeing of the world is suffering from the deleterious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention everything else that has spawned from these challenging times.
From where we stand now, the challenges of the past three years, excluding the pandemic, seem somewhat pedestrian and underwhelming. But in their time, they were daunting.
But, from every new challenge comes opportunity to learn, and so here are a few things we've learned in the last 3 years.
As defined by Dictionary.com; purpose, as a noun, is the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc., or an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
And may also describe determination; resoluteness.
As a verb, it describes the action of setting as an aim, intention, or goal for oneself, or to intend; design.
These definitions are very relevant to our experiences over the last three years. 'Purpose' was the design intent from the founding of Enable Innovation. The provision and realization of purpose is the foundation of engineering, as it may describe both the goal and the driving force behind a development.
Our clients bring us purpose, as a problem to solve, a goal to achieve, or a mission to complete. And they provide us purpose, as a reason to exist, because there are always more challenges to overcome, and ideas to realize. In turn, we develop their idea to suit a purpose. win-win.
Passion and Discipline
Achieving a goal, whether it is a personal goal, a business goal, an educational goal, or a professional goal, requires two key elements; passion and discipline.
Passion may seem cliche, but it is more important than money or capability. Skills and knowledge may be learned, and as such, capabilities will always grow. And, if you're passionate enough about your goals, finding resources and funding is not impossible. Your passion for your project is what will keep you on-track and help you to continue when challenges come up. But, passion alone is not enough to succeed, and passion fades with failures.
Discipline is an often overlooked element. Discipline, in this regard, relates specifically to personal practices and not field of knowledge. Having the discipline to stay focused on your passion will limit the challenges to only those that need to be met to achieve your goal. But, discipline is hard to maintain without passion. It is the driving force, but without passion, the goal is unfocused and seemingly unimportant.
When your passion and discipline are in sync, you're able to achieve more challenging goals.
You are the master of your expectations. If you expect to be disappointed, you likely will be. Equally, if you expect an outcome which contradicts the reality of the situation; you will also be disappointed.
Since you are the master of your expectations, it's important to understand how to manage your expectations. A pessimist would say "expect the worst outcome, and every once in a while you will be pleasantly surprised." But, this would imply that the rest of the time, you're miserable.
I would argue that your expectations should be fluid. If you have a specific expectation for an outcome, ensure that you have enough information to support those expectations. And in cases where the information doesn't support your expectations; either adjust your expectations or spend the time and effort to produce a solution which meets your expectation... or both.
In product development especially, expectations are often divorced from supporting information, which leads to avoidable failures and frustration. Everyone wants a magical device that solves all of their problems, and are disappointed when they find out that such a device doesn't exist simply because of physics.
As the old saying goes; "you learn more from failure than success".
"Failureable" might not be a real word, but it expresses an idea which is often parroted but not always understood. That idea being that you have to fail early and fail often before you find success. And though that seems to make sense from an abstract logic point of view, it really doesn't mesh with the reality of most development processes. The failurability of a development is dependent on resources. The more resources, the more failure may be tolerated, and thus the development is more failurable.
Time, money, people, and market space are all finite. Spending time pursuing a development which is doomed to failure often only results in loss, as these finite resources dry up. How many times can you afford to fail before you are unable to continue? At what point have you missed the market? And, how long will your people, both investors and employees, want to be involved in a non-productive development? These are the realities of failable projects. If your resources are not able to support the failability of the project, it will not succeed.
There's no way to ensure 100% success when developing something new and different, but you can certainly mitigate failure through research and analysis. Identifying the potential barriers and failure modes within a development, before the development begins, will help identify the point at which the development is a failure, which will limit the risk of depleting resources unnecessarily. This is often referred to a "reality check".
As with milestones for positive development; a reality check provides gates for deciding the direction the project will take when it reaches a potential failure-inducing barrier. Determining what that failure gate is, and what reaching it will trigger, should be based on your appetite for risk and threshold for loss.
If you're unwilling to accept the potential for failure, you had better ensure your expectations are managed in such a way that you are not disappointed when failure occurs. Likewise, if you're experiencing constant failure, you may need to reassess your projects failurability by conducting a reality check.
These are just some of the lessons we've learned in our short existence. Hopefully, we survive this economic and health crisis long enough to verify and validate these ideas, and compile many more. And, if so, these lessons learned will not only be used to the benefit of Enable Innovation, but for our clients benefit as well.
From crisis comes opportunity.