Great customer experiences and user interfaces has deadened our curiosity to understand how something works. Good design blinds us to the need to have an overall perspective on what is needed for something to work successfully. We don’t think about this anymore and get frustrated when our app or device doesn’t work as promised.
Because of this, I contend it has become incrementally more important to understand how systems work. How they can be influenced as well as understanding how they are interdependent. In today’s world, you have to deeply understand the game you are playing if you want to get ahead.
What do I mean by this?
Our lives are part of larger systems – think family, work, sports teams, volunteer organizations, school, auxiliary groups, boards, companies, industry groups, etc… Each of these have things that are important to them as well as things that threaten their existence. Inherent in each of them are things that are more important for them to thrive and other things that are either irrelevant or degrading to their continued existence.
What is equally important is that the same things hold true for your participation in them. There are things that are important for you to follow or emulate for the system to thrive and other things that really aren’t very important or could be threatening to the existence of the system.
All of these systems are so fragile (because they involve people) and depend so heavily on its participants for their sustained existence (the fancy word, that refers to this, these days, is the culture of an organization). Understanding what makes the system that you find yourself in thrive is key to getting ahead in it over time.
For example, a trait of a strong family is that they spend time with each other and are there when needed. That children are provided a stable life with a set routine. If you don’t understand this and go out every night, as a young parent, your family most likely will be weakened.
If you work for a large company and don’t understand the need for collaboration, cooperation, and sacrificing your own interests for the good of the company that employs you, your future most likely will be limited. Where if you focus only on yourself, your ego controls you, and you want only what you want, both the company will have trouble surviving and your time there employed, most likely, will be brief.
As a business owner, if you don’t understand the nuances of profitability — how volume affects your unit costs so that you can price more aggressively, what the life time value of a customer tells you about what you can spend to acquire a new customer, or what infrastructure you need to become attractive to larger customers — you will spend your years muddling in mediocrity.
Understanding the inherent characteristics of the system you are in (or the game you are playing) is more important now than ever because everything resembles a commodity (plentiful and ubiquitous). Both on a personal as well as a professional level.
You have to dig deeper to understand how something works if you are to master it. Again it takes not only more work but the willingness to see things that are not as obvious on the surface.
At its core, it’s about stepping back and seeing the bigger picture while being a participant in it every day.