Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

How Will This Play Out

I grew up in Michigan where the card game of choice was euchre. My high school friends and I would play whenever we could, especially during lunch.

As we got better at the game, the games got shorter. We learned the patterns and could often see clearly how a hand would play out based on what cards had already been played. Instead of finishing the hand, someone would point out the inevitable outcome and we’d stop where we were, count the points, and start a new hand.

The ability to see how something plays out is enormously valuable. The experience and wisdom that make it possible are rare and often ignored.

With technology, the assumption is that the pace of change renders the past obsolete. “What we’re doing hasn’t been done before. The old rules don’t apply.”

We’ve experienced revolutions, no doubt; unexpected innovations that confound us and change how entire industries work (or create new ones).

These rare revolutions provide the excuse for us to avoid difficult questions about how something is going to play out. “Something” might be a new feature, business model, or strategic decision.

The reality is, we often know exactly how it is going to play out, because hundreds of companies have gone down the same path. The one thing the technology industry doesn’t lack is prior art (and exhaustive discussion) about what has worked and what hasn’t.

The temptation is to care more about momentum than progress. We just want to keep moving rather than think through where a decision will lead. We treat new features like the pull of a slot machine handle, as if the odds aren’t well known.

Make decisions informed by what’s come before. Seek out advice from people who’ve been in similar situations. Pause, look at the cards that have been played, think about the cards that remain, and play out the rest of the hand in your head.

Experiments with predictable and ultimately unsatisfying results aren’t worth the time now or the change in direction later.