Chapter 16. How connected companies learn

You can’t make a recipe for something as complicated as surgery. Instead, you can make a recipe for how to have a team that’s prepared for the unexpected.

—Atul Gawande

Connected companies grow and learn over time. Like all life forms and complex systems, their growth is governed by natural rhythms and patterns. As individuals and teams learn, they must find ways to share their knowledge with the larger community. As communities learn, platforms must learn how to support them.

The Growth Spiral

All learning and improvement begins with action. For example, as a child, you might touch a hot stove. Action leads to feedback and discovery: in this case, you discover that the action led to pain, burning, and discomfort. Based on this feedback, you start thinking about new ways of interacting with your environment. Based on your reflection, you start to do things differently. Over time, this leads you closer and closer to your ideal relationship with your surroundings.

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The entire process is a growth spiral called successive approximation. Successive approximation is the secret sauce that makes methods like agile programming work so well. It’s the same process that is at work when you have a conversation.

Successive approximation works because—unlike many business thinking, planning, and execution activities—it’s easy and natural. We do ...

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