Changing your mind when it’s the last thing you want to do

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I hate change!

I only carry notes!

(There, now that the corn is out of the way, on with the real post!)

So CSC and HPE Enterprise Services are one! We are now part of a much bigger enterprise named DXC Technology. That’s a HUGE change — many more opportunities for our clients and the enterprise as a whole, as well as for the individuals who contribute to our business — even though the impact on the ground will be less noticeable Day 1.

Change of that scale can be viewed as scary or exciting. And honestly, I am not naturally one who enjoys change — particularly change of which I was not the original agent. I’m really not sure that ANYONE is completely comfortable with the idea of change.

However, the type of change that I really struggle with is the necessity to change my mind.

I seem to have some genetic disposition to believe that once my mind is made up on a subject, that’s it – it must remain so; I’m 100% certain and I’ll defend it to my de…triment (I was going to write “death” but I’m not that committed to most of my beliefs).

This probably comes from some imagined existential threat if I turn out to be wrong, or misplaced pride, perhaps, or a lack of self-confidence. Even worrying, “What am I worth if I’m wrong?!”

Now, this affects many aspects of my life, but since I work in IT — an ever-changing domain — it can play a role in my career too.

Take an example from a few years ago when I became keenly interested in Service Oriented Architectures backed by SOAP and Enterprise Service Busses (which, for the uninitiated, are not corporate commuter transport facilities).

I was most certainly among the first in our insurance practice to advocate this approach to architecture. It had the promise to make “everything better”. Everything in an enterprise could talk to everything else, and we only needed to configure it all in the ESB. I took the technical lead in projects that pushed this to the extreme — and discovered some of the issues that ensued from such an approach. But I was a true believer.

And then Roy Fielding went and decided to get himself a PhD and produce “The Thesis”. REST was … well, if not born exactly, persuasively described. It eschewed big, centralized architectures; it prescribed noun-based, not verb-based interfaces; it promised unimaginable scalability … and all on the evidence of a mind-blowingly successful system that had evolved with these principles implicit to its very core: the World Wide Web.

The point here isn’t to dive into SOAP-vs-REST, though, but Bartlett-vs-Bartlett.

That awful sinking feeling arrived. I might be — oh noooooo — WRONG!!! I might have to — shame-of-shames — CHANGE MY MIND!

And then I discovered an anecdote about Ghandi who, when asked how on earth he could change his mind on subjects so often, responded, “This week I know better.” Though possibly apocryphal (I can’t find a link!), it likely is a true story, because it fits Ghandi’s well documented mission to be a slave to truth, not consistency!

This week I know better! It is an admission that we do not live in a static world; that none of us knows the full story; that we are all growing and learning constantly. That revelation led to me adopting a much healthier approach to “mind changing” — an approach applicable to any subject in any domain in which I might become involved, from how to arrange the chairs at my local association’s weekly meetings to how distributed systems should interact.

So, some tips for those of you who might struggle to change your mind every now and then (no judgment here!):

  • Firstly, don’t make the subject personal! That’s just basic psychological sense!
  • Know that previous “best solutions” are part of the path to future better solutions — SOAP helped us hone the use of HTTP as a loosely coupled communication mechanism!
  • Be honest about your current preferred solution’s weaknesses, and don’t try to apply the solution beyond its obvious limits!
  • Be part of the search for the replacement of your current preferred solution. Continuous learning is part of your job! That’s also the basis of good scientific methodology!

On the other hand:

  • Don’t jump on bandwagons! No solution is perfect, so don’t believe the hype of those with vested interests in a specific solution.
  • Don’t change your mind “lazily.” Be properly convinced of the counter case! Do your homework!
  • It’s OK to be passionate. You should exercise your preferred solution fully, and you should promote it to the extent you believe in it.
  • Lastly, don’t take it personally! Yes, again — because I find that’s actually the root cause of a lot of dogmatic intransigence (in me as well as in others).

Though still not necessarily instinctive, prioritizing “truth” over “consistency” turns out to be very liberating. We are time-bound creatures, after all. Things change from day to day. It’s OK to change your mind when you “know better.”

But remember that the search for “truth” conveys a responsibility of continuous learning! And though our cool new logo may be black and white, the world most definitely is not. So our thinking must embrace that full spectrum, too.

Now, where’s that GraphQL tutorial?


Martin Bartlett is a principal in DXC’s insurance practice in the South and Western Europe region. Since joining DXC in 1988, Martin has played a central role in the architecture, design, development, implementation, deployment and support of some of DXC’s most far-reaching strategic projects in the insurance domain. He is considered the chief technical architect of GraphTalk A.I.A. and is a strong advocate for cloud-deployed SaaS solutions and the API economy.

 

RELATED LINKS

In times of change, don’t move too fast

Change: A challenge, an opportunity, a chance to thrive

Cloud and the ever-changing world of technology

Comments

  1. Rich Carreau says:

    Erudite and utterly logical at the same time. Is it a state of mind or a current state versus future state battle for relevancy? I appreciate the well grounded approach to thinking about change. However, I might turn more to Benjamin Franklin who offered that “when your finished changing, you’re finished”.
    Well in the competitive world of business, being finished is only for those who give up, or have rightly earned retirement, and as a legacy to leaving your world, a better place from where one has entered it.
    Technology, like business is best left to those who are problem solvers, reaching beyond new limits to the current limits, attaining better milestones than previous and moving mountains after climbing them.
    So, my good friend Mr Bartlett, please know, others at DXC share your view, understand our best solution is yet to come. Is it harnessing cloud dynamics to micro-services to analytics algorithms to enrich the way sales and services are delivered? Well, yes, yes and yes and wait there’s more…
    Stay tuned – there’s more to tell, but better yet – more to do together. Follow DXC as it charts new courses to new universes undiscovered. Value capture is sport – let’s play!

    Like

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