Need for speed. Or is stillness key?

Most of us seem to believe that we need to move fast to build a better product, break things, decide quickly, and learn along the way. 

Where this is true in some cases, there seems to be a pattern that moving fast can fundamentally break things and that the (designs) decisions you made have such an impact that it’s hard to reverse the outcome.

Moving too fast means that we only think about the first order of consequences. We don’t think about the long-term impact.

In the UK, they did a study that tech workers would like to have more time and resources to think about the impact of the things they build:

Nearly two-thirds (63%) would like more opportunity to do so and three-quarters (78%) would like practical resources to help them. Currently, they rely most on their personal moral compass, conversations with colleagues and internet searches to assess the potential consequences of their work.

With new technologies like AI, we have whole new possibilities in front of us where we should learn from the past. That sometimes, we move to fast for the wrong reason. Only focussing on growth or ‘being first’ can be the source of this problem.

For example, 59% of people in the AI industry felt that what they are working on might be harmful for society. More than a quarter of those in AI who experienced such a situation quit their jobs as a result.

Moving too fast also means that we are too focused on the solution, instead of asking ourselves if we focus on the right problem. Elon Musk mentioned in an interview that if you have a hard time finding the correct answer, you should probably ask a different question.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super optimistic about the potential of technology to address issues like climate change, the transformation of healthcare and education.

But to design meaningful solutions, we need to implement Second-order thinking into our workflow. Take time to think deeply about the long term impact of the things you build. This is difficult but necessary.

We need speed, but in this, stillness is key.