Moving from IFTTT to IFTTW

October 31st, 2012
Written by Mark
@MarkFairbanks

If you’re not yet familiar with IFTTT, you might want to check it out. It’s a ridiculously simple site that allows you to write basic protocol tasks. Want all the photos you take on Instagram to be automatically uploaded to Dropbox? IFTTT allows you to write a “recipe” of triggers and actions to do just that.


The back end dev work on the functionality of this button is still in progress

If only the world were that simple.

The irony is, many of us have been educated and act as if we live in a world that runs on IFTTT-based principles. Seth Godin tells the perfect story about an IFTTT industry that was destroyed in the span of three years. Even science, which defines the conditions under which life can exist through a human lens, gets thrown a loop when some newly discovered bacteria thrives in arsenic.

The world we live in ignores protocol in favor unpredictability. We need to design our behaviors and thinking to deal with what I call IFTTW—If This Then What?

As much as I like a well-conceived strategy, I’m becoming more enamored with the guile of adaptability and resourcefulness. It’s becoming less about the plan, and more about the makeup of your team. This scene from Apollo 13 epitomizes IFTTW thinking.

Certainly you’ve worked with IFTTT personalities—people who need rigid structure in order to function at a high level. The engineer or developer who tells you it can’t be done that way. The teacher who says follow the instructions I’ve laid out. The CEO who insists “This is the way we do things here.” Then there’s another group of thinkers who are able to assess an unseen situation and improvise a solution. I would argue that in today’s digital world—where new technology regularly turns things upside down—the latter group is far more valuable.

In addition to a plan, learn new thinking patterns and create new habits that make you more agile and better able to deal with uncertainty. A team of IFTTW thinkers will be ready for anything.

Has your business or organization encountered an IFTTW situation? (I know we’ve experienced several here at Translator). If so, how did you deal with it?

5 Comments

Comments

  1. I knew a young Marine mechanic who blew the head gasket on a HUMVEE while he was on a training exercise in Saudi Arabia. He couldn’t leave the vehicle out there in the desert. If he did, a resource would be lost. So, he asked all the Marines in his unit to take the Now-And-Laters candy out of their MREs. Then, he asked them to chew the candy up and spit it in a bucket. He made a paste out of the candy and repaired the head gasket. The repair lasted another 2000 miles until he got back to base.

    If blown head gasket. Then chew candy. That’ll get you home.

    Damn. Wouldn’t you like to inject THAT sort thinking into your business problems?

  2. Love it! Maybe it should be ‘IFTWIT’, as in ‘If This, Then Whatever-It-takes’! As Mr. Harris’s character so memorably says in Apollo 13, “…..failure is NOT an option!”. What would it be like if we all approached every situation like that?

    • Heh, acronyms are so damned tricky, Marilyn. I’ve always liked the failure is not an option mantra, but would append it with “failure may be part of the process.”